117th U.S. Open Preview

06-13-17

For those of you who enjoy a deeper dive, added stats and trends, look no further.

Or is it farther.

This ain’t no grammer rodayo!

 117th U.S. Open

 

Erin Hills Golf Course

Erin, WI

 

Yards: 7,741 per the official scorecard;

Par: 72 (36-36);

Greens: A-4 Bentgrass; 6,650 average square feet;

Stimpmeter: 12’+;

Rough: Fine Fescue, Ryegrass;

Water Hazards: not in play

Bunkers: 138;

Course Architect(s): Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten (2005).

Purse: $12 million; $2.16 million-winner; 600 FedExCup points plus a 10-year U.S. Open exemption, plus a five-year exemption to the other three majors and a five-year exemption on Tour. #Major.

Defending Champion:  Dustin Johnson won his first major at Oakmont defeating Shane Lowry, Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk by three shots.

Notes: 156 players; top 60 and ties play the weekend… The 10-shot rule was eliminated a few years ago…If there is a tie after 72 holes an 18-hole playoff will determine the winner.

Notes II: Erin Hills is hosting the U.S. Open for the first time. Previously, it hosted the 2008 Women’s Amateur Public Links and the 2011 U.S. Amateur.

 

 

2016-17 PGA Tour Winners

 

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley

Masters: Sergio Garcia

RBC Heritage: Wesley Bryan**

Valero Texas Open: Kevin Chappell*

Zurich Classic: Cameron Smith* & Jonas Blixt

Wells Fargo Championship: Brian Harman

THE PLAYERS: Si Woo Kim

AT&T Byron Nelson: Billy Horschel

Colonial: Kevin Kisner

Memorial: Jason Dufner

FESJC: Daniel Berger

 

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

 

 

Last 10 U.S. Open Champions (course)

 

 

2016: y-Dustin Johnson, 276, (Oakmont).

2015: Jordan Spieth, 275, (Chambers Bay).

2014: Martin Kaymer, 271, (Pinehurst No. 2).

2013: y-Justin Rose, 281, (Merion).

2012: y-Webb Simpson, 281, (Olympic Club).

2011: y-Rory McIlroy, 268, (Congressional).

2010: y-Graeme McDowell, 284, (Pebble Beach).

2009: y-Lucas Glover, 276, (Bethpage Black)

2008: x-Tiger Woods*, 283, (Torrey Pines South).

2007: y-Angel Cabrera, 285, (Oakmont)

 

X-not playing this week

Y-first-time major winner

* playoff

 

The Particulars:

For the first time ever, the U.S. Open lands in Wisconsin and will become the sixth public venue to host our nation’s championship.

The 117th edition will be the fourth championship since 2002 to be held on a track for the first time joining Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines South and Chambers Bay.

As you’ve already read once or 200 times this week (and it’s only Tuesday!) the kettle moraine that covers over 650 acres was created by manly by glaciers. The course architects created an “American Original” that is neither parkland or links but rather rolling American countryside.

From fast fescue fairways to perfectly manicured A-4 Bentgrass greens and over 7,600 yards, Erin Hills will present a U.S. Open unlike any other.

As with most USGA Championships, great shots will be rewarded and poor or lack shots penalized. And as always with golf, Mother Nature will be a factor in the proceedings.

Erin Hills, unlike most U.S. Open sites, will have larger-than-normal fairways so accuracy, while always important, won’t be paramount. The course was designed with Mother Nature and the wind in mind and the larger fairways ensure playability. The track features deep fescue rough but the pros are going to have to go out of their way to find it. Shots that miss fairways this large should be subjected to punishment.

Most of the green complexes are raised and heavily bunkered with some having false fronts. Wide fairways should suggest this should turn into a second-shot course and whoever pegs the most GIR will have the most looks at birdie. Another glaring difference this week will be the closely-mown areas greenside instead of the traditional collar of rough. Players who miss the greens and bunkers will have multiple choices on how to attack as the USGA always loves to test the 14 clubs in the bag plus the six inches between the ears. Those who find the bunkers will be penalized so tee-to-green players will stand out for me.

The putting surfaces, reportedly, are pure and perfect so don’t be surprised to see putts holed. The course has been closed for the entire year so this doesn’t surprise me. This will not be the lightning quick Poa annua of Oakmont or the bumpy, burnt Poa of Chambers Bay. The greens are not the defense of the course as they roll true and very mellow as opposed to slick and undulating (save that for Shinnecock next year).

