The Hamptons’ own Ann Liguori, herself an impressive golfer, shares her insights into the fan favorites: the exceptional contenders and the players she’d love to see win at the Open. For this trailblazing, visionary woman in sports, a commentator, and an owner of tv and radio properties, the Open is one of her favorite events on a favorite course, one of the best as she puts it in our own “backyard.”
EH: What do you think of the field for the US Open at Shinnecock?
AL: 156 players will compete at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in South Hampton starting Monday, June 11 through Sunday, June 17. The top 60 scorers and ties will make the cut after the first two rounds. Although all the top players in the world will compete for this most coveted title, I was disappointed that the USGA didn’t give 2004 U.S. Open winner at Shinnecock, Retief Goosen, a special exemption to play this year. It’s too bad he won’t be competing! He really is an exceptional player.
Retief Goosen has won two U.S. Opens (2001 and 2004), he is truly a class player! Unlike The Masters and British Open who welcome former winners into the field, the USGA doesn’t adhere to this policy although Ernie Els, the 1994 and 1997 US Open winner, and Jim Furyk, the 2003 winner and current Ryder Cup captain, were given special exemptions for Shinnecock. The USGA reasons that the U.S. Open is an ‘open’ competition so they prefer that almost half of the field of 156 has the opportunity to ‘qualify’ for the spots.
EH: Who will do well on the course?
AL: The long, accurate hitters off the tee and those whose short game and putting is ‘on’ will do well on Shinnecock. Shinnecock will test every club in the bag, so to speak! Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are favorites. They both crush the ball off the tee and distance matters this week with a course that has been extended to 7400 yards plus. They’ll have to be dead accurate and hit the wide fairways, keeping the ball out of the thick, dangerous rough. Their approach shots will have to be razor sharp and making putts is always key.
Hideki Matsuyama is due to win a Major. His shot-making is too solid and too consistent not to pull it off. Plus, his caddie was out two weeks ago putting in the prep work required and that is so important in preparing for playing on the challenging, U.S. Open lay-outs.
EH: Are there certain advantages this course offers to certain types of players?
AL: Length and accuracy off the tee, as I stated above, will be key. Keeping the ball out of the penal rough and fescue is paramount. And a creative, excellent short game is necessary to navigate the run-off areas around the greens. Dealing with varying wind conditions throughout the day, knowing how to read the greens, and being sharp with the putter is crucial. Shinnecock will test every aspect of a pro’s game! Those that show up with their all-around A-Games, patience and mental strength under extreme pressure will do well. Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, defending champ Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Jordan Spieth all have the games to win here.
EH: What truly sets Shinnecock apart?
AL: What truly sets Shinnecock apart is it rich history, a lot of firsts! Shinnecock is the lone course to have hosted the U.S. Open in three different centuries. The club was founded in 1891, making it the oldest incorporated golf club in the U.S. It is one of the five founding member clubs of the USGA.
Shinnecock hosted the 2nd U.S. Open in history in 1896. And the iconic clubhouse, designed by Stanford White from the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, is the oldest clubhouse in the country, built in 1892. Every time I play there and visit the clubhouse, the history of the place gives me goose bumps! Very special!
EH: What do you think the average player can learn from watching the Open at Shinnecock?
AL: The average player can certainly study the form and technique of the players although everyone has their own style, ultimately. Study the player’s routines. How they set up for each shot. The focus required. The strategy. The interaction with the player and their caddie. Pick up the nuances of their decision-making when it comes to deciding what club to use depending on distance and wind. There’s so much to study and learn. Enjoy!
EH: What are some of the great moments at the Open that you have been able to witness?
AL: I’ve covered the last three U.S. Opens that Shinnecock has hosted. I was there in 1986 when Raymond Floyd won. In 1995, Cory Pavin, 1 shot ahead as he approached the 18th hole after making a crucial par save on the par 3, 17th, smacked his 4-wood to the 18th green 228 yards to within five feet of the hole and made par. Pavin beat Greg Norman by 2 shots. And in 2004, I saw Ratief Goosen out-play Phil Mickelson on the finals holes. Goosen and Mickelson were tied at 4 under after both birdied the par 5, 16th. But then Mickelson three-putted the par-3 17th for a double bogey and Goosen made par there and on the final hole to beat Mickelson by two.
EH: What are some of the highlights you look forward to at The Open?
AL: Just soaking up the atmosphere on the hallowed grounds then watching the top players in the world competing for one of the most prestigious titles in golf. It’s suspenseful, so many exciting possibilities to contemplate: Can Phil Mickelson finally capture the career Grand Slam? He’s won every Major title (Masters, Open Championship, PGA Championship) but the U.S. Open and he’s been a U.S. Open runner-up 6 Times!
Will Tiger Woods contend? Tiger is playing in his first U.S. Open since 2015 because of back issues. His last Major title was ten years ago when he won the U.S. Open at Torre Pines in 2008. How far will the long bombers hit off the tee? I am – and I know everyone else who loves Golf too – is going to enjoy watching the best players in the world attempt to deal with the challenges of Shinnecock.
EH: Where do you love to play out East? And if you’re not playing in the Hamptons, what’s your dream destination for a great game of golf?
AL: My favorite courses on the East End of Long Island to play include Shinnecock, Friar’s Head, Maidstone, Sebonack, Atlantic, The Bridge, Westhampton Country Club, so many. I enjoy Hampton Hills! The beauty and solitude amongst the rolling fairways and pine forest at Hampton Hills is very therapeutic. If I’m not playing here, I love Fisher’s Island. It’s always a treat to play Fisher’s. But above all, I feel so blessed to have some of the top courses in the world right in my own backyard!
For tickets and information on the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, go to http://www.usopen.com
To learn more about Ann Liguori, www.annliguori.com or tune in to WFAN-NY or CBS Sports.