The Washington Times - June 15, 2011, 02:04PM

The United States Golf Association wants to brand itself in the sport the way Fox News does on television – fair and balanced. Then there was the 2004 U.S. Open, where the greens were so hard and fast that scores shot up and Retief Goosen’s victory was marred by just how crazy the final day was. Even the world’s best golfers couldn’t handle it, with the average Sunday score being 78.7.

USGA course expert Mike Davis called it a “great learning experience.”

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“They’re going to be difficult, but we hope they’re fair,” he said Wednesday. “I look back on that, and it was a terribly unpleasant day. … That final round at Shinnecock was no good.”

The discussion of 2004 was precipitated by the announcement that the 2018 U.S. Open will return to the scene of that crime, Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y. Davis and USGA president Jim Hyler praised the history of Shinnecock, which has hosted four U.S. Opens, but there were plenty of questions about the debacle seven years ago.

Shinnecock is a challenging course to set up, and we certainly experienced that in 2004 when we let the course get away from us the last round,” Hyler said.

Months later, the USGA came up with a philosophy on how to manage U.S. Open courses – something ESPN analyst Curtis Strange referred to as a “kinder, gentler” strategy. That’s part of what has made this course at Congressional a bit easier than past national championship tournaments and will likely mean some changes for 2018.

And while the USGA concedes the last time at Shinnecock was not ideal, Davis is glad the organization gets another crack at the course.

 “We wanted to get back to Shinnecock in the worst way and kind of get back on the horse,” he said, “and prove what a great, great venue it is.”