The second Major of the year returns to Shinnecock Hills for the first time in 14 years. However, in contrast to the 2004 edition, the course is now 449 yards longer and the fairways have been widened from an average of 27 yards to 42 yards.
The USGA are notorious for setting this tournament up to play incredibly difficult. The last time it was held here in 2004, play had to be suspended during the final round to water the seventh green as some players complained it was unplayable. Incidentally, in that final round, 28 of the 66 players failed to break 80.
In what has traditionally been a short par 70, the lengthening of the course and widening of the fairways this year should give an advantage to the bigger hitters. Having said that, in true USGA style the rough has been described as brutal, with Phil Mickelson recently remarking that it will be as penalizing as a hazard. Added to the strategically positioned bunkers and small slippery greens that are difficult to hold the ball on and it really should prove to be the ultimate physical and mental test that a US Open is supposed to be.
At 7,445 yards, Shinnecock Hills is a monster par-70 course.
The course is very exposed, leading to difficult windy conditions, with small greens that are heavily bunkered. On top of this, the rough is four inches long and anyone straying further than that with an errant shot will find themselves in knee-high grass.
Getting off to a decent start is imperative if a player wants to win a US Open. It is very difficult to make up ground. Seven of the last 11 winners have been leading or tied for the lead at halfway and two have been second.
Holes to be aware of for in-play trading
Holes 7, 10 and 18
The par-3 7th may seem short at 189 yards but the putting surface slopes away from the tee box. Any players finding the sand to the right of the green or landing the ball above or to the right of the hole will quite often wind up three-putting as they have to play the ball downhill and try to maintain control on what will be an extremely fast and slippery surface. Expect players to drop shots here.
The par-4 10th isn’t just the most difficult hole on the course, but the most difficult hole in US Open history. What seems like an innocuous downhill 415-yard par-4 can turn into the stuff of nightmares when the wind dries out the green, making it extremely fast and firm, causing players all sorts of trouble with their approach shots.
Players will arrive at the par-4 18th, which has been extended to 484 yards, thinking the hard work is over, but it’s still a long way home from here. Firstly, an accurate drive is a must to set up the approach to the green, which will be a 200-yard shot uphill to an elevated green. Anywhere past or above the hole and it is nearly impossible to stop a pitch shot or control the putt back to the hole. If players put themselves in this position expect to see balls roll back down the green, off the putting surface and onto the fairway again.
Holes 4 and 16
The 4th hole is a slight dogleg 475-yard par-4 and has one of the most inviting and accessible greens on the course. With the opening to the putting surface being one of the widest at Shinnecock, along with the gentle contours, it will give up birdies, but the greens still have to be read correctly.
The par-5 16th hole has a gentle contoured green that will yield birdies and even though it's 616 yards, expect the big hitters to go for it in two.
Characteristics needed to perform well
Given the links-style nature of Shinnecock Hills, having good links experience is a big advantage – specifically experience of Britain's links courses at The Open.
The four previous times the US Open has been held here the winners have all had excellent links form figures from the British Open, while other links specialists have gone close.
Although the US Open rotates through different venues, only repeating at the same venue once every decade or even longer than that, the nature of the set-up from the USGA tends to lend itself to the same players generally fairing well in the tough and demanding conditions at hand.
Players such as Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker have five and six top-10 finishes respectively, while Phil Mickelson has finished second a remarkable six times – including at Shinnecock in 2004. Not forgetting Tiger Woods with three wins and eight top-six finishes.