Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Golf's Best Could Get Winded at Shinnecock

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Golf's Best Could Get Winded at Shinnecock

Article excerpt

As the United States Golf Association celebrates the centennial anniversary of its U.S. Open championship, prognostications run rampant.

You can take the Ernie Els train, or pick the Shark to feed. You might expect a Raymond Floyd flashback, or Nick Faldo in a photo finish. Or maybe it will be a Davis Love III affair.

But as heavy rain saturated Shinnecock Hills Golf Course on Wednesday, the more intriguing challenge - certainly the more difficult - was getting the lay of the land.

"Even though the rain has taken some of the sting out of it, it's going to really play long," Masters champion Ben Crenshaw said.

Love added: "If the wind starts blowing, it will be brutal."

Tom Kite, noting the weather is to be clear and dry in the days ahead, added: "We don't know what we're dealing with yet. The golf course will be totally different. We haven't even started."

Shinnecock is located on the eastern tip of Long Island and the cutting edge of golf history in this country. It is both a natural wonder and a frightening menace, a conflict of style and substance that makes it one of the premier golf theaters in the world.

"As far as I'm concerned, they could have this here every other year and have it at Pebble Beach on the other years," Kite said. "They would never have to move it. That would be awesome."

Floyd added: "You will not, in my mind, find one player, no matter where in the world he is from, that does not like this golf course."

More specifically, they like it, fear it and respect it.

Shinnecock was ranked sixth-best in the country by Golf Digest and ninth-best in the world by Golf Magazine. Some rank it even higher.

"David Frost went out and played Shinnecock and he said it was the hardest course he's ever seen," Els said. "I might agree with him."

The club, founded in 1891, is rich in history and lore, and seemingly unblemished by the changing world around it. Bells and whistles are nowhere to be found. Lunch at the club is renowned, but dinners are served only on special occasions. There are no swimming pools, tennis courts or stables.

The aristocratic-looking clubhouse, designed by legendary architect Stanford White, was built in 1892 and was the first of its kind. It looks and operates virtually unchanged. No heat and no air conditioning.

The course closes on Election Day in November and does not reopen until April 20. Shinnecock was the first club to admit women and currently has 35 females among its 260 members. How exclusive is it? It was the first club in the country to have a waiting list.

"It's like a time capsule," Crenshaw said. "There's few places quite like it."

Shinnecock does not play host to the Open, it permits it. Because it is a seasonal club, and because its membership is small and national in scope, the club provides few of the stage hands. In effect, management and members turn the grounds over to the USGA. …

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