Chip Shots

Sad Day On The East End

Ever since word came from the USGA that the U.S. Open would return to Shinnecock Hills for the fifth time, my excitement level has steadily increased. It will soon be at crescendo level . . .

I didn’t want to miss a minute of covering my fourth U.S. Open at Shinnecock, so I arrived a week early just to take in the atmosphere and share in the buildup to what will be a fantastic National Championship. Of course, one of the side benefits is that I get to spend quality time with my brother, Tom, and his wife, June.

That’s exactly what we were doing this weekend when all the fun and joy came to a screeching halt with the heart-wrenching news of a private aircraft going down before it could get to the East Hampton airport.

The unfathomable news is that this tragic plane crash took the lives of four people that we all knew so well. I went numb when I was informed that both Bonnie and Ben Krupinski, along with their 22-year-old grandson and the pilot, all perished in the crash. The talented staff here at The Independent will tell you the story but for me, I am stunned.

I was friends with Bonnie’s parents Pete and Babe Bistrian. Bonnie had three brothers Pat, Bruce, and Barry. All three are very special people not only to me but the entire East End. I know my life was made better by this family. Bennie was as first class as the construction projects he produced. We offer our sincere condolences to the entire family.

The U.S. Open is just a week away and now I’m in a position to share my very own scouting report and expand upon some of the storylines that I would love to see play out.

Number one storyline wish: a Phil Mickelson win. The U.S. Open title is the last remaining roadblock to Phil completing the coveted career grand slam. Only five players have won all four of golf’s majors. Gene Sarazen was the first, followed by Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and the last to do so, Tiger Woods. Nicklaus and Woods are the only two to have won all four twice.

It’s not for lack of effort on Phil’s part. Mickelson has finished second six times, a record he owns. The last time the U.S. Open Championship paid a visit to the East End, in 2004, Phil was second to Retief Goosen. All signs point to Phil being on the right end of some good karma.

On day three of this U.S. Open, Phil will celebrate his 48th birthday. To date, the oldest winner of a U.S. Open has been Hale Irwin who was 45 years old when he won in 1990. And, my “biggest off-the-wall reason” for a Phil win is that his dad was a commercial fisherman, which surely must carry plenty of good karma here on the East End.

Second on my win wish list is for a Tiger victory. It has been 10 years since Tiger last won a major. His play of late has been encouraging but certainly not convincing. Two glaring omissions from Tiger’s game seem to be his inconsistent putting and maybe his lack of confidence. Can you believe I just said Tiger might have a lack of confidence? Many of us that love this crazy game will tell you that you cannot have one without the other. I have covered all 14 of Tiger’s major wins in person and I’d really appreciate it if he could make this one major win #15.

The player that I am putting my money on is Rory McIlroy. Since this U.S. Open is being played in the Hamptons with its potential to have a “star-studded” gallery, it seems Rory just might have the right stuff to win his second U.S. Open, as he was born in Hollywood. Of course, I mean Hollywood, Ireland, but his talent has already been on display with his two PGA Championships, one Open Championship and his single U.S. Open Championship win, in 2011.

As we all know, winning at the highest level is very difficult and any little edge could make the difference. Rory will certainly depend on his caddie’s vast experience in this U.S. Open. His caddie, Harry Diamond, a very accomplished player in his own right, recently completed two years of caddying at Shinnecock. He will most certainly know where Rory needs to hit it, and of course, where not to hit it, which putt will break which way and at what speed, and when not to go flag hunting. Harry’s expertise combined with Rory’s expertise might make an unbeatable combination.

Reminder: The U.S. Open Merchandise Tent will be open this week, Thursday through Sunday, with no ticket needed to gain entry. I will be broadcasting on WLNG 92.1 FM starting on Thursday. Hope to see you there . . . come by and say hi.