USGA admits course set-up for US Open third round was unfair
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 17/06/18 4:13pm
The USGA was forced to apologise for the course set-up at the US Open as they came under heavy criticism from a number of players on the third day.
The tournament organisers famously lost control of the Shinnecock Hills course on the final day in 2004, and history repeated itself as scores soared in a third round in which the earlier starters had a significant advantage.
Daniel Berger and Tony Finau started the day 11 shots off the pace, but both took advantage of the easier early conditions to fire four-under 66s which proved enough to share the overnight lead on three over and earn a place in Sunday's final pairing.
Ian Poulter claimed some of the putts on the course were "impossible" to judge, while several players were critical of the pin positions on the 13th and 15th when it became difficult to hold the ball on the green as the winds picked up.
USGA executive director, Mike Davis, said: "We want the US Open to be a tough, complete test, but it was a tale of two golf courses today. We would admit that well-executed shots were not only not rewarded, but were punished in some cases. It was a very tough test, and it was really too tough this afternoon.
"You saw some low scores this morning; those hole locations actually work. Having said that, this golf course will get slowed down tonight. There will be water applied to it."
Zach Johnson was the first to claim the USGA had "lost control" of the course, while Poulter added his criticism after signing for a six-over 76 that left him four strokes off the lead overnight.
"US Opens are supposed to be tough, but there's a fine line," he said. "Obviously they want to make the course hard, but just about on the edge. From a playability standpoint, when it gets to that edge and starts to fall over the edge, then pars feel like birdies and bogeys feel like pars. It's brutal.
"Some of the putts on the course were simply impossible, some of the pins were impossible to get at in terms of leaving yourself a reasonable 25-foot uphill putt. But there are no uphill 25-foot putts because they're too close to the edge.
"The 15th, I thought I hit a perfect bunker shot, my ball had no speed and it's gone off the green and stopped 50 feet away. It's a stern test, and even though I shot 76 today, I'm still in the top 10."
Henrik Stenson, who is two back after a 74, added: "I'd say it's a little bit over the line. It's small margins to start with, but in the afternoon when the greens get baked and with some of those pin positions, it's like glass around the hole.
"You can barely touch some of the putts going downhill, and you could easily three or four-putt from three, four, five feet. So you've got to be extremely careful and hit a lot of good putts out there.
"We'll just see what they do tomorrow. I don't think they're interested in listening to my remarks or anyone else's remarks because then we would have seen maybe slightly different pin positions and set-ups over the years."
Stenson's playing partner Justin Rose is one closer to the lead thanks to a 73 which included a sensational birdie at the treacherous 15th, and he echoed the comments of his Ryder Cup team-mates.
"I feel like it was on the line, and I think some of the pin placements were over the line," said the Englishman. "I don't think the course was necessarily over the line, but pin placements relative to speed and firmness on a couple of occasions, that was the edge. The edge was reached."
Rickie Fowler crashed out of contention after a horrific 84, and he claimed the course set-up was unfair for those who had played the better golf over the first two rounds.
"It would just be nice if I'm not sitting here wishing I made the cut at five or six over," he said. "My first pitch on 10, where I made triple, I thought I hit a perfect pitch. I thought it was going to be good and obviously with it being a little downwind, it ran up a little bit more and catches the back ridge there.
"When it's that big an advantage to play in the morning versus the afternoon, I think it takes away from the work that the guys have done the first two days."