While the Masters may get the hype and the glory, the U.S. Open is the most demanding golf tournament of the year.
Expect the best players in the world to have plenty of difficulty when they tee off at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, for the first round Thursday. The tournament is scheduled to conclude Sunday, barring any long weather delays.
The U.S. Open is known for its narrow fairways and punishing rough, and it figures to be as tough as ever this year. One of the reasons for that is the relatively easy time golfers had in the 2017 event at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.The tract was wide open, and players did not face the demanding tee shots they usually see at the U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka, one of the strongest bombers on the tour, won that event with a score of 16 under par, and seven golfers were 10-under or better.
The United States Golf Association wants the tournament to bring out the best in the 156 competitors.
“The U.S. Open really is, we consider, golf’s ultimate test, and accuracy needed to play a bigger role in that,” said Mike Davis, the USGA chief executive, per Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press (h/t Columbus Dispatch).
Phil Mickelson said Shinnecock Hills looks like it has been prepared well and the golfers will face a strong and fair test.
“Skill is brought into play with the short game there,” Mickelson said. “I think that it will reward the best player as opposed to having luck be a big element on some of the bounces in the fairway, bounces around the green, how it comes out of the rough.”The tournament will feature several glamorous pairings, and the spotlight will shine brightest on Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods. Those three will tee off at 1:47 p.m. ET Thursday and 8:02 a.m. Friday.
Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will tee off at 8:02 a.m. Thursday and 1:47 p.m. Friday, while Rickie Folwer, Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman will follow that group at 8:13 a.m. Thursday and and 1:58 p.m. Friday.
The 2018 U.S. Open golf tournament begins Thursday at Shinnecock Hills in the Hamptons. It’s the fifth time the course has hosted America’s national championship.
Tiger Woods is playing this event for the first time since he missed the cut at Chambers Bay in 2015. He is healthier now than then, and he’s among the leading contenders this weekend. It would be stunning if he didn’t at least make his first U.S. Open cut since 2013. He’s among the betting favorites, with only seven players in the 156-man field getting better odds in Las Vegas than Woods at 18/1. The overall favorite is world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who won the championship at Oakmont in 2016 and is coming off a win last weekend at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. He ended that weekend with a 170-yard hole-out.
It’s a deep field, featuring 12 past U.S. Open champions including Woods and Johnson. Ten of those champions have won it in the last decade, with the exceptions Ernie Els (wins in 1994 and ‘97) and Jim Furyk (in 2003). All of the world’s top players will participate, including the last few superstars who haven’t yet won a major. Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and 23-year-old star Jon Rahm could all find themselves in contention.
Shinnecock will play as a par-70 course throughout the championship. Its fairways are wider than the last time the tournament was here, 2004, when Retief Goosen won with a score of 4-under. In 1995, Corey Pavin’s winning number was an even-par 280. It’s been a challenging course to make birdies on, even by U.S. Open standards. Even with the course set up to be easier now than 14 years ago, don’t expect to see a winning score like the 16-under Brooks Koepka posted at Erin Hills in 2017. The winner will likely have to grit it out.
U.S. Open time, TV schedule, and stream for Thursday
All times are Eastern.
TV: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m on FS1, 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on FOX.
Streaming: FOX Sports GO and the FOX Sports app on the App Store, Google Play, etc. Also at usopen.com and the U.S. Open app, with featured holes and groups. Before the TV broadcast starts at 9:30 a.m., your best bet is the official championship website. Featured groups there in the morning hours are: