SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Tiger Woods brought his yacht. Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Jimmy Walker their RVs. The seasoned, smart golfers renting local lodgings know to head east. Those bunking west know to set their alarm clocks early.
They are all bound by a common foe, and not one to be found among the narrow fairways, cavernous runoffs, or swirling winds inside Shinnecock Hills, but rather on the roads outside it. Here along the south fork of the east end of Long Island, the golfing world has come together for one obvious purpose: winning a US Open. But it has been united in another, much less glamorous way.
From nightmares of being stuck in it to creative genius in avoiding it, dealing with traffic has emerged as a story line this week, discussed at length during a news conference with USGA officials (and local law enforcement) Wednesday, prompting an early-morning news release all but begging area residents to avoid local roads at peak traffic times (5 a.m.–9 a.m. and 4 p.m.–8 p.m.).
“Yeah, staying on the dinghy helps,” Woods quipped of his private yacht, Privacy, moored for the duration in nearby Sag Harbor. “There are a few guys that have said it’s taken them from the hotel 2½-3 hours, and, you know, there’s a good chance that someone might miss their [tee] time.
“You get a little traffic, you get maybe a little fender bender, it’s not inconceivable someone could miss their time.”
Doesn’t amateur Noah Goodwin know it.
Goodwin missed his Tuesday morning practice tee time when a 6:15 a.m. departure from the host hotel located 15 miles away took him straight into a bumper-to-bumper centipede.
“The drive is supposed to take 16 minutes,” said Goodwin, the 17-year-old US Junior Amateur champion. “It took an hour and 40.”
Rory McIlroy famously nearly missed a Ryder Cup tee time in 2012 at Medinah, an experience that left a permanent scar.
“I am three minutes door to door,” McIlroy said of his nearby Long Island rental. “I have no problem. I don’t know if we were very smart or very lucky, one of the two.”
McIlroy is from Ireland, a small island nation with not much highway infrastructure, and he understands how geography and logistics present a challenge in accessing one of this country’s most historic and storied golf courses.
“Anyone staying west of the golf course is going to get caught in that traffic, whether it’s on the LIE or Montauk Highway, whatever it is,” said McIlroy. “It’s tough. It’s a very thin piece of land, and people are trying to get out from the city.
“We’re pretty fortunate. But I played with Matt Fitzpatrick yesterday, and he said it took him an hour and a half to get to the golf course. So I think it’s just one of those things you’re going to have to set off early and try to beat the traffic.
“It’s the way it is. Just, unfortunately, one of the things about this area is it’s a small piece of land and can only take so many people.”
Boston-area sports fans know a little something about game-day traffic. Downtown congestion can turn a trip to Fenway Park or TD Garden into a daylong affair. And there’s little escape in the suburbs either, where a weekend visit to Gillette Stadium requires hours of patience for only a few miles of pavement. When there’s only one road in and out to the game (in this case Route 1), parking lots break out where roads should be.
But here? Sunrise Highway, County Road 39, and Montauk Highway take your recurring Hub nightmare and raise you a few thousand cars.
“Traffic during the morning hours within a 10-mile vicinity of Southampton can expect delays of up to 2 hours on main roads during peak periods and should adjust their planning times accordingly,” the morning news release stated.
“The Joint Police Operations team is warning east-bound local workers, homeowners and those associated with the championship to expect significant delays, and to make every effort necessary to avoid travel during these times.”
There are plenty of understandable reasons for the chokeholds during this, the fourth US Open held at Shinnecock. The first, in 1896, saw people arriving in carriages. During the second and third, in 1986 and 2004, there was not nearly as much vehicular traffic in the area. Now, with daily trade workers flooding in and local roads already clogged, the arrival of the tournament has pushed everyone past capacity.
But fair warning to players: There are no excused absences in golf.
“You need to start at the time that the committee appoints, and the players live that every week,” said Jeff Hall, managing director of US Rules in Open Championships. “There’s certainly an exception to the rule if there’s some exceptional circumstance that were to occur. However, traffic in and of itself is not exceptional.
“We’ve communicated with the players proactively in the memorandum that we distribute to the players, to the caddies when they register, alerting them to the environment that they’re going to be in for the week. They’ve certainly been experiencing it for the last three days.
“And I think we should not lose sight, they do this every week. They go to different locations every week, and there are unusual circumstances that they encounter, and I’m pretty confident they will adjust their schedule accordingly to take the proper precautions.
“We will also be sending out a text to the players this evening, just as a reminder for them to, again, be wary of tomorrow morning.”
For Day and his fellow RV lovers, that is unnecessary.
“I’m 30 seconds away from the parking lot, which is nice,” Day said. “When I’m on the bus, it feels like home because I’m sleeping in my own bed. You got your own stuff in there. So it’s just a moving house, really, to be honest.”
Now that’s a way to beat traffic.Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.