Two-time winner Retief Goosen tells NCG the US Open should remain the ultimate test
Retief Goosen knows a thing or two about a tough US Open and he’s urged the USGA to hold their nerve in the controversy over course set-up.
The two-time winner, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, believes the governing body should “make it as tough as they can” as this week’s war of attrition prepares to get under way at Pebble Beach.
Whether it’s been the greens at Chambers Bay, Dustin Johnson’s putter, or a mad Saturday at Shinnecock Hills that culminated with Phil Mickelson hitting a moving ball, the last few years has seen how the course has been prepared become the tournament’s ultimate focus.
So with fairways on the generous side this week, rough that looks a little less penal than previous Pebble Opens and weather conditions set to be benign, there could be a winning score well below the one over par total that gave Brooks Koepka back-to-back wins 12 months ago.
But Goosen, who won his second US Open crown following a notorious final day at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 where the 7th green needed to be watered during play, reckons the USGA should avoid the temptation to ‘soften up’.
The Rolex Testimonee said: “It’s a fine line to get it exactly right.
“At some events, it’s going to get out of hand and, unfortunately, it happened twice at Shinnecock. I don’t think the USGA should soften up. I think they should keep it like they’ve always done but maybe just move the pin two feet more left and away from the slope.
“I think they’ve learned their lesson on that front and I don’t think they are going to go and soften up on it.
“They thought they put the pins OK and the weather turned and the wind picked up,” Goosen added when asked why set-up had become such an issue, and particularly last year at Shinnecock.
“The greens dried out and the rest is history. They’re trying to get the winning score as close to par as possible.
“If the winning score is 6 or 7 under, really, I don’t really think the guys should be moaning about it because two or three putted it off the green – or maybe putted it back while it was still moving.
“Maybe the commentators also made a bit of a thing about it, but it was only a few guys that putted it off the greens and that happens regularly at any major.
“I’ve done that many times. I think the USGA should keep sticking with their thing and make it as tough as they can.”
Goosen, whose first US Open crown came following an 18-hole play-off with Mark Brooks at Southern Hills in 2001, also thinks that despite more players being in the mix – thanks to a short course – the winner will still come from three very familiar faces.
“Dustin, Rory and Brooks are the three best drivers in the game at the moment. They can hit it 340 down the middle. The other guys can hit it 340 but also 40 yards in the rough.
“I think it’s going to come down to those three guys. Paul Casey is a guy who’s played pretty good recently too and Rickie Fowler could sneak in and win one.
“But the three big boys are going to be the ones who are going to be out there – the three long hitters.
“If they can bomb it down the middle, and have short irons into firm greens, they have got an advantage.”
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Retief Goosen was speaking as a testimonee for Rolex, which has been the official timekeeper of the US Open since 1980. Keep up to speed with everything from Pebble Beach on our dedicated US Open website, or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.