SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK - Phil Mickelson believes Shinnecock Hills is one of the best setups he’s ever seen for a U.S. Open.
At least for 17 of the holes.
The course where Mickelson twice contended on Sunday has been lengthened by some 450 yards. That doesn’t bother Lefty, especially the 14th hole, which has been stretched by an additional 76 yards from 2004. It now is 519 yards, the longest of the par 4s.
Mickelson, who also has a golf course design company, likes it when the hard holes are harder and the easy holes are easier.
“So when they take 14, which is a very hard par 4, and they make it harder and move the tee back, I actually like that a lot because it allows for the players that are playing well to make up strokes on the field by making pars,” he said.
He also noted that the front of the green is open, allowing shots to bounce onto the green, which makes it fair for everyone.
“It’s a hard par,” he said. “But if you make a par there, you’ll make half a shot up on the field.”
One other hole was lengthened by 76 yards — the par-5 16th, which now is 619 yards. With a prevailing wind into the players, and the deep bunkers around the green, it’s likely a three-shot hole for everyone in the field.
Mickelson isn’t a big fan of this change.
“To move the tee back to 620 yards, which is the total M.O. of the USGA — they do it every course — I don’t agree with,” Mickelson said. “I think we should have some birdie opportunities. And to eliminate one of the very few that are out here and make it a difficult par is not something I agree with. But I’ve developed kind of a game plan on how to play that hole most effectively relative to the field, and it won’t need to be very much under par.”
By relative to the field, Mickelson said only that he has a plan to give himself a good chance at birdie without risking a score higher than par. He believes not dropping a shot on the 16th will enable him to gain on the field.
Mickelson concedes that setting up a golf course for the U.S. Open is not easy. He just hopes the USGA doesn’t bring too much luck into the equation.
“The difficulty is, when you dream of a championship as a child . . . and you dream of winning these tournaments as a child and you work hours and hours and you fly in days and days and do all this prep work, and then you are left to chance the outcome, as opposed to skill, that’s a problem,” he said.