SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | When the US Open was held at Shinnecock Hills in 1986 the first day’s round took place in foul conditions. A strong wind blew, rain plunged from leaden skies, broken only by occasional burst of limp sunshine. And it was cold. “Welcome to the first British Open to be held in the US,” Frank Hannigan, then chief executive officer of the USGA, said mischievously, pulling his rain jacket tighter around his shoulders.
In June 2018 the man who had recently left London to travel some 3,500 miles west to be at Shinnecock, looked around at the sturdy course, its squat clubhouse perched on top of a hill, and thought to himself: “My word! What’s happened. I haven’t left Britain. This is as near an Open venue as any in the US.”
And so it proved. As the opening day of the 2018 US Open unfolded, it became more and more like a day at the game’s oldest championship played out on a sprawling links like Royal St George’s, on England south coast, or Muirfield, near Edinburgh.
In any direction the course that was creating so many difficulties for the players was treeless. It had some wide fairways, and some not so wide.
There were run-off areas around the greens to test the imagination and skill of players. There was a Redan hole and a unostentatious clubhouse. The sun beat down but a gusting wind blew in the morning and strengthened the more the day wore on, averaging 16 mph.
Stopping a ball downwind on firm greens was difficult. Tiger Woods four-putted. Scott Gregory went round in 22-over par, Jordan Spieth in 78, 8-over par, Jason Day in 80, the same as Rory McIlroy. There were fives, sixes and sevens.
As the day drew to a close, the grey clouds queued up overhead. A chill cut through the evening. The scores got higher and higher.
Welcome indeed to the first day of the second British Open to be held in the US.