 

In conclusion, large fairways will bring in plenty of dreamers this week and penalize the hyper-accurate, especially if wet. Slightly larger-than-average greens should reward the ball-strikers who can find the proper placements. If the Bentgrass is running pure and true, the advantage that the great putters have will also be neutralized unless the crank up the speed on the greens. Weather will also help determine that factor.

With four par fives on the card, perfect greens and large fairways, I’m going to lean of the big boys who can knock it and find plenty of GIR. Remember, the more greens hit, the more chances to make birdies or two-putt and get the heck out of there.

 

This will win you a bar bet Part I: This is the first time the U.S. Open will play to par 72 since 1992 at Pebble Beach.

 

Weather:

In a perfect world, firm and fast would be in the cards so this massive track won’t play to its almost 7,700 yards. For those of you looking for clues from the 2011 U.S. Amateur, please remember that event was in August on a brownish/green course under different conditions.

Rain began to fall Monday night and could continue on Tuesday. Wednesday holds an 80% during the day and night while Thursday clears up for the opening round. Showers are a coin flip in the morning on both of the weekend days after Friday’s 60% of scattered storms.

Erin Hills looked quite green on television on Monday even though they’ve only enjoyed .43 inches of rain in the month of June. I don’t think a few days of scattered rain/storms are going to do much to the setup or slow anything down.

 

 

Facts and Figures:

 

  • Most titles, 4: Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.
  • Most runner-up finishes, 6: Phil Mickelson.
  • 21st Century multiple winners: Tiger Woods (2002, 2002, 2008; is not playing) and Retief Goosen (2001, 2004).
  • Last to defend: Curtis Strange, 1988-89.
  • International winners: Five of the last 10. #Halved.
  • Winner first time: Francis Ouimet, 1913.
  • Youngest: John J. McDermott, 19, 1911.
  • Oldest: Hale Irwin, 45, 1990.
  • Last young player to win: Jordan Spieth, 22, 2015.
  • Last older player to win: Payne Stewart, 42, 1999.
  • Youngest to make the cut: Beau Hossler, 17, 2012.
  • Oldest to make the cut: Sam Snead, 61.
  • Last amateur winner (five total): John Goodman, 1933.
  • Last winner, sectional qualifier: Lucas Glover, 2009.
  • Last winner, local/sectional qualifier: Orville Moody, 1969.
  • Last winner, special exemption: Hale Irwin, 1990.
  • Lowest winning total: 268; Rory McIlroy, Congressional, (par 71) 2011.
  • Lowest round: 63, four players; last Vijay Singh, Olympia Fields, 2003.
  • Largest margin of victory: 15; Tiger Woods, Pebble Beach, 2000.
  • No player has ever won the U.S. Open after winning the week before on Tour(s). Daniel Berger will get a chance for the second year in a row to end that streak.
  • The last three players to win on new courses in the major championship rotation are Tiger Woods (Bethpage Black, 2002 and Torrey Pines, 2008), Rory McIlroy (Kiawah Island, 2012) and Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay, 2015).
  • The last six major champions have all been first-time winners.

 

 

The Field

 

Favorites

In order of preference for this week and tournament only. Rankings vary week-to-week based on event, course, life, etc.

 

Rickie Fowler: The player with the most balanced bag in the field goes right back to the top this week even after MC last week in Memphis. Fowler checks in No. 2 SG: Total highlighted by his excellent putting and short game. He’s third in scoring and in birdie average and has a win and four other top 10’s this season.

Dustin Johnson: He should have won in 2015. He did win last year. If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have suggested he was the favorite again this week. This is why guys in my world don’t answer questions in February like “give me your four major winners this year” as the world is a volatile place. One slip down the stairs at Augusta plus baby No. 2 due any moment equals reality and that’s part of our world. As the kids say, life comes at you pretty fast but he’s still my second choice. I don’t think one MC at Memorial caused him to forget how to overpower courses and with a par 72 I like him even more.

Jon Rahm: He’s tied with Dustin Johnson for most top-five finishes since last July with eight. It was exactly a year ago that he played his last tournament before turning pro and finished T-23 and low amateur at Oakmont. This season he’s won for the first time at big, bad Torrey Pines and added six other top 10’s. He’s fearless with the driver and ranks in the top 10 in too many categories to list here.

