Firm green on No. 7 eats up players

? One of the shortest holes on Shinnecock Hills drew most of the attention Saturday — and almost all of the ire from those playing the third round of the U.S. Open.

The 189-yard 7th hole, a par-3 known as “Redan,” had the world’s best players muttering to themselves and complaining out loud.

“Seven is unplayable. So I guess the majority of the field is going to make 4 there, which is ridiculous,” said Ernie Els, who did make a 4 there, one of 27 bogeys — along with three double-bogeys and one birdie — the 66 players managed Saturday.

The hole was ranked the toughest both for Saturday and the first three rounds with average scores of 3.485 and 3.371.

Phil Mickelson and Shigeki Maruyama were tied for the lead with Jeff Maggert at 6 under par when they got to Redan, which was more like Rodan, the destructive movie monster. When they left the green that slopes severely from front right to back left, Maruyama was one shot behind, and Mickelson was two back.

“It’s brutal, it really is,” Tiger Woods said. “We both made 3s, but it was a lot of work to make 3.”

A Redan hole — its name comes from a fortification used by Russia against British and French forces in the Crimean War — is supposed to be set up so that the prevailing wind is in a player’s face. The wind at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday was across the hole, meaning the wind would be behind the ball as it was already going down the slope.

“The change in the wind had a great deal to do with it,” said Walter Driver, the chairman of the championship committee. “The green is very firm, and we had given instruction to stop rolling the green as of Tuesday, and I found out today, after the round, that for some reason, a different person on the greens staff had rolled the green this morning despite the orders we had given.”

Driver said he couldn’t be sure what difference the rolling — a machine goes across the green and makes the surface more compact and thus faster — made. The other 17 greens are rolled twice a day.

“The four hole locations we had were the fairest and most benign for the design of the green,” Driver said. “It got more difficult as the day wore on as the wind got stronger from right to left. The wind was drying it out, they were putting downwind, downhill, downgrain, downworld and it was very difficult to stop those putts.”

Players were frank when asked about No. 7.

Ernie Els climbs out of a sand trap on the seventh hole to check his shot. Only one player made a birdie Saturday on the 189-yard par-3 No. 7 hole, which Els said was 'unplayable.'

“I think there are 17 awesome holes here,” Charles Howell III said. “You best have that hole into the wind. That’s your best chance of playing it.”

Many of the players said the best play was to aim for the bunker on the left and then try and make an up-and-down for the par.

Sergio Garcia did that, barely.

“I came out of the bunker about five feet above the hole,” he said. “If my putt didn’t catch the hole I’d still be hitting bunker shots there.”

Jeff Maggert made a 3 from the bunker.

“When you have to hit it in the bunker to try to make par, I don’t think it’s a very good hole,” he said. “That was the plan off the tee. I was trying to hit it five yards short of the green. If it got on the green, great, but the bunker was probably the best place to be.”

Jay Haas made a 4 on 7.

“That hole is in the top 10 of all-time difficult ones,” the 50-year-old said, “and that’s out of a lot holes.”

Driver said a decision would be made about the pin location this morning when they will have a better idea of wind direction. No matter what, the green will not be rolled.

“I’ve made arrangements to meet the staff at 8 o’clock on that hole,” Driver said.