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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Europeans unlikely to enjoy home comforts at stately Shinnecock

Jeremy Chapman teaches us a golfing lesson

Retief Goosen won the 2004 US Open - the top European finished 20th
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Don’t let anybody tell you that because stately Shinnecock Hills is the nearest American golf course in style to the great Scottish links, the stars of Europe, more specifically GB and Ireland, will have an advantage on Long Island this week.

Results from the only three modern-times Opens played there, in 1986, 1995 and 2004, suggest exactly the opposite.

In 1986, when Ray Floyd prevailed, the lone European in the top ten was Bernhard Langer, eighth in a Major which the great German never won.

And in two Opens since, the evidence was even more emphatic: in 1995 when the shortest hitter in the field, Corey Pavin, did the business, journeyman Mark Roe, currently a Sky golf commentator, was the best Europe could do in 13th spot.

Finally, when Retief Goosen won his second US Open in 2004, you had to look right down to 20th to find Sergio Garcia qualifying for that dubious top-Euro honour.

It wasn’t only the Europeans who couldn’t get a result: it was no happy hunting ground either for Tiger Woods. He played his first US Open at Shinnecock in 1995 as a 19-year-old amateur and pulled out with a wrist injury after tangling with the high, thick rough once too often.

And when he went back in 2004 and was heading for a high finish, he had one of those Sunday fadeouts he is prone to now - a 76 with four bogeys and a double left him 17th - but the weather was truly foul that day and there were plenty worse than him.

Shinnecock was a 6,996-yard par 70 when Tiger finished ten over par that squally week. The par is still 70 but the yardage has been whacked up to 7,445 or almost 450 yards longer. And Tiger’s nerve was a whole lot better then than it is now. A spread bet on Woods’s final total would provide four days (or maybe only two) of entertainment.

Contrary to popular belief, I was not around for the 1896 Open at Shinnecock when James Foulis triumphed in only the second year of the competition.

The course was just 4,423 yards long then, the Open was played over 36 holes, the winner got a princely $150, and there were only 35 runners, mostly expatriate Brits working at US clubs. It was a young game for Americans in those far-off days.

Some of the 35 signed a petition to get two of their fellow competitors, one an African-American, the other a Native American, barred but the USGA was having none of it.

We don’t know how over-par Foulis’s winning score of 152 was for the simple reason that par as a golfing term was not in competition use until 1911.

Johnny Par has been the resounding winner at Shinnecock over the years as only three have ever beaten him.

Floyd was the only one in 1986 with his one-under 279. Pavin looked like beating par nine years later but missed a short putt on the 72nd (he didn’t need it) and settled for level par. Goosen and runner-up Phil Mickelson were four and two under last time.

With the course 450 yards longer than 14 years ago, the mind boggles at some of the scores we are going to see even though the fairways are more generous than in the past. Even a big hitter like Tiger says 7,445 yards is hellish long for a par 70.

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It wasn’t only the Europeans who couldn’t get a result: it was no happy hunting ground either for Tiger Woods
E.W. Terms
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