The rough and fescue at Erin Hills, the Wisconsin venue for the 2017 U.S. Open, is simply diaboical. Players have not been shy to call the rough unplayable in spots.
Pair this with the expected shifting winds and the fact that the relatively new venue will host its first men’s major championship, and the only sure bet for a weekend of competitive golf is that there will be drama — and more than a few double bogeys.
However, the course seems to favor the smart player. With wide fairways nearly all throughout the course, a player can sacrifice distance for accuracy and be safe, and stay close to par.
“These are the widest fairways we’ve ever played in a U.S. Open,” Rory McIlroy told media members. “We have 60 yards from left line to right line. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it in that avenue, you may as well pack your bags and go home.”
McIlroy, one of the tournament’s favorites, continued: “It’s the U.S. Open; it’s supposed to be a tough test, and if guys can’t put it in play within a 50-yard zone, I don’t think they’ve got much to complain about.”
The course is lengthy at 7,693 yards and offers a variety of strategies. And though it has become typical at the USGA’s signature event for a score near par winning the major tournament, this year could be different. There could be a lot more birdies on the course.
“You expect par to be an extremely good score at a U.S. Open,” Jordan Spieth, who won the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay, said. “And here, my early thoughts, I don’t see par winning the tournament. I see close to 5- to 10-under. Someone who has very good control of the ball off tee will have plenty of scoring opportunities, given the conditions that we’re expecting.”
Last year’s winner, Dustin Johnson, is the only player favored ahead of McIlroy by Vegas odds, followed by Jason Day, Spieth and Ricky Fowler rounding out the top five.