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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
 

Our friend Roesch, meanwhile, had started nicely despite the testing conditions.

“You could feel that the humidity had dropped and the wind had picked up so there was some dryness in the air and I was really hoping to stick to my game plan of where to put my ball.

“Then I got out there and realised that the greens were two to three feet quicker than the first three days and the ground was now so firm.”

After six holes he was still level for the day, thanks to an eagle at the 5th, and on the periphery of the top 10.

And then Shinnecock took a big chunk out of him.

“The golf course kind of got me. It was so hard to hold the ball on the 7th green, it had so much slope on it. I am pretty good at preparing my strategy, I tell my students that they have to have high golf IQs so I wanted to hit it left side or even in the left bunker.

“I ended up in the bunker but I wasn’t disappointed and I missed from 10 feet. It was almost impossible to get the ball to stay on the green and then even to two-putt.”

After eight groups the scoring average was 4.25, it ended up at 3.65 which was only the fourth-hardest on the course.

Roesch made four more pars the rest of the day as he turned in an 80. Which, in comparison, was just fine.

Ernie Els Shinnecock

The grim facts were that, by the close of play, only 17.2 per cent of the field hit the 7th green and the average score was 78.72 for the day. Other greens were watered as the day went on but it was too little, too late as 22 players fared worse than Roesch on Sunday.

“I hit a lot of good shots where I made at least a bogey. I can’t speak for the USGA but the greens were so firm and so fast that, I’m not going to say it was like playing on concrete, but it was close to it. Being from Wisconsin I have played on frozen greens and I’ve played on snow but this was something else.

“I kind of thought this was normal as it was my first Open experience. Later on I found out that this was the highest scoring average for a final round.”

But there was a winner in Retief Goosen, who got it round in 71 to finish at minus four (nobody was under par on Sunday) to beat Mickelson by two. The left-hander birdied 15 and 16 to lead by one but then three-putted from five feet at 17 while the South African, playing behind, birdied 16 and that was that.

“To finish under par was truly amazing. When they replay the round I’ll always watch and Retief had such a good game plan; he hit irons off the tee where I didn’t see that shot and he one-putted so much and that was the only way you could shoot under par,” Roesch added.

“Personally I like a bit of the USGA’s approach where even par is a winning score – that’s golf, you’ve got to be smart.

“At Shinnecock they went too far and they realised it and most of the players were complaining and for good reason. Most times a good shot will get rewarded but not many got rewarded that day.”

Not that the experience has put Roesch off Shinnecock or the US Open in general.

“I still get out the medals from qualifying and the New York Times article and I’ve framed the pieces in the local papers.

“I have played a lot of the Top 100 courses in the States and I would say it is the best. Obviously it has a special place in my heart but it is a great test of golf, a great layout with so much variety and you’ve got to hit different shots.

“I’m going to try and qualify again this year.”

Click here to head to our dedicated US Open site

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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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