The 2004 US Open farce: ‘I've played on frozen greens but this was something else’

Golf News

The USGA ‘lost it’ at Shinnecock Hills the last time the US Open came to town. Journeyman David Roesch experienced the brutal course conditions first hand

In 1894 two clubs, Newport Country Club and St Andrew’s, the New York one, both declared their tournament winners as the ‘national amateur champion’. So later that year delegates from those two clubs along with Chicago, Brookline and Shinnecock Hills met in New York to form a national governing body – and so the USGA was founded.

The first US Amateur was played at Newport and the second at Shinnecock, strangely the only time it has visited the latter.

The US Open followed the same path and this year we are back at Shinnecock for just the fifth time. The championship will return again in 2026.

Shinnecock has much to boast about; it is generally considered to be the earliest ‘links’ in America, the oldest incorporated golf club with the oldest clubhouse in the States and there is no dark past with women members. From day one they were admitted into the club.

We have a nice back catalogue of winners with Ray Floyd winning his fourth and final major in 1986, overcoming a three-shot deficit on Greg Norman who led going into the Sunday of all four majors that year.

Then, in the 100th playing of the championship in 1995, Corey Pavin hit that 4-wood to the last to batter Norman into second place.

And the course will always be found in the top 10 of any self-respecting Top 100 courses in the world – it’s that good.

But say the word Shinnecock and most all of us think about is what happened in 2004, the last time the USGA came to town.

Phil Mickelson said: “I played some of the best golf of my life, I hit some of my best shots, I putted better than I probably have ever putted and I still couldn’t shoot par on Sunday. That, surely, cannot be acceptable.”

And he finished in second place.

Tiger added that the USGA had ‘lost it’.

David Roesch

It’s likely you don’t remember the name David Roesch or have ever heard of him but the Hooters Tour veteran was one of the stories of the week in 2004. Come the Friday morning the 30-year-old was on the front page of the New York Times.

Roesch came through local qualifying at Lake Geneva and headed to Old Warson in St Louis for sectional where two places were up for grabs from 36 hopefuls.

“It was hot, about 95˚, real humid and a really hard course,” said Roesch, now a teaching pro back home in Wisconsin.

“I had no expectations. I wasn’t playing that great, I was grinding on the mini tours at the time, shot 72-71 and won it,.”

DA Points and Notah Begay missed out by one.

Feature continues on the next page…

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