We’ve got together to ask each other the pressing questions following the first round of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
In this edition, Dan Murphy, Mark Townsend, James Savage and Keel Timmins take to the tee to discuss what we’d shoot, who we’d like to play with and whether or not we enjoy seeing players struggle…
Mark: To kick us off an obvious one. Stating your handicap and biggest weakness what do you think you would score around Shinnecock Hills today so playing off their tees with the wind gusting around 20mph. You will have the same level of spotters and volunteers to help with the endless searching for balls…
James: My handicap is 15 and playing in the wind is my biggest weakness. I hit the ball very high. But I have got a new 2-iron and short game is my strength.
If you offered me a 99 I’d snap your hand off. Wait, Scott Gregory shot 92? Well I’d be adding at least 20 to that then surely?
Keel: I’m a 12 handicapper and my true weakness is greenside bunkers, and there’s plenty of them around Shinnecock. I fear that with the truly rapid greens and steep drop-offs, I’d no doubt have a few games of sand tennis.
As for a score, it’d be well into the 100s I’d imagine, but I’d consider a couple of pars a success.
Dan: I’m off 3 and trying to hole out on those crispy, exposed, sloping greens would have me exhausted after about three holes.
I have a fear that I would run up a few four-putts, perhaps even after quite decent chips. I would think I would be doing well to break 100.
Dan: Tell me how you would play that shot we keep seeing from through the back of the 10th green. You’ve got a tight lie, the green is up in the air and the pin is about two yards on.
Mark: The way I play every shot from within 40 yards of a putting surface that isn’t buried in a bunker; putt it.
If they can’t flippety flop one up there (Thomas did on his second attempt) then what hope have I and a little ‘bunt and run’ depends on possessing some touch and feel, of which I have neither.
My whole preparation early in the week, and pre-tournament visits, would be centred around hours of battering putts and wedging out from knee-high bund so I’d be ready and probably not able.
James: I feel the putter is the low percentage shot as you’ve got to hit it hard enough to get it up there but not too hard so it races down the other side. I’m thinking you’ve got to toss it up there with a lob wedge, as high as you can get it, and accept that anything on the green is a good result.
Keel: It’d have to be a lob wedge and just make sure you land it safely in the middle of the green. My distance control with the putter is awful and I’d have no doubt it would be trickling back to my feet.
James: If you were to compete in this US Open, who would you pick as your ideal playing partner? Jordan Spieth seems very jittery to me at the moment and would be the last person I’d pick. Justin Rose would be ideal and might help me with my rhythm.
Keel: It would have to be someone from the European Tour that would go under the radar and not draw big crowds. I’d go with Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren – two of the world’s best and seem to me like they’d be great company.
Dan: I’d be quite happy knocking around with Graeme McDowell. His chat is very good, he’s a past champion, he’d keep grinding away, he wouldn’t be hitting it 85 yards past me and I’d enjoy watching his iron shots.
Mark: Spieth would be the first person I would want to hang around with and be mates with but the last person to play with. I can’t stand having to listen to people’s on-course commentary and I’m too weak not to listen and then change my mind on a shot.
Dustin Johnson would be the last person I would want to hang around with away from playing golf, also not forgetting Paul Casey, but Johnson’s so laid back he’d be pretty spot on.
Other than that players like Fleetwood, McDowell or Leishman would be ideal.
Keel: Is it perverse of me to revel in watching professional golfers struggle like we have seen today at Shinnecock? Birdies and eagles are fun, but for one week a year, there’s nothing better than watching players hacking out of waist-high fescue, hitting chips that roll back to their feet, and trying to keep 10ft putts on the green – as long as it’s a fair test where good shots are rewarded.
Dan: There is something compelling about watching the world’s best reduced to making double-bogeys from the middle of the fairway and generally doing all the things that the rest of us struggle with every time we take to a golf course.
That said, it is a shame when the USGA take great golf courses and then make all the players hate them by taking the conditions right to the edge, from where, inevitably, they will occasionally go a little too far.
Mark: You’re perfectly normal, don’t beat yourself up. I love it and there’s a way to solve this puzzle as there are a handful of players shooting in the 60s.
We all go on about ‘where not to hit it’ enough at Augusta but this is like the Masters on steroids. Putting competitions on a weekly basis are terrible entertainment, this seems to be perfect US Open fodder.
James: I don’t enjoy it when it gets silly but it’s nice to see bad shots properly punished for a change.
It’s quite refreshing to see players genuinely drained and a little bit broken when they walk off the 18th green – that’s how I feel after a friendly nine.