I marvel at watching some of the players easily (relatively of course) navigate a course set up by the USGA. The US Open is known for its dangerous rough, lightning fast greens, and manicured fairways. This year at Shinnecock, the USGA has made the course a beast that gives professional golfers fits of anxiety. For an amateur, watching the best golfers in the world seem mortal can be unsettling. Yet some of the players appear to have solved the puzzle and score relatively well. I wonder what their secret is, do you?
Facing the toughest test of their career, first-time players at the US Open must learn to navigate a quagmire of dangers to score well. I guess the experienced players must do the same, but they are at least better prepared because of their past experiences. And I know the key to everyone’s success: First, keep the ball in play when driving the ball. Second, when in trouble; limit the damage by playing safe. Third, hit to the safe parts of the green. Last, putt well; wait… not just well, but lights out!
There you have it, the key to playing well at the US Open. Now that I reread my last paragraph, I see that this is the key to playing great golf period. I guess my musings are not that profound, but more common knowledge. Okay, all joking aside, there are two things that the 2018 US Open Champion must do well over the four rounds: keep the ball in play and putt extremely well.
In the age of huge hitters and the “long ball” being king, the USGA has tried to equalize the field by making the fescue (extremely long grass) a complete ‘no-go’ zone. Keeping the ball in play is the only way to compete at Shinnecock. I have never played in such conditions, but keeping the ball in play is always key to low golf scores. At the US Open, having an unimpeded shot is critical to winning the US Open trophy.
Putting well is always a key to low golf scores. At the US Open, it is more critical to winning. A 3-foot putt can skate 8 feet past if you are on the wrong side of the hole. Additionally, no putt is a ‘gimmie’; every shot on the green must be read and taken seriously. I believe that this year’s champion will have the fewest number of putts over the four days. Putting lights out is an absolute must. Just look at these pin placements!
Playing at the US Open is a dream come true for some players. However, playing well is challenging at best. If you asked Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson how they felt after the first round, I am sure they would have some colourful language to describe their play. Both would focus on keeping the ball in play and putting well.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!