The last two U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club had some very similar circumstances.
On Sunday, champion Corey Pavin started the day three shots behind co-leaders Greg Norman and Tom Lehman. In 1986, champion Ray Floyd started the final round three shots behind Norman, the third-round leader.
Pavin was in the third-from-the-last group Sunday, Floyd was one behind that in 1986. Floyd’s 1-under total was the only sub-par score that year, while Pavin’s evenpar 280 was the only par score this year.
The course record of 65, set in the final round in 1986, was tied Sunday by Neal Lancaster.
For the second straight year, Father Jim Dane of Bay Minette, Ala., and Father Tom Guido of Tallahassee, Fla., made their way to the U.S. Open as spectators and were co-celebrants of a Mass for the media on Sunday morning.
Golf is far from foreign for the two as Dane is a 2 handicap and Guido plays to a 5.
“I’ve tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and the MidAmateur but never quite made it,” Dane said. “I have won the Florida State Priests Golf Championship six of the last seven years. They aren’t going to let me play anymore.”
Bob Green, who is retiring as golf writer for The Associated Press after 27 years, was selected to be the recipient of the annual golf journalism award at next year’s Memorial Tournament.
The winner is selected by a nine-member committee that includes American and foreign journalists.
Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times won the award this year and past recipients include Dan Jenkins, Jack Whitaker, Dick Taylor and Grantland Rice.
The toughest hole on Shinnecock for the 1995 U.S. Open was the 471-yard, par-4 6th, which played to an average of 4.4. There were just 16 birdies, while there were 23 double-bogeys or higher in the four rounds.
The easiest hole was the 535-yard, par-5 5th, which was the only hole to play to a sub-par average, 4.7. There were nine eagles and 158 birdies.
The 18th hole at Shinnecock is among the toughest closing holes in the world and birdies are tough to come by. Colin Montgomerie went one better, eagling the 450-yard hole with a 218-yard 3-iron for a final-round 68 that put him at 8-over 288 for the tournament.
“It probably should have been a 2-iron but I didn’t want to be long,” he said. “The wind was quartering out of the right and I drew it on the right-hand side. I couldn’t really see it. I saw it in flight and I was hoping that it would stop short. It was a nice way to finish, on a high note.”
Tom Watson, who won the Open in 1982 and had two second-place finishes, finished his 24th Open with a 73 for a 13-over 283 total.
“It’s a disappointment,” he said. “I was playing very well. I had good confidence but the U.S. Open tends to do that to you. It destroys your confidence.”
Watson was asked why players don’t complain about a course as tough as Shinnecock.
“The golf course is not unfair,” the five-time British Open champion said. “It’s right in front of you. It’s difficult, but a fair test.”
Next year’s U.S. Open will be played June 13-16 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich.
The last time it was played there was in 1985 when Andy North won the second of his two Open titles. It was also played there in 1924, 1937, 1951 and 1961.
The bad news for Corey Pavin is that the previous three Open champions - Tom Kite, Lee Janzen and Ernie Els - all failed to make the cut trying to defend their titles.
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