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Shinnecock Hills extended for US Open

Shinnecock Hills is being extended to at least 7,000 yards for the 2004 U.S. Open to ensure it remains a severe test for power hitters like Tiger Woods.

The U.S. Golf Association, which runs the Open, and the host Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on eastern Long Island, haven't come to a final agreement on proposed yardage changes.

``Nearly 7,100 yards,'' USGA agronomist Tim Moraghan predicted during a news conference Wednesday at Shinnecock, one of America's grandest layouts.

``About 7,000 yards,'' past club president Elliott Rose told reporters, stressing that the club has the final say on any modifications proposed by the USGA.

Shinnecock played at 6,944 yards for the 1995 Open when Cory Pavin won with even-par 280 for the 72 holes, two shots better than Greg Norman.

At the 1986 Open, Raymond Floyd triumphed with a 1-under 279. Runners-up Chip Beck and Lanny Wadkins were 1-over when the course played at 6,912 yards.

With added yardage and some repositioned tees, Shinnecock's befuddling winds, 120 bunkers, penal rough and tight fairways should continue to challenge the likes of Woods and other big hitters. In 1995 as an amateur, Woods withdrew with an injured hand after a first-round 74.

For Shinnecock's fourth Open, there's no talk of surpassing the length of the 2002 Open at Bethpage Black, at 7,214 yards the longest-ever for the championship. Woods was the only player to break par, at 3-under 277. Runner-up Phil Mickelson shot even-par 280.

With the 2004 Open more than 18 months away, white guidelines have already been drawn for narrowing the verdant fairways and expanding adjacent rough.

Moraghan said No. 3 could be extended by about 40 yards and No. 4 by about 35 yards. Both are par 4s. The tee of No. 5, a par 5, might be moved back and realigned. Also, No. 8, a par 4, could be rerouted to add yardage, and the length of No. 17, a par 3, set at 177 yards. In 1995, the hole had split yardage.

USGA executive director David Fay said Thursday that decisions on Shinnecock's yardages would be made in the next couple of weeks.

But even if yardage is added, Fay told The Associated Press, the USGA would wait until the week of the Open to decide whether to use new tees. If the wind is blowing into the players' face that week, for example, the hole might be played at the same length it was in '95. Or if the fairways are super hard, the hole might be set up to play 40 yards longer.

``When you think about it, it's a matter of adding a club. They all look reasonable to me. They're good changes. We just want to hold off before finalizing any decisions,'' Fay said.

He indicated that the USGA wants to avoid controversies like those surrounding Nos. 10 and 12 at Bethpage, where many pros couldn't carry the fairways on their tee shots.

Shinnecock and Bethpage share Long Island locations on rolling, sandy terrain, but they're worlds apart in many ways. Shinnecock is among America's most exclusive clubs, with about 350 members drawn from old money families that summer in the Hamptons. Bethpage is a public course, the first to host the Open.

With few trees and only two miles from the ocean, Shinnecock is more exposed to gusty winds than the parkland-style Bethpage. It's one of the very few true U.S. linksland courses. The signature clubhouse, build in seaside resort style, dates from 1892, a year after the club was formed.

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