Scott gives new-look Shinnecock thumbs up

Doug Ferguson
Adam Scott says the new-look Shinnecock Hills course will play fairer in the US Open

Adam Scott believes US Open organisers have got the balance right with tweaks to the Shinnecock Hills layout ahead of this week's major.

The Australian knows the historic course well, as one of only 19 players returning who played the US Open here in 2004, and having shot a then course-record 63 from the championship tees in 2013.

Shinnecock, with fairways averaging 26 yards wide for the 2004 US Open, subsequently underwent a restoration project which widened the fairways to about 65 yards and restored the angles and shot values architect William Flynn intended.

But after wide-open Erin Hills allowed for record US Open scoring last year - seven players finished at 10 under or better - the USGA decided to replace some 200,000 square feet of short grass with fescue to bring the fairways in to about 40 yards.

The last time Scott played the course was in October, just before the Presidents Cup, when the fairway shrinkage began.

"I played the day they were transplanting the fescue," he said. "I saw that was going to happen. It's considerably wider and more generous off the tee than it was in '04. It's very fair off the tee. And it's very penal if you miss."

That's what the USGA hopes for, especially after criticism last year that Erin Hills was far too generous off the tee. Brooks Koepka won at 16-under 272, matching the record to par at a US Open.

The US Open has a history of not having successive years of low scoring.

The year after Johnny Miller had the only 63 in the final round of a US Open, Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot with a score 7-over par.

The last time at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 was one year after Jim Furyk matched the record score (at the time) of 272 at Olympia Fields. And the year after Rory McIlroy set the record of 268 at Congressional, no one broke par at The Olympic Club.

"I think they've got the balance right," Scott said. "It's a great course. You don't have to do much."

Also different about the course 14 years later are closely-mown areas around the greens, which will cause balls to roll 15 yards or more away.

Graeme McDowell was another who began practising at the course on Sunday.

"It's back to being a pure US Open with serious discipline in your iron play," said McDowell, the 2010 Open champion at Pebble Beach.

"I don't look at it and say, 'I'm not long enough to win here.' And that excites me. I haven't seen anything that has upset me."