SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | It’s rarely a good sign when the local police chief is asked to comment at the USGA’s pre-U.S. Open news conference.
But the traffic issue with the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills is such that it’s as worrisome as the knee-high fescue on the golf course. Without proper planning – code for allowing up to two hours for what could be a 30-minute trip – it’s possible players could miss their tee times this week.
When Steve Skrynecki, the Southampton police chief, was asked if law enforcement might be more lenient with speed limits in the area, he said, “I wish people could maintain those speeds, quite frankly.”
It’s a Hamptons thing, at least this week.
“I’ve heard some nightmare stories already,” Dustin Johnson said.
Here’s the issue:
There’s always a steady stream of west-to-east traffic heading toward Southampton on the four-lane highway that snakes through this portion of Long Island. It’s largely “trade traffic,” workers on their way to build, rebuild or polish various properties in the ritzy 11968 zip code.
Throw in the extra summer beach traffic and add in U.S. Open-related traffic and it’s not exaggeration to say a 35-mile commute from the west can take two hours in the morning. If you’re staying to the east or the north, the issue isn’t nearly so severe but many people are coming from the west.
It’s serious enough that the USGA put out a release about the continuing traffic issues for eastbound travelers on the way to Shinnecock. It doesn’t solve the problem but it at least makes it a matter of record – and it gives riders something to read while they wait.
Rory McIlroy found a sweet spot.
“I am three minutes door-to-door. I have no problem,” he said. “I don’t know if we were very smart or very lucky, one of the two. So we’re fine.”
Tiger Woods is beating the traffic this week by staying on his yacht, which is moored at nearby Sag Harbor, where his is not the biggest boat in the marina.
“Sag Harbor is a cute little town,” Woods said. “I’ve only been there for a few days now. I haven’t really got a chance to walk about a little bit, but certainly will this week.
“So far, it’s been nice to kind of get away from the tournament scene and go there to my dinghy and just really enjoy it.”
Woods said he’s staying north of Shinnecock, which helps because it is out of the primary traffic pattern heading to the U.S. Open.
“There are a few guys so far this week (who) have said it’s taken them from the hotel 2½ to 3 hours, and there’s a good chance that someone might miss their time,” Woods said. “You get a little traffic, you get maybe a little fender-bender, it’s not inconceivable someone could miss their time.”
Then there is Jason Day, who is staying in his RV adjacent to Shinnecock Hills.
“I’m 30 seconds away from the parking lot, which is nice,” Day said.