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Shinnecock Hills will play longer for 2018 U.S. Open

This June 14, 1995 photo, was shot one

This June 14, 1995 photo, was shot one day before the start of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. The club, founded in 1891, is the oldest incorporated golf club and one of the five founding member clubs of the United States Golf Association. The 2018 U.S. Open will be held at Shinnecock; the fifth-time the club has hosted, 1896 (James Foulis), 1986 (Raymond Floyd), 1995 (Corey pavin), and 2004 (Retief Goosen). , Credit: Newsday/J. Michael Dombroski

Shinnecock Hills will be longer than golf aficionados ever have seen it when it hosts the U.S. Open next June, which will allow it to be more faithful to its roots, U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said Monday in his first extensive comments on changes at the classic course.

“It’s a little bit of back to the future,” Davis told Newsday in a phone interview from the U.S. Amateur Championship in Los Angeles. He said that Shinnecock will play at 7,439 yards for this Open, compared to 6,996 in 2004, adding that the extra length will bring some bunkers and other features back into play for the first time in decades.

The course hosted the second (and shortest) U.S. Open in 1895, with a layout that measured only 4,423 yards. Architect William Flynn redesigned it in the late 1920s, after Suffolk County extended Sunrise Highway into Southampton. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were brought in by the club members four years ago to enhance it for this Open.

“I would say the design now is truer to what William Flynn wanted. Over the years, as trees and brush grew up, fairways got narrowed, bunkers got out of shape and greens grew in. I think if William Flynn were looking down on this, I believe he would say, `That’s really what I designed,’ ” Davis said. “We’re not adding length just to add length.”

He cited the par-5 16th hole, where Phil Mickelson briefly took command of the 2004 Open. It will be 70 yards longer this time, bringing third-shot bunkers back into play. “I would argue that even in ’86, they weren’t in play,” he said, adding that he visited the course two weeks ago and discussed the changes at length with club member Raymond Floyd, who won the 1986 Open there.

Ten holes have been lengthened and closely mown areas around many greens have been expanded, meaning an errant shot will roll farther away from the hole. Davis added that several greens have been enlarged, which will allow the USGA more choices for hole locations, and that fairways have been widened. Those might be narrowed somewhat for the Open, he said, acknowledging that fairways at Erin Hills might have been too wide for the benign conditions.

Most of all, he promised that the event will not end with horribly scorched greens, as the 2004 Open did. “That was a matter of not managing the water properly,” he said. “We’re using science a lot more than we used to. We’re measuring down to the percentile moisture levels in greens, we have devices to measure the firmness of greens. We’re more precise with the mowing now.

“We are so confident in this site that it’s a big statement that we’ve already awarded it the 2026 Open before we even saw how this one went,” he said. “We just know this is going to be a magical Open. I think we just know it’s one of the treasured sites that we go to.”

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