BETHESDA, Md. -- The U.S. Open is returning to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 2018, the U.S. Golf Association announced yesterday, pairing its premier tournament with one of its classic original courses.
"It's a magical place," Jim Hyler, the USGA president, said. "It is really, really special out there."
Shinnecock was one of the five founding members of the USGA in 1894, officials pointed out yesterday as they made the announcement on the eve of the 2011 U.S. Open outside Washington, D.C. The USGA also noted that the private club in Southampton is the only course to have hosted national championships in three different centuries, having previously hosted in 1896, 1986, 1995 and 2004.
"This one is going to be very special," Mike Davis, the USGA executive director, said.
Both officials said they felt extra incentive to return the Open to Shinnecock, not only because it regularly is ranked among the top courses in the world in lists composed by golf magazines, but because the 2004 Open ended on such a discordant, controversial note. Grass on the greens had burned out and turned brown during the last of four rounds, drawing derision from golfers, commentators and fans. "It was a terribly unpleasant day," Davis said.
The USGA took the blame for that and promised to do better this time. "We let the course get away from us, the last round," Hyler said yesterday. "I will tell you that we have used this as a wholesome learning experience." Club members agreed to give them the chance.
USGA officials in 2004 had decided that dry, fast greens would make the course more challenging. But aside from being unsightly to TV viewers, who are used to seeing lush green grass on golf courses, the greens proved too difficult to putt on, even for the world's greatest golfers. Retief Goosen won the tournament by two strokes over Phil Mickelson after a final round in which no golfer broke par and the average score was 78.7.
"We're thrilled; thrilled that they're coming back," said Brett Pickett, a Shinnecock Hills board member (and son of former Islanders owner John O. Pickett).
Club president Robert A. Murphy Jr. said in a statement, "Shinnecock Hills is very proud of our common heritage with the USGA dating back to the origins of golf in America, and we are equally excited about our strong future together."
Davis suggested that the USGA owed it to Shinnecock's image to bring the Open back.
"When we think of Shinnecock, we think of one of the great, great golf courses in the world," he said. "I think for a lot of us, we wanted to get back to Shinnecock in the worst way and kind of get back on the horse, if you will, and prove what a great, great venue this is."