It was the toughest US Open first round for 32 years but Curtis Strange hailed the course set up at Shinnecock Hills – and believes it should be a difficult test.

The two-time champion, the last player to defend the title back in 1989, also thinks Dustin Johnson could be picking up his second crown come Sunday afternoon.

Strange, who scooped back-to-back US Opens at Brookline and Oak Hill, set out his views following an opening day which saw a scoring average of 76.4.

The last time those numbers were witnessed at America’s national championship was in 1986 – when the event was also held at Shinnecock.

The early going in the second round looked a little easier but plenty of the competitors were still significantly over par.

But critics who argue the USGA have gone too far would find no favour with Strange, speaking as a Rolex Testimonee, who said: “We were anxious to see how Shinnecock played with a little wider fairways than previous Opens here.

“I thought yesterday was a really good set up. I didn’t hear any complaints, so it must have been fair. It was all about the wind yesterday and that can happen anywhere.

“Quite frankly, at this time of year in this country, the US Open venues have to deal with wind mostly just here and at Pebble Beach. The rest of them are relatively calm.

“It was a good tough test yesterday. I like seeing it and the challenge is good. To me, the US Open should be the toughest test in golf – along with the Open Championship – and it was yesterday.

“Today, the conditions aren’t really that tough – because there is little wind, there’s some mist and rain, and that will keep moisture in the greens and the fairways so they will play softer.”

Shinnecock Hills

Strange beat Nick Faldo in an 18-hole playoff 30 years ago to capture his first major but he is in favour of the move to a two-hole decider that will come into effect this year should there be deadlock after 72 holes.

“I agree with it,” he explained. “The historian in me and being old-school, so to speak, means I’d still like an 18 hole playoff but, logistically, it’s the right thing to do for the players, for the fans, the viewers on TV, the volunteers, for everyone to have it finish on Sunday night.

“I think everybody likes it. The 18-hole playoff is a bit anti-climatic on Monday. Everyone is going back to work. They watch it but, quiet honestly, it costs the TV network a lot of money. Some of the volunteers can’t get off work, but some have to go back.

“It’s just tough. You can’t go to four holes like the Open because we don’t have the daylight. They didn’t want to go to sudden death because they said one shot can cost the guy the championship.

“I would have agreed with sudden death because you have had four days and 72 holes to play for the championship. What’s one more hole? It’s not one shot in a playoff. You’ve had 73 holes.

“The worst case scenario is that you don’t finish the playoff on Sunday night – and that can happen.

“But I like the two holes and I think it is as good a decision as they can make.”

Shinnecock Hills

And with Johnson surging ahead as the second round reached the midway point, Strange believes the world No. 1 is the most likely victor.

He explained: “It’s early to say but he has played well enough. As Butch Harmon said ‘Dustin Johnson is the one player who can separate himself from the rest of the field’. He’s that good. That’s not to say Brooks Koepka can’t win again or Justin Rose, who I think will do well this week.

“But when I watch Dustin Johnson play, it’s a different game.”

Curtis Strange was speaking at the 118th US Open as a golf testimonee for Rolex, which has been a partner of the USGA since 1980. For more information visit the Rolex website.