Jason Day: He’s played in six U.S. Opens and hit the top 10 five times including the last four years. One of those years he had vertigo and barely made it through the tournament.  Now he gets a chance to swing driver on some of the biggest fairways in championship history?  Yes, please! There’s nobody better around the greens statistically and he’s also healthy so that’s an excellent combination.

Jordan Spieth: He leads the Tour SG: Approach the green and is second in scoring and birdie average so he’s hardly reeling. He’s in any conversation when events like this roll around because he makes plenty of birdies but more importantly plenty of pars. It won’t hurt that he’s seen this place in action, similarly to Chambers Bay, as he played the 2011 U.S. Amateur on this track. I’m not sure there’s a better grinder in the field.

Rory McIlroy: Guys returning from long layoffs always make me scratch my head but there are always exceptions to rules. McIlroy tried to return to Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship but he wasn’t ready so he backed his recovery to this week. McIlroy’s best, for my money, is the best that there is but we haven’t seen it in some time. He has a knack of grinding away even without his best stuff while most others fade. He’ll be rooting for a long, wet track a la Congressional where he set the record in 2012. Surprisingly he only has one top 10 in the last five years in this event.

Adam Scott: He’s played the weekend in his last five including finishes of T-9, T-4 and T-18 last year at Oakmont. There aren’t many better in the GIR department and that’s why the Aussie continues to collect big checks most weeks he tees it up. He collected T-9 at Augusta, T-6 at THE PLAYERS and T-10 last week in Memphis.

Sergio Garcia: He leads the Tour in scoring average thanks to his excellent numbers tee-to-green. The Masters champ is the only one in the field who can win the first half of the grand slam this week but I doubt that is even on his mind. He’s made 15 of 17 U.S. Open cuts including nine in a row. He seemed to like smooth Bentgrass at Augusta in April!

Jason Dufner: Of his last five U.S. Opens, three have hit the top 10 and another was T-18 so there’s no mystery here. Chuck in greens that are rolling perfectly and Dufner should be rising up the board again come the weekend. He’s full of confidence as he won on perfect Bentgrass his last time out at Memorial and that was with a third round 77. He should be pounding GIR again this week and letting his improved putter help keep him out of trouble.

Charl Schwartzel: Whatever wrist injury was bothering him is no longer an issue after he posted T-2 at in Memphis last week. The South African is an excellent putter and bunker player and will enjoy the big targets off the tee. The U.S. Open format doesn’t bother him as he’s cashed eight of 10 times with five resulting in T-25’s. The 2011 Masters champ has posted five of his last eight rounds in this event at par or better.

Justin Rose: The 2013 champ has plenty of power to get it around and checks in the top 10 in scoring average and birdie average. Over a third of his made cuts in majors have resulted in top 10’s and he started out majors with a solo second at Augusta. #BigGameHunter.

Brooks Koepka: The trend since 2007 has been first-time major champions at this event minus Woods and Spieth. Koepka has the full arsenal to kick open that door as he hits it a mile and is an excellent putter. He’s played the weekend in 12 of 14 majors and burst onto the scene with a T-4 at Pinerhurst No. 2 in 2014. He followed that with T-18 at Chambers Bay and T-13 at Oakmont. He’s rattled off seven cuts in a row on Tour.

Hideki Matsuyama: It would have been impossible to carry his late 2016 form all the way through 2017 so I’m not surprised he’s cooled off. His ball-striking tee-to-green is his calling card. He’ll find plenty of GIR and will be thrilled to see perfect, mellow greens as well all know that putting isn’t where he hangs his hat.

Kevin Kisner: Sizzling after his win at Colonial and T-6 at Memorial, he proven that he doesn’t mind a bit of Bentgrass on the greens. Kisner is like Fowler “light” and that’s meant as a compliment as he checks in fifth in SG: Total and registers in the top 40 of the major statistical categories. He’s absolutely solid through the entire bag.

Branden Grace: He didn’t start to fire until the Masters but better late than never. His defense at RBC Heritage resulted in T-11 and he played well, again, at a long, windy TPC San Antonio with T-10. Add T-9 at a difficult Wentworth it’s hardly a surprise why he’s finished in the top five in the last two U.S. Opens.  He’s also posted five of those eight rounds at par or better and won’t mind another big playground this week. He has five top five finishes in 20 majors.

