A lot has been made of the course at Shinnecock Hills after the disastrous 2004 US Open. With the well-publicised restoration of the course, are you confident there won’t be a repeat this year?
It’s safe to say that the organisers lost the plot back in 2004. The seventh green was an embarrassment because it wasn’t watered enough and in the last round, they were having to water the greens between every pairing.
However, there’s a new team of decision makers at the helm who have much better weather forecasting and water management technology at their disposal. As a result, I’m pretty sure the mistakes of 2004 won’t be made this time round.
What do you think more generally of Shinnecock’s new layout? What kind of test will this pose for the players?
The US Open organisers always try to make Shinnecock as difficult as possible. The course this year will be 500 yards longer than in 2004 and the par-70 layout has been extended to almost 7,500 yards, which will produce a stern test for even the best golfers in the world.
Shinnecock is famous for having narrow fairways, thick rough and fast greens, which is the template for a true US Open course. Taking this into account, I think the organisers are looking for a winning score of around par.
Jordan Spieth is the bookmaker’s favourite to win the competition, but Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are also in the running. How do you rate each of their chances and who out of the three would you most back to win?
I’m quite surprised Jordan Spieth is the bookmaker’s favourite because there’s such an emphasis on tee to green at Shinnecock. Although we know he’s a fantastic putter who can hold his nerve, what worries me is his tee to green play. For me, it’s not up to the standard required to win a US Open.
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are very similar, in that they’ve both got an impeccable tee to green game. With Rory, it just depends how he putts – if he has a good week on the greens, he’s got a great chance.
Dustin’s short game is much improved and he’s got an imperious long game. If he gets a few breaks and holes a few putts, I really fancy him to win.
Tiger Woods has also showed some good form recently, putting on an impressive showing at the Players Championship. Can we expect much from him?
Considering the problems he’s had on and off the golf course, Tiger has performed really well of late. He finished tied for second at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, he did well at Bay Hill and he was fully in contention at the Players Championship, only slipping away towards the end.
He gets better every time I see him, but he needs to get some tournament rounds under his belt. Playing at the 2018 Memorial Tournament in Muirfield Village will help him get his competitive edge back, as he’s been lacking that recently.
At the US Open, you don’t need your driver at every hole, it’s about having a clear strategy. There’s no one with a strategy like Tiger Woods – he can hit a 3-wood, a hybrid or a long-iron off the tee.
I don’t expect him to win, but with Tiger, you just never know. The US Open is going to be a low-scoring event, which could suit him.
How do you rate the chances of the UK hopefuls, such as Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey?
Tommy Fleetwood played well in last year’s US Open, finishing 4th, which will stand him in good stead this year and must give him added confidence. He’s really developed his game and appears unfazed when competing with the top players. He’s got the potential to be a Major winner and Shinnecock might be a course that suits him.
Paul Casey is having a great year so far, winning at Innisbrook on a tough course. The only thing missing from his CV is a Major. We know he’s a very capable golfer – he’s long off the tee, he’s a good putter and he possesses an excellent temperament, so I expect him to do well.
The US Open will now no longer be the only Major to have an 18-hole playoff on the Monday. Do you agree with that?
I do – we saw what happened at Torrey Pines earlier this year, when Jason Day and Alex Noren had to postpone their sudden death play-off to the Monday. It was a complete anti-climax.
Although the Majors are not like other golfing events, in this instance they should be – they need to finish on the Sunday to accommodate players, spectators, TV, and organisers. There’s no reason to continue playing until the Monday, because it just ruins it for everybody.
All the Majors have different systems for deciding the ultimate winner, but the important thing is that they all finish on the same day.
Did you enjoy reading Bernard Gallacher’s US Open predictions? Check out some of our other interviews with the Ryder Cup legend!