Despite the criticism of Chambers Bay two years ago, the United States Golf Association have again opted to abandon the tried and tested courses on the US Open rota, and the 2017 US Open will be played at Erin Hills. The course’s previous claim to fame was staging the US Amateur in 2011, and has only been open for 11 years.
US Opens have a reputation for being the hardest golf tournament of the year, a test of golf where par for 72-holes is a good score, and often a winning one, though the winner has been under par in the last three years. It remains to be seen whether Erin Hills provides such a brutal test, but with the back tees allowing this course to be measured at close to 8,000 yards – it’s easy to see that it could be.
However, early reports are that the fairways are wider than usual, though wayward shots will be met with brutally unforgiving fescue rough that is designed to make a player hack their ball back into the fairway rather than giving them a chance of going for the green. The bunkers soundly equally as penal, whilst the fairways remain as mother nature intended, described by one of its designers as, “classic rumpled blanket topography with natural rolls”.
Meanwhile, golf fans should enjoy the way the areas around the greens have been sculpted, and chipping should suit players who have a catalogue of shots more suited to the links courses of Britain, rather than those who are used to taking a lob-wedge for every chip shot.
The wind is also meant to defend the course however, with little wind forecast, there may be more birdies than originally anticipated.
So, who’s going to win?
Victory for Dustin Johnson would be no surprise but, as he’s been playing well for such a long period, there’s just a doubt as to whether he can sustain it – especially with the added pressures of being world number one and defending champion this week. Rory McIlroy could also turn up in great form, but new clubs and a recurring rib injury dampen the enthusiasm, whilst Jordan Spieth’s recent loss of form with the putter must be a concern for a player who has relied so heavily on that part of his game.
Therefore, it could be time for Jason Day to step back into the spotlight. The Aussie has played some of the best golf I’ve ever witnessed in the last couple of years, and his performances in his last two tournaments suggest he’s about to peak. He also has an outstanding US Open record with 5 top-9 finishes, and the wide-fairways should mean he can utilize his power.
Two other players who have thrived in the heat of US Open battles in the last couple of seasons have been Brandon Grace and Shane Lowry. Grace has finished fourth and fifth in the last two renewals, and looks ready to contend after three top-11s in his last 5 tournaments. Meanwhile, Lowry could have easily won last year, but had to settle for second after finishing ninth the previous year. He also comes into this year’s tournament in much better form than he did last year, having finished 6th and 15th on his last two outings, and hopefully his putter will get hot for him this week.