The U.S. Open: Why We Love This Game.

There are so many reasons why we love this game. The list is long and nuanced - the feeling of a well-struck iron to a tucked pin; a shared belly-laugh with an old friend (or a new one) at the 19th hole; a backyard closest-to-the-sprinkler competition with your child as the sun sets on a Wednesday night.

But there’s just something about a U.S. Open Thursday (and Friday and Saturday and Sunday) that amplifies all of those feelings that dedicated golfers feel, and strengthens our connection to the game.

What is that something? It’s a lot of things. But it’s also really just one thing: It’s that we’re all playing the same game. There’s nothing else like it.

This week at Shinnecock Hills, there are 20 amateur golfers - the most at a U.S. Open since 1962 at Oakmont - who have earned the opportunity to test themselves on the game's biggest stage, against the absolute titans of their sport.

That list of dream-come-truers - while surely well-represented by many future stars –also includes a a 31-year-old Brockton, Mass., firefighter and a 30-year-old National Hockey League referee.

Could you imagine a PGA Tour Rules Official competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

This year, there were 9,049 entries for U.S. Open Local Qualifying. That's 9,049 golfers with a dream of playing in this national championship.

And there are so many others, on ranges across the country and the globe, right this second, working on their games, hoping they can get their handicaps low enough by next year to send in their qualifying application for the 2019 U.S. Open - picturing what it’d be like to hear their name called on the first tee at Pebble Beach.

While many of us may never have the ability to ever play in a U.S. Open - or a U.S. Women’s Open - as golfers, we all understand the pressure and responsibility that goes into a golf shot. Whether it’s on the first tee at Shinny on Thursday morning, or anywhere else. We just get it. It’s why we watch. It’s why we play.

Golf is an aspirational game. A game that challenges us to compare ourselves, even if only for one shot, to the best players in the world. We all play by the same set of rules, with the same equipment, sometimes even on the same courses.

And with every shot, we’re faced with the same goal. To be at our best. It's that feeling, as golfers, which unites us.

What do you love most about this week? What do you love most about this game?