U.S. Open 2018: Retief Goosen expects tricky Shinnecock to level playing field

Retief Goosen says the nature of the course at Shinnecock Hills should help level the playing field at this week’s U.S. Open.

The South African was the last player to win the U.S. Open at the venue, holding off American favorite Phil Mickelson in a thrilling climax to the 2004 event.

On that occasion, the United States Golf Association received fierce criticism about the course, with narrow fairways and the decision not to water greens for the final round making scoring extremely difficult.

Goosen and Mickelson were the only players to finish under par, while Ernie Els—– playing with Goosen in the final pairing — shot 80 in round four.

This time around, the fairways should be considerably wider, but Goosen expects that level par may be enough to lift the trophy come Sunday. 

“I can imagine it’s going to be tough and long. We can expect a winning score close to even par,” Goosen, speaking at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club, told Omnisport.

“Most golf courses these days are suited for the long hitters. The last time we played there, it was difficult to hit the fairway. 

“It was difficult to keep the ball on the greens. I think the course is going to be suitable for all players.”

Goosen’s victory at Shinnecock marked his second U.S. Open triumph and came amid raucous backing for then-Masters champion Mickelson.

Mickelson, who started the day two back of Goosen alongside Els, had taken a one-stroke lead with birdies at the 15th and 16th, only for a costly three-putt from four feet at the 17th to derail his hopes. 

Reflecting on that day, Goosen said: “It was a tough event mentally for me. Although it was for my second U.S. Open I was in the lead. 

“It was tough to play in front of [the fans], Phil Mickelson was a crowd favourite. That was the hardest thing to block out that day. 

“Teeing up on the first hole was pretty nerve racking. Playing with a fellow South African [in Els] made it a little more comfortable playing than with Phil Mickelson.

“Tiger [Woods] at that time he was looking like he was going to win every major he was turning up at. He didn’t for some reason play that well, and Phil Mickelson played well and it was pretty tough to block out the crowd noise. 

“So, in a way, it was good that Tiger was not doing that well that week.”

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