The US Open Championship is back on Long Island, New York, and back at Shinnecock Hills for the first time since 1995.
updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
New York:The US Open Championship is back on Long Island, New York, and back at Shinnecock Hills for the first time since 1995. Despite the natural beauty of the rolling hills and salty sea air, this years Open won't be a vacation at the Hamptons for the PGA pros. The fairways at Shinnecock are no bargain at 26 yards (24 metres) wide on average. And they are so firm that when a golf ball is thrown onto the ground, it can be caught level at the waist. A US Open golf official said the winner of this tournament is going to have his short game in top notch shape. "Shinnecock is a links type golf course, and it's got a British Open look to it. I think the thing I like most about Shinnecock is that we've got it firm and fast. That's always an extra special part to have with a U.S. Open, because balls that are going to go astray, are going to continue to go astray because of the firm and fast fairways," said Tom Meeks - USGA Senior Director of Rules and Competition. Coastal breeze In addition to the traditional US Open rough, players will have to also battle the extra long heather and a stiff coastal breeze. Meanwhile, world number one Tiger Woods is hoping he still has the Long Island magic. Woods is winless in seven major championships since winning the 2002 US Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island, for his seventh major victory in an 11-tournament span. He knows the South Shore winds can reek havoc on a golf shot. "With the wind blowing as hard as it is, one little gust one yard means 20 to 30 yards. It can roll off 20 to 30 yards and you have no shot. You'll be doing well just to make bogey. Good shots here sometimes aren't rewarded at all. And that's one of the things you're going to have to accept and move on. Every single person in this field is going to experience it," said Tiger Woods, 8 time major champion. High praise And even though the conditions could give players major championship headaches, most players had high praise for the legendary Shinnecock. Although not a genuine links course like those found in the UK - that's determined by the type of soil on which the course is built - almost everyone agrees that Shinnecock plays like one this year. "The golf course is fantastic, probably the best I've found on this continent for sure. I heard a lot about it through recent times, but being here and a part of the US Open at Shinnecock it's a great feeling. What can I say, it's like playing two British Opens in one year, really," said Michael Campbell - New Zealand. "It's brutal, but I think very fair at the same time. You can get around the golf course - but there's one or two shots, or one or two holes where you really really got to be on your guard. A day like today when the wind is blowing. It's just a mean test for sure. I think what I like about this golf course is that it's fair, the rough get thicker as you go wider - but it's still just enough room. And I mean just enough to get around it," said Justin Rose â€“ England. Two players the fans will be keeping close track of are this years Masters Champion Phil Mickelson, and defending US Open Champion Jim Furyk. Both also sung the praises of the Shinnecock layout, despite the expected difficulty. Raymond Floyd was the only player to break par here in the 1986 US Open. Corey Pavin won at even par in 1995. Some suggest that a score over par could win the US Open for the first time since 1978 at Cherry Hills in Denver. "I really do like this golf course. I don't think you're going to find too many players in this field that have anything bad to say about the golf course. It's a fantastic course and in unbelievable condition. Set up wise, I really like the way the golf course is set up. Obviously not a very long golf course, and it's also going to play very firm and very fast. And it puts a premium on really placing the ball in the correct spot. Placing the ball on the fairway. Placing the ball on the greens, with very precise iron shots, to really allow yourself to putt. I think the penalty for missing the greens. I think it's gong to be very difficult the get the ball up and down from a lot of places around these greens," said Jim Furyk - Defending US Open Champion. Fascinating aspect Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia of Spain is coming off a win last weekend at the Buick Classic, and is hoping his game is peaking at the right time as he attempts to win his first major. Another fascinating aspect to this Open is the precarious position of Tiger Woods as the world's number one player. With Vijay Singh as the third ranked player, and Ernie Els number two - there could be a shift of position in the top spot should either one of those players win or play well, and Tiger plays badly. Tiger has held the number one spot since the 1999 PGA Championship. (AP)