The Forecaddie: Jack Nicklaus hopes Shinnecock Hills is the ‘ultimate test’

Jack Nicklaus of the United States hits out of a bunker on the 72nd hole of the US Open Golf Championship held at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York on 15th June 1986. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images) Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images

The Forecaddie: Jack Nicklaus hopes Shinnecock Hills is the ‘ultimate test’

Forecaddie

The Forecaddie: Jack Nicklaus hopes Shinnecock Hills is the ‘ultimate test’

Jack Nicklaus couldn’t recall what he shot the first time he played Shinnecock Hills in competition. So when he was reminded, The Forecaddie couldn’t help but cringe a little.

It was in the first round of the 1986 U.S. Open and Shinnecock was playing as the championship’s host for the first time since 1896. To celebrate the reunion, Mother Nature brought the party with heavy rain and winds up to 40 mph. The opening-round scoring average was 75.32 and nearly 50 players shot 80 or worse.

Nicklaus wasn’t one of them, but he did card a 7-over 77.

“The wind was blowing hard and it was raining like the devil … so what do you do with that?” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus made three double bogeys on the back nine in that round, including on the 10th hole, where he blew his tee ball wide right and into the rough. He never found the ball, the first lost ball he had in a tournament since the 1959 British Amateur, he reckoned years ago.

“I don’t know whether somebody stepped on it and pushed it into the ground or somebody picked it up,” Nicklaus said. “I think somebody picked the ball up, I really do. … I don’t think anybody did that intentionally or on purpose, but we never found the ball.”

The Man Out Front was quick to remind Nicklaus that he rallied to tie for eighth that week, his last top 10 in a U.S. Open.

“So what would I have needed to shoot in the first round to win?” Nicklaus responded.

To which TMOF replied, “71.” Or only 1 over.

Rain or shine, Shinnecock has proven tough in its three U.S. Opens in the modern era. The winners have posted a combined total of 5 under. Nicklaus wants to see another stern test, not the birdie-fest that players took advantage of last year at Erin Hills, where Brooks Koepka won at 16 under.

“Of course, I’m traditional, but I always thought the U.S Open was the narrowest fairways, highest rough, hardest greens, fastest greens and it was the ultimate test of every club in your bag,” Nicklaus said. “I’m not for making it like every other golf tournament.”

Nicklaus wasn’t keen on Shinnecock widening its fairways, but was taken aback by the added length. (The par-70 layout will play at 7,445 yards this year, or nearly 450 yards longer than it did in 2004, when it last hosted the U.S. Open.) He didn’t mind the addition of run-offs around the greens, either.
He also was clear to voice his support of USGA chief executive Mike Davis.

“He has a hard enough job,” Nicklaus said.

All Nicklaus asks is for Shinnecock to play hard and appropriately for the best players in the world.

“If you miss a fairway or a green, it should be a penalty,” Nicklaus said.

TMOF agrees. Just as long as no one picks up any golf balls.

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