The conditions at Shinnecock Hills have changed significantly for the afternoon wave at the U.S. Open and the players are not happy. The wind has come up and the greens have firmed out in the afternoon sun and it led Zach Johnson to say the USGA had “lost the golf course.”
I was in the scoring area when Johnson and playing partner Paul Casey walked off the 18th hole. Both blew into the scoring area, usually the pro shop and bag room, and slammed open the door looking quite huffy. Casey finished with a double bogey on the 18th for a 2-over 38 on the back nine, and Johnson was 1-over on the inward nine.
Johnson then proceeded to an interview with Sky Sports and didn’t mince words, unloading on the conditions and a setup that he said had gone over the edge.
That’s as strong a condemnation as you’re going to get from a veteran player who can be outspoken but is usually pretty measured.
The popular counter to all the comments about the course getting too tough is an immediate citation of the two 66s posted on Saturday. But those were played on almost an entirely different course than what these late players are facing, and Johnson alluded to that. Now we’re getting a Fox broadcast littered with references to the 2004 Shinnecock setup disaster and a state of “unease,” as Joe Buck put it.
I posted up on the 11th hole for about 90 minutes and watched it change in real-time. The wind was mostly down, the greens looked, well, a “little shiny” as Fox’s Ken Brown used later on the broadcast. That’s fine, it’s Saturday at the U.S. Open and the greens are always going to be a little slick. The USGA actually tried to keep them slower this week for fear of anything approaching the disaster that occurred here in 2004. They were supposed to be rolling just under 12 on the stimpmeter.
But as the day has progressed, the sun has baked those greens out and they’re getting “on the edge” as we’ve heard repeatedly during the Saturday Fox coverage. The winds started blowing and we got carnage all across the leaderboard. It was a noticeable change over the 90 minutes at the short par-3 11th, with the winds starting to challenge tee shots up to the highest green on the course.
Dustin Johnson, who started the day at 4-under, is now 2-over after a front-nine 41. Some of that was poor play, some of it was the test that’s developed late in the day at Shinnecock Hills.
No one is even-par, with Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson leading at 1-over. Those 66s came from Tony Finau and Daniel Berger early in the morning. They sit at 3-over and could well be in the lead by the time these late tee times are done with their third round. Former USGA executive director David Fay said on the broadcast that “my former colleagues are a little uncomfortable” about how the course is presenting right now.
ZJ explicitly said it was gone, and maybe Phil was telling us as much with his putting hijinks on the 13th green.
Which player will be first to say the USGA lost control of the course again? Oops sorry! It already happened and it was Phil....— Peter Kostis (@peterjkostis) June 16, 2018