SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (TNS) — The U.S. Open is always a classic test of golf. But there are certain places where it just feels a little more special. And Shinnecock Hills is one of those places.
Shinnecock has been around since 1891 and is widely regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the world. It's the only golf course that has hosted a U.S. Open in three different centuries. And this week, it will be tested by the best golfers on the planet.
So here's everything you need to know about the fifth U.S. Open to be played at Shinnecock.
1896: The second-ever U.S. Open was a 36-hole stroke play tournament with only 35 players competing. Scottish-American James Foulis won $150 for first place on a 4,423-yard course, which is the shortest in U.S. Open history.
1986: It took 90 years for the Open to come back to Shinnecock, which had been redesigned by architect William Flynn (Cherry Hills C.C. in Denver) in the 1930s and lengthened to 6,912 yards. Raymond Floyd was the only player to finish under par (1-under, 279), earning $115,00 for first place.
1995: The USGA marked the 100th anniversary of the Open with a return to historic Shinnecock. No players finished under par, as Corey Pavin (even par, 280) hit a memorable four-wood on the 72nd hole to secure his only major championship and $350,000 in prize money.
2004: Retief Goosen (4-under, 276) outlasted Phil Mickelson in a thrilling Sunday showdown winning $1.125 million, but it was overshadowed by brutal conditions on the final day after the USGA lost control of the golf course and some holes were virtually unplayable.
2018: This Open will be played at 7,445 yards — the first time Shinnecock has ever played more than 7,000 yards and the winner will receive $2.16 million.
If you go...
Schedule: Gates open at 6 a.m. every day (Monday through Sunday), with practice rounds (Monday through Wednesday) usually beginning around 6:45 a.m. and tournament rounds beginning at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday and Friday and around 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets: Weekly passes are sold out, but there are still individual tickets available at usopen.com. Practice round tickets begin at $60. Tickets for Thursday's first round start at $125, Friday-Sunday individual tickets start at $145 apiece. Juniors 18 and under get in free if they are accompanied by a ticketed adult. Junior tickets are available onsite (at will call) and never sell out.
Getting there: Give yourself two-plus hours from North Jersey to make the trip to the east end of Long Island. Complimentary parking will be provided at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, from there a complimentary shuttle will take fans to the course. LIRR trains from Penn Station will drop fans off at a special, temporary station at the golf course. Visit www.mta.info/LIRR for more info.
Holes to watch
7, Par 3, 189 yards: Back in 2004, this short par 3 became virtually unplayable and the USGA had to water it in the middle of the final round — an embarrassing moment that became the prime example of how out of control the course was on the final day. Players and golf fans will watch this hole closely as the USGA vows to get it right in 2018.
9, Par 4, 485 yards: This classic hole provides the best view of the idyllic Shinnecock clubhouse, and a stunning view from the fairway of this elevate green. It's a wide fairway, but players must hit it down the left side and far enough to have a flat lie. Anything long of the green is a very tough chip.
11, Par 3, 159 yards: The shortest hole at Shinnecock is also one of the most demanding. This uphill Par 3 requires a precise shot to a small and sloping green. If the wind is up _ which it usually is — the right bunkers will be a popular landing spot, because anything long of this green is in deep trouble.
14, Par 4, 513 yards: The longest Par 4 on the course, the USGA has also pinched in the fairway on the right side of this hole making it play as one of the toughest. A precise tee shot gives golfers a good look at the elevated green. But some of the worst rough is down the right side, so there could be some big numbers here.
16, Par 5, 616 yards: This hole was lengthened by 74 yards, which will make it hard for even the longest hitters to reach in two. One of only two Par 5s on the property, this will provide a thrilling birdie opportunity coming down the stretch. The championship could be won or lost here.
Groups to watch
Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas (1:47 p.m. Thursday, 8:02 a.m. Friday): With Woods' injury problems over the last five years, we've been robbed of seeing him compete against a new generation. Not anymore. A seemingly-healthy Woods will play the first two rounds with the No. 1 (Johnson, fresh off his win Sunday) and No. 2 (Thomas) ranked players in the world.
Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson (8:02 a.m. Thursday, 1:47 p.m. Friday): Three of the best players in the game, and all of them do it in such different ways: McIlroy has the most beautiful and one of the most powerful games in golf, Spieth's game is built on grit and clutch putting, and Mickelson is one of the best scramblers in history. This should be fun.
Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Bubba Watson (7:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:25 p.m. Friday): All three of these guys hit the ball a long way and make a ton of birdies when they're locked in _ as Koepka proved last year on the way to his first U.S. Open win. If the conditions are still or soft, this group could be making a lot of noise the first two days.
Keep an eye on...
The old guys: It's funny how all these years later, Woods and Mickelson are still two of the most compelling players in the field. Woods is trying to win his first major in 10 (!) years, since the legendary triumph in the '08 U.S. Open. Mickelson, playing in his first Open since 2016, is hoping to grab the final leg of the career grand slam.
Bryson DeChambeau: The young phenom is coming off his second PGA Tour win two weeks ago at Memorial and has the precision necessary to flourish in a U.S. Open. He's also just fun to watch. It will be interesting to see how he attacks one of golf's classic challenges.
Patrick Reed: The defending Masters champ has flown under the radar since his breakthrough win in April. But he's quietly been playing well, making all four cuts with two top 10s in his last four starts. Don't be surprised if Reed gets back in the mix on the major scene.
The even older guys: Steve Stricker (51 years old), Ernie Els (48) and Jim Furyk (48) are all winding down their PGA Tour careers. But if Shinnecock plays firm and fast, it will take away the advantage of the long hitters and could give all three of these guys a chance.