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2004 US Open

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

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
 

Roesch, whose biggest pay cheque was $20,000 for a Hooters Tour win in 2002, was off to the US Open.

“I’m a friend of Zach Johnson so we had a practice round together and Davis Love joined us so that was awesome and I hung out with Zach a little bit. I was a TaylorMade player then so I met Sergio Garcia, Mike Weir and played with some big names, I did that on purpose.

“I started on the 10th and I birdied four of five holes on my opening nine and I was third after day one as there was a rain delay.

“I played really good, made the cut after a 73 and in the third round I was right behind Tiger so I got to watch him from the back seats.

“Everybody runs ahead so there weren’t many watching us but I was just enjoying the moment, it was all a wonderful experience.”

Roesch was round in 74, six over after three days, and still in position for very respectable finish and a huge pay day.

But Shinnecock was on the turn and was set for one almighty final day in more ways than one.

A handful of players, including Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama, putted off the 7th green on Saturday which led to Walter Driver, the chairman of the USGA championship committee, to call a meeting at 8am on Sunday.

The jungle drums of the players’ dissenting voices were beginning to beat in unison.

The 7th at Shinnecock is called Redan after the 15th at North Berwick. A Redan hole will typically have a green that slopes downwards and away from the entrance and the contours will get the ball to the hole.

The hole measures 189 yards with a slightly raised green which is at a 45˚ angle from the tee. On the Tuesday Garcia said that anyone hitting 17 greens should be rounded up to 18 as nobody would find the 7th.

The prevailing wind is in the players’ face but it turned on Saturday and was right to left which, with a baked-out green, was already beginning to cause more than a few headaches.

On Saturday 27.3 per cent of the field found the green which had been rolled by mistake, according to Driver. He said the order had been not to get the roller out.

Jerry Kelly was fairly blunt in what he thought of that: “They lied. They said: ‘We told them not to roll that one’. Talked to the superintendent. Superintendent said: ‘Hey, I’m not getting in the middle of this. They told me to roll it’.

“They’re trying to put blame, because of their stupidity, on to somebody doing a good job. This is the USGA’s fault and it is every year.”

US Open scoreboard

After the Sunday morning meeting the USGA decided to move the pin from seven paces on and seven from the right to nine on and 10 from the right. Driver described it as its ‘most benign’ location.

JJ Henry and Kevin Stadler, out first, both made triples.

“I had two feet for a par and ended up with a six. It hit a spike mark, catches the lip and winds up in the bunker,” explained Stadler, who had an 85.

Up next were Billy Mayfair and Cliff Kresge – Mayfair, who before his second shot made the sign of the cross, putted off the green but still made bogey, Kresge made a standard six.

Play was delayed for 10 minutes, a crew member dragged a hose to the green and sprayed it with water.

“You’ve just got to do the best you can to make it as fair as you can,” Driver again explained.

And the players’ view?

“I don’t even think the water began to seep into the ground,” said Mark Calcavecchia. “I think it just kind of beads up and rolls off like a waxed car.”

The 104th US Open was turning into a bit of a farce.

Feature continues on the next page…

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Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

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