Louis Oosthuizen: With that swing it’s easy to see why he’s won a major and finished second three times. He’s only MC once in his last 13 majors so he rises to the occasion. It’s usually some injury that makes me nervous with him but that hasn’t been the case recently and the results reflect that. He’s not sneaking up on anyone after his T-2 at THE PLAYERS nor should he on a course set-up perfectly for someone who hits it as well as he does. He’s 10th in SG: Total.

Justin Thomas: With three wins under his belt this season, confidence shouldn’t be the issue. The issue can be the driver but he’s still 12th in GIR and resides inside the top 10 in approach and tee-to-green. His best finish in a major is at Whistling Straits and he’s only missed the weekend once in seven tries. He leads in birdie average and is fourth in scoring.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello: After a three tournament run of MC X 3 the Spaniard has cashed T-24, T-4 and T-4 in three of his last four with only one bad round, 71-79 MC, in that stretch. He’s a super putter who’s riding the wave and will gladly fly under the Garcia-Rahm shadow this week.

Henrik Stenson: It’s been an upside-down 2017 for the Swede as he hasn’t fired on his normal happy hunting grounds (Bay Hill, GCH and Augusta) yet he turned in a T-3 at Wentworth, a course he admittedly cannot stand. It looks like the five weeks off between the Masters and THE PLAYERS refreshed the battery. He should be embracing a course that should favor his power tee-to-green.

Francesco Molinari: He has ONE stroke-play finish outside the top 25 in 2017 in 12 worldwide starts and that was T-33 at Augusta. There’s hardly a mystery as to why he checks in the top 10 in approach, tee-to-green and strokes gained: total. No Italian has ever won on the PGA Tour let alone a major championship. His best finish in a major is T-9 and nothing better than T-23 at the U.S. Open but his outstanding form trumps that history.

 

 

Next Tier

Just missed and should make excellent support staff for deeper games/tickets.

 

Billy Horschel: He’s never missed in four U.S. Opens and has won and finished T-4 in the last month so he’s converging. The fire burns hot in this one so don’t be afraid to get too close.

Martin Kaymer: He hasn’t had a round at or under par since dismantling Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt after MC and T-69 in his two events leading into this tournament but I don’t blame you if you’re not.

Paul Casey: I’m not leading with him on any teams or tickets but he makes excellent support staff in DFS and deep leagues. The Englishman has four top 12’s and a T-22 in his last five on Tour and resides in the top 10 GIR.

Matt Kuchar: The length bothers me here but Kuchar usually finds a way to get it in the hole. He would LOVE firm and fast to be on the menu but he’s still played the weekend in the last seven years. After his 81 at THE PLAYERS he’s bounced back with T-9, T-12 and T-4, all on Bentgrass, in his last three starts.

Kevin Chappell: The first time most gamers hear Chappell’s name was at Congressional as he fired 11-under-par in the final three rounds to finish T-3. He backed that up with T-10 the following year at Olympic Club. He MC last year at Oakmont but this spring he’s won for the first time on Tour at Valero and he was T-4 last week in Memphis. #Hot.

Daniel Berger: For the second year in a row he tries to back up his win in Memphis at the U.S. Open. Berger mentioned that he doesn’t get the love that maybe some others in the Class of 2011 do. I know one way to change that! He finished T-27 at the Masters after finishing fifth at SHO so I’m leaning on that form to carryover again this week.

Shane Lowry: With top 10’s in the last two years including the 54-hole lead it’s obvious that he’s comfortable with U.S. Open setups. His form entering the week includes T-6 at Wentworth and T-15 at Memorial so he’ll have plenty of eyes on him again.

Ross Fisher: The Englishman’s renaissance has been piling up top 10’s worldwide thanks to his overpowering of courses. Of his last eight events, five have cashed in the top 10.

Patrick Reed: I think the big park helps him swing it this week. His nasty short game should be able to keep him out of trouble as long as his tee ball stays on the planet. He’s never hit the top 10 in 13 previous majors which seems odd.

Marc Leishman: He’s boring but steady and there’s nothing wrong with either. He’s an excellent wind player as well.

Thomas Pieters: I’m confused as to why he’s been quiet since the Masters as he’s only made one start and skipped the big day at THE PLAYERS. It’s his first U.S. Open but he did pretty well in his first Ryder Cup too. He’s a fantastic risk/reward play based on talent alone.

