104th U.S. Open | June 17-20, 2004
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills, N.Y.
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|Retief Goosen, South Africa||70||-||66||-||69||-||71||—||276|
|Phil Mickelson, United States||68||-||66||-||73||-||71||—||278|
|Jeff Maggert, United States||68||-||67||-||74||-||72||—||281|
|Shigeki Maruyama, Japan||66||-||68||-||74||-||76||—||284|
|Mike Weir, Canada||69||-||70||-||71||-||74||—||284|
Want to get a high-ranking United States Golf Association official to wince on the spot?
Mention two adjoining phrases: “Shinnecock Hills” and “2004.”
Retief Goosen won the championship — his second U.S. Open title in four years — but the USGA lost the war of course attrition.
In fact, the course arguably was lost completely.
This layout on Long Island, seemingly one of the staples in the national open rotation, had been widely hailed as scenic, challenging — and very different with its links-style qualities. It had also produced great drama, notably Corey Pavin’s 4-wood approach shot to the final hole to beat golf’s greatest stars, including Greg Norman and Tom Lehman, in 1995.
But by Sunday, the rock-hard greens had crusted up. Approach shots were not holding. Putts kept rolling. Consequently, tempers flared.
It was easy to see why. The final-round scoring average was 78.7 strokes — the highest since Pebble Beach (78.8) in 1972. Only Robert Allenby (70) shot par — the first time since 1963 nobody broke par.
Yet, here came Phil Mickelson, the reigning Masters champion and gallery favorite, making a back-nine charge. He coaxed in a 20-foot putt for birdie at No. 13. Two holes later, he sank an 8-footer for birdie to tie Goosen, who played in the group behind.
And on the 16th hole, a par 5, Mickelson hit his wedge approach close to make one final birdie and move alone into first.
But as Goosen made a matching birdie at No. 16 minutes later, Mickelson saw his good fortune run out at the 17th hole.
His 6-iron tee shot found the left greenside bunker. He hit a quality bunker shot, but it ran 5 feet past the hole, leaving him a delicate downhill par-saver.
The first put never had a chance, slipping by left of the hole. And on the 4-footer coming back. It didn’t go in, either.
Late Sunday, Mickelson’s chances died with a double bogey one hole from the finish.
What somewhat got lost in a crazy final round was Goosen’s clutch putting. He only needed 24 putts to complete his round, and registered 11 one-putts.
Afterward, Mickelson was asked by reporters if the USGA setup had crossed the line into unfair?
“I played some of the best golf of my life, and still couldn’t shoot par,” Mickelson said. “You tell me.”
The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock Hills in 2018.