Now that the calendar has rolled into May, the sand in that hourglass is going faster and faster. The US Open Championship, being played at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, is no longer just on the radar. It is now firmly on the horizon.
When the first tee shot is struck on June 14, it will represent the start of the fourth US Open to be contested at one of the finest (if not the finest) US Open test’s in America. The first was in 1896.
The Shinnecock course is not only a complete examination but the clubhouse is a national treasure. In fact, it holds the distinction of being the very first golf clubhouse ever built in the U.S. It was designed by noted architect Stanford White who, by the way, also designed the original Madison Square Garden. The exquisite combination of the course and the clubhouse will serve the players well and it will challenge them mightily in their quest to wear the crown of National Champion.
The 2018 entry list is impressive. Nine thousand entries have been received for a chance to win this prestigious title. So, who can enter? The maximum handicap allowed is 1.4 and they can be either an amateur or a professional. After the entry is received, there’s a qualifying process that begins with 18 holes of local qualifying, then a further 36 holes of regional qualifying.
There are several categories of players that are automatically exempted into the field: US Open winners in the last10 years; Masters, Open Champions, or PGA Champions from the last five years; anyone who finished in the top 30 on last year’s PGA TOUR money list; anyone who finished in the top 15 on the European Tour money list last year; and anyone ranked in the top 50 in the Official World Rankings two weeks prior to the start of this US Open. Usually a few “special” exempted players are announced, but generally, the rest of the spots go to those that have gotten through the local and regional qualifying process. The regional sites are all throughout the country, plus one in Europe and one in Japan.
Anticipation for this US Open is already at an all-time high. Why? Well, there’s a Tiger on the prowl. Even though he’s a re-made man and finally pain-free, he’s been showing flashes of the old Tiger with his dedicated compulsion to win.
This will be Tiger’s third appearance at Shinnecock. In 1995, he competed as an amateur but was forced to withdraw with a wrist injury in Shinnecock’s famous and robust fescue. In 2004, he finished 17th but I can pretty much guarantee he will do much better this time around.
So, if I were in charge of Championship Sunday, Father’s Day, at this US Open there would be bright sunny skies, at least a 15-mph wind with 42-year-old Tiger and 47-year-old Phil Mickelson in the final pairing. If Tiger were to win, it would be the first time in 10 years (remember that “broken-leg victory?) and would certainly be significant, but if Phil were to win, it would be a part of history. For Phil, the missing piece of his career grand slam puzzle is a US Open Championship.
So, have some fun with me. Join my dream of Tiger and Phil coming down the 18th at Shinnecock on Championship Sunday, both wanting and needing that title, but for two very different reasons.