Alex Noren: His recent form is scalding as he’s posted a top 10, a win and T-15 in his last three worldwide. He has plenty of craft as he racked up those checks on a tricky TPC Sawgrass, a tight Wentworth and in his home country of Sweden.

Lee Westwood: One of the safest picks on the board to see the weekend, the Englishman has only MC once this decade in the second major. I’d prefer his ball-striking on a tighter track but his consistent 2017 and wealth of experience in majors makes for perfect support staff.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: If it gets too wet I might cool here but it’s hard to ignore T-2 and T-12 entering the week. I’d prefer a more traditional set-up for him but there’s something brewing here that needs attention.

Emiliano Grillo: He’s never missed in six tries as he’s constantly played above his age. His maturity on the course helps him keep his head in the game and he’s rarely afraid of the moment. I’m might be overreaching here but he’s only MC three times in his last 43 starts worldwide.

 

Off the Beaten Path

Long shots, no-names with names, trending, event jockeys and everyone else with a few warts.

 

Stewart Cink: The veteran enters the week T-10, T-25 and T-10 in the last three weeks so he’s dialed in. He’s played inspired golf stretching back to last fall while his wife has fought breast cancer.

David Lingmerth: Sometimes you just have to trust the numbers and hang on. The Swede was T-17 at Chambers Bay and 12th at Oakmont the last two years and enters the week with T-18 or better in three of his last four starts on Tour. Guys that are burning hot won’t be concerned about fescue and weather.

Stephan Jaeger: Hot golf is hot golf. He’s won on the Web.com in two of his last three starts. If I’m having a punt I’m not doing it on a guy who’s MC in his last four starts.

Peter Uihlein: Now that his wrist issues are firmly in the past we’re seeing the talent that was on display a few years ago in Europe. With four top 10’s in 14 tries worldwide in 2017 he shouldn’t be on the radar in too many places.

Brendan Steele: After winning the first event of the season it would have not been surprising to see him meander along. That hasn’t been the case by a long shot. He hasn’t MC this season and added a best T-27 at Augusta and T-6 at THE PLAYERS on big boy courses with big boy fields.

Bud Cauley: His spring was smoking hot as he threw up consecutive top 10’s between mid-April and mid-May. Hopefully his T-41 at Colonial and T-25 at Memorial threw the public off his scent. He was T-2 GIR at Memorial last time out.

Jamie Lovemark: Coming off his best consecutive finishes in the last three months, Lovemark’s length should be to his advantage again this week. In his only other U.S. Open at Chambers Bay he posted three of his four rounds at par or better. #Value.

Chris Wood: Last man in the field as the No. 60-ranked player in the OWGR. Don’t confuse him with Woodland, Westwood, the absent Woods the former champ Craig Wood. In the last five weeks he’s collected T-4 loot at the Volvo China Masters and T-2 last week in Sweden. His first U.S. Open last year saw him claim T-23 at Oakmont, another big ballpark.

Gregory Bourdy: He’s made eight of 10 career cuts in majors and cashed T-18 at Oakmont last year. Folks, Oakmont is probably the toughest layout in the current rotation.

Harris English: Every year there is the American that pops up and gets into the fight. English hits it a mile and can putt and hasn’t MC in two previous tries. He was T-10 in Memphis last week with FOUR doubles on the card.

Lucas Glover: 2009 champ has to be ecstatic that he’ll have a chance on the greens this week instead of the normal U.S. Open undulation and speed. He’ll hit most fairways and greens if he’s on song and makes for a lovely dark horse.

Yusaku Miyazato: In his last five weeks on the Japan Tour he’s won twice, finished T-9 and T-21 with a MC last time out. If you’re going to reach, reach for something!

Sean O’Hair: Back-to-back top five finishes in Texas cooled off with T-51 at Memorial but I’m wading right back in. He plays the wind well and is steady across the board. O’Hair 1.0 rattled off three T-26 or better in four tries when he broke onto the scene in the late 00’s. #BeenHereDoneThat.

Steve Stricker: Ok, I’ll bite. His value doesn’t exist but with two kids I’ve seen enough Disney to believe. The gamer in me says no thanks because it will be an absolute circus for his family, the media and everyone involved with him this week. I’m not sure 7,700 yards is the formula for success here either but if ONE guy is going to be THAT guy, it has to be Stricker.

Ted Potