Players criticise US Open set-up as USGA forced to apologise

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The USGA was forced to apologise for Saturday's course set-up at the US Open after experiencing extensive critism from several players.

The USGA were forced to apologise after a number of players said the tournament organisers had 'lost the golf course', branding it 'unplayable', 'unneccessary', 'not a fair test of golf' and 'over the line.'

It's all familiar territory to the USGA, who famously lost control of Shinnecock Hills during Sunday of the 2004 US Open, when staff were having to water the greens in between tee times. 

And this time, it was the afternoon wave of players and leaders who found themselves struggling with the conditions and pin positions as scores soared during the third round on an afternoon that left no player under par for the tournament.

The stark constrast in conditions was exemplified by the low round 66s from Daniel Berger and Tony Finau. Teeing off four hours before the leaders and finishing seven shots behind Dustin Johnson, they steadily climbed the leaderboard from their couches while carnage ensued on the course until they eventually found themselves in the final grouping on Sunday. 

Pin positions on the back-nine looked particularly brutal for the players, with both DJ and Rose three-putting on the final green for bogeys. 

The World No.1 struggled to a seven-over par 77, and while he remained fairly tight-lipped over the difference conditions players faced, defending champion and co-leader Brooks Koepka all but said those four-under 66s would have been impossible in the afternoon. 

"Let's put it this way. If they'd have shot 4 under this afternoon, it would probably have been the best round of golf anybody's ever seen."

And the numbers back him up: The first five groups of the day average 73.2, while the final five groups (the leaders) averaged 76.7. 

With criticism widespread from players in both post round interviews and on social media, the USGA's Mike Davis admitted that things went too far during Saturday's third round, saying the failed to account for the wind experienced by the later wave of players. 

“No doubt, we would admit there were aspects of this setup that went too far,” Davis said.

“We felt really good about where the golf course was. We missed it with the wind. It blew harder than we thought it was going to blow.” 

“We want the U.S. Open to be tough, we want it to be a complete test.. It was a tale of two golf courses.”

What did the players say about the course? 

Zach Johnson: We're not on the edge. I thought we could be on the edge but we've surpassed it, and now it's pretty much gone. It's unfortunate because in my opinion this is one of the best venues in all of golf.

It's as good as it gets. Shinnecock Hills is beautiful but unfortunately they've lost the golf course.

Justin Thomas'It's not that the entire course is unplayable but a couple pins are unnecessary.'

Henrik Stenson: I'd say it's a little bit over the line. I don't know what the polls are saying at the moment. 

I think we'll just see what they do tomorrow. I don't think they're interested in listening to my remarks or anyone else's remarks because then we would have seen maybe slightly different pin positions and setup over the years. So it is what it is, and we'll be back out there fighting it out tomorrow.

Justin Rose: I've never seen a course change so quick.... I feel like it was on the line, and I think that had they known it was going to get so much on the line, I think some of the pin placements were over the line. I don't think the course was necessarily over the line, but pin placements relative to speed and firmness on a couple of occasions, that was the edge. The edge was reached.

Rickie Fowler:  I would say the only thing -- not necessarily criticizing the setup and how it played in the afternoon, but when it's that big an advantage to playing in the morning versus the afternoon, I think it takes away from the work that the guys have done the first two days

Brooks Koepka: I don't have anything nice to say about that green and the pin location, so I'm just not going to say it.

Obviously, going off the morning was a little bit easier. Guys are spinning the balls on the greens. I don't think there was this much wind. I'm not really quite sure. But it definitely got difficult. I'm sure it would have been nice to go out and -- let's put it this way. If they'd have shot 4 under this afternoon, it would probably have been the best round of golf anybody's ever seen.