It’s here. It’s U.S. Open week and I am proudly proclaiming that Shinnecock is the #1 U.S. Open venue in the country. After all, this will be the fifth time Shinnecock has hosted our national championship. It is a complete examination that has a rich history covering the last three centuries.
The first playing of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock was in 1896 and there is no truth to the rumors that my friends are putting forth, saying that I must have covered that one. Sorry to disappoint them, but no, I wasn’t there. However, the 2018 U.S. Open does mark the fourth time I have covered it on radio and to say that I am excited would be an understatement. I’m really not sure that there’s any way I could be more excited.
So, you can imagine how nervous I was, when leaving my favorite coffee shop on the way to the course, I saw a police car on my tail complete with all the bright, flashing red lights. Briefly, it crossed my mind . . . maybe I wouldn’t make it to Shinnecock after all.
My first instinct was to try and talk my way out of whatever I had done wrong, however, when the officer that approached me was a female, I quickly abandoned that plan. Luckily, I got off with a warning, things got sorted out, and I was free to continue my journey to the media center. So, after waiting for 14 years, I am at the media center and ready to go, a little late, but safe and sound.
I’m happy to report that the course is in the exact condition that the USGA intended. They have some really great state of the art equipment nowadays. A testing device to analyze the moisture in the greens, which will dictate the amount of water that will be applied, and a device that will give a reading of the exact firmness of the putting surface. Until these devices were developed, these two factors were left to educated guesses. But now, precision will take over.
The wind has forever been the one element that allows Shinnecock to shine the brightest and be the complete examination that it is. As strange as it may seem, among the last three U.S. Opens played here, 1986, 1995, and 2004, the wind was only a factor in the first round of 1986. Playing Shinnecock without wind is like watching a black and white television (for those few who still remember what that was like). So, we’re hoping the wind kicks up this year to bring out the true Shinnecock pedigree.
As I look around the media center, I see many familiar faces from around the world, and I am so proud to be able to show off the East End and the area where I grew up.
Shinnecock has an outstanding head professional in Jack Druga. Jack shared a great story with me the other day. A few weeks ago, a gentleman walked into his pro shop and asked Jack if he had time for a game the following day. Imagine this . . . the gentleman Jack was referring to and who had him speechless was none other than Tiger Woods! Sure enough, the next day Jack and Tiger played 36 holes. There’s a reason Tiger has won 14 major championships . . . preparation. The cagey Tiger was doing his best to learn all the tricks of Shinnecock. Let’s hope it works. (Yes, I would like to see him win.) By the way, Jack told me that Tiger played very well.
Another favorite this week would have to be Kevin Kisner . . . why? Well on the bag for Kevin will be East Hampton High Hall of Famer, Duane Bock. Duane has a ton of knowledge regarding Shinnecock and the Kisner game is a nice fit for the course. My pick to win though is Rory McIlroy because his caddie, Harry Diamond, has such a lot of experience as a caddy here at Shinnecock.
I’m sure each of you reading Chip Shots has as good a shot of picking the winner as I do. No one ever knows who will play the best and will wear our national crown. The only real difference is you will not get the grief I will get if I am wrong. Welcome to my world . . .