The 117th installment of the U.S. Open from the USGA will take place at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin for the first-time ever. The USGA has been under a lot of scrutiny over the years about course choices and controversial rulings during tournaments, but many feel like they’ve nailed it this year in Erin. A town home to around 4,500 residents, and one of the most unusual courses you will see in North America with incredible fescue and winds.
Here’s a look at the festuca courtesy of Kevin Na’s Instagram account: It seems as though Na is beat up and not very confident before Round 1 has even kicked off.
Also, here is a look at the playing field, with player rankings and rules and regulations, plus information on the course itself.
– 156 Players
– 62 of the Top 63 ranked players in the world
– 78 players fully exempt into field
– 78 players earned a spot in the field through qualifying
Fans and players are coming into this year’s U.S. Open with little to no knowledge about Erin Hills, as it poses as a mystery to most. However, the designers of this course (Dana Fry and Michael Hurdzan) are very confident about the track. This is an incredible realization for Fry and Hurdzan as many U.S. Open tournaments have been held at historic courses, and in nearly every other case, the designers of the courses have no longer been alive to see the tournament take place at their facility.
Erin Hills is home to no water hazards, no trees, and incredibly long, deep, and horrific fescue, not to mention horrific winds that require straight drives at all costs. Many boast that the course took a mind of its own and required little to no maintenance on the actual outline of the holes; that the holes came to fruition all by themselves. Many of the course’s fairways, roughs, and bunkers were never altered and are in their natural state, or a “minimal design concept”, so it really is incredible at how tough this course is going to play.
It is virtually impossible that you are hitting the ball on a flat lie as every shot will most likely come from a downhill, uphill, or side hill lie. Erin Hills is known to have a very weird depth perception and can force golfers to play different styles on any given day. The designers describe holes that range from 300 yards, 580 yards, or to 670 the next. This course is going to be incredible to watch, and probably must-see TV. No one knows what to expect.
So what does all of this mean as to who can come out on top? Here are seven things below that are worth noting for this week:
1. Incredible Finish Looming:
Over the final six holes at Erin Hills, you are dealing with two par 3’s, two par 4’s, and two par 5’s. Hole No. 15 comes in as a driveable par 4, and No. 18 can brutally be pushed back to a whopping 675 yards and if that’s the case, truly anything can happen coming down the stretch. On top of everything, this course is known to ‘beat you up just by walking it,’ which makes for a tiring and gruesome showdown. Someone young and fit could very well take the championship, instead. This makes for a prediction of the leaderboard bouncing up and down all weekend, and maybe even a bold prediction of seeing a playoff on Sunday evening.
2. International Advantages:
This event could feel a lot like an Open Championship with the long layout and wicked wind and fescue. If you were to go around asking players what they thought of the course, chances are you would legitimately get a different answer depending on where the player is from. Many Europeans come into this event, but to note a few such as Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, and Henrik Stenson, you could see at least one of these guys flirting with the top of the pack at some point. This may be as close to home as they’ll get at a U.S. Open over here in North America
3. Top Contender For The Event:
– Dustin Johnson: This comes as the obvious one, as the best player in the world right now should have it be considered his tournament to lose. His long driving abilities, his knack for hitting greens and making putts, there’s everything to love here.
– Jordan Spieth: Spieth has been pretty consistent lately, and his pure putting skills makes him dangerous this week. In 2011 at the U.S. Amateur qualifier, he shot a 69 at this very course, and had three match-play wins.
– Rickie Fowler: Always possessing underrated precision, his elite approach this year could help him a ton. He is able to handle wind, and the length for sure. Also, referring back to the point about needing someone young and fit to be able to withstand just walking this course, here’s your guy.
– Sergio Garcia: Finally a major champion, here you have a guy who is incredible at keeping drives straight. He’s confident with the driver and the greens here could feel like they did at Augusta where he won the Masters just two months back. Garcia only needs a few putts to drop, and if that occurs, his confidence takes off.
4. Like, but don’t love:
– Jon Rahm: With a great driver, good putter, and a ton of confidence, Rahm could be the boom or bust pick of the week. The inexperience, plus the tendency to be somewhat erratic off the tee, doesn’t bode extremely well for the 22 year-old. Fortunately, Rahm’s aggressiveness could be something positive for him this week.
– Thomas Pieters: A wild player with firepower and decent control. Pieters has had inspiring play this season.
– Louis Oosthuizen: Here’s a guy who seems to pop up at big events and has been playing well lately. With a steady year so far, look for the 2010 Open champion to be in the mix.
– Paul Casey, Kevin Kisner and Alex Noren: These three are mixed together simply because of their good and solid all-around skills that could play well here. Noren is currently 8th in the world without even being a household name here in North America, which could all change quickly.
– Jason Dufner and Adam Scott: Two guys with sneaky good games and strong precision. Scott has been playing better than most people think lately and Dufner was a winner two weeks ago. Both of these guys have good control and they both fit well into the course.
– Jason Day: The former No. 1 golfer in the world has been playing better as of late, and we all know he has it in him to take control of this event. This course doesn’t typically fit Day’s style, but he has shown before that it doesn’t matter where he plays, IE: his past performances at Oak Hill and Merion. Lastly, it’s worth noting that Day provides sterling experience and success, as he’s finished in the Top 10 five of the last six U.S. Opens.
– Shane Lowry: He seemingly shines at this time of year and is long enough off-the-tee with a decent putter. Plus, two straight top 10 U.S. Open finishes poses as a strong measuring stick to how well Lowry can perform.
– Bryson DeChambeau: Just like Spieth, DeChambeau was featured in the 2011 U.S. Amateur event here. Just the very fact that he has a bit of familiarity with this course helps a lot.
– An Byeong-hun: He comes into this event with four straight top 25 finishes.
– Steve Stricker: One of the biggest dark-horse picks this week has the hometown advantage being from Edgerton, WI. He enters the field first in driving accuracy percentage, plus he features a great putter. In addition, Stricker averages just 280 yards off-the-tee, but being able to keep it straight makes the 50-year old a bigger favorite than you may think.
– Brendan Steele: Steele is a definite under the radar candidate and he’s currently enjoying a great season. He’s secured a win, four top 10 finishes, and owns a top 65 finish in driving distance and accuracy.
– Si Woo Kim: He’s suffered from spotty play since his Players Championship victory in 2016. The 21 year-old isn’t completely healthy coming in to the U.S. Open, though.
– Rory McIlroy: Rory is struggling with injuries this season, and this is just McIlroy’s seventh start of the year. The course may not bode well for him considering he will be having to shake the rust off early.
– Bubba Watson: An overall down year for Bubba, and if he starts to show signs of displeasure about the course, he surely won’t produce anything great this week.
7. My Pick For The Event:
If Phil Mickelson was in the field this week, I would be all over him, but my pick would have to be Rickie Fowler. Everything seems to be in place for Fowler to claim his first major. His motivation is seemingly becoming a weakness: no major championships yet, but, he is in the best form of his life and is incredibly due.