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Final round the most difficult in 69 years
June 21, 2004 10:42 IST
While champion Retief Goosen's name will be forever associated with the 104th U.S. Open, the sub-plot to this year's event is likely to be the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills in Sunday's final round.
Most of the players left the course feeling disdain for the way the United States Golf Association (USGA) had set up the classic links venue.
The ballooning scores were bizarre, with the final-round average of 78.7 the highest since 1935 when Oakmont yielded 79.3.
"If it (the course) is not unfair, it's very, very close to over the top," 1992 champion Tom Kite told reporters. "Yeah, I think you'd have to say it is (over the top)."
Only one player, Australia's Robert Allenby, shot an even-par 70 on Sunday, and a mere 11 competitors bettered 75.
It was also the first time since 1963 at the Country Club that a player did not card a sub-par final round.
"I felt like I played some of the best golf of my life," said runner-up Phil Mickelson after his closing 71.
"I hit some of the best shots, I putted better than I probably ever putted, and I still couldn't shoot par. So, you tell me."
After difficult conditions made the par-three seventh almost unplayable on Saturday, the USGA kept a close eye on that hole and the course in general.
The blustery winds dried the course and forced officials to suspend play for 10 minutes on Sunday morning to allow greenkeeping staff to water the problem seventh.
The renowned 'Redan Hole' was then syringed with a light spray in between each group.
"I think the water makes it worse because they watered them at nine (in the morning)...and when you water a green, the greens are so firm, the water's not going down," said amateur Casey Wittenberg.
"It made the ball skip and so, when you hit a shot in there, the ball skids. At least when the greens are dry, the balls hit hard and lock."
Walter Driver, chairman of the championship committee for the USGA, said they were caught off guard by the weather conditions.
"I think we probably would have started syringing the greens at seven this morning, but as I said, when I was out there they were putting OK," Driver said.
"But they dried out so rapidly as the hot day wore on that we probably should have started syringing a little earlier."
World number one Tiger Woods said the USGA could have done more.
"They tried to make it playable, they moved the flags, they tried to address the problem, but if you know you've got a cold front coming through here and it's going to be dry air behind it, you know that you've got to syringe the greens, you've got to soak them a little bit," Woods said.
"I know you try to identify the best players, there's nothing wrong with it being hard and difficult, but don't make it so that it's out of control and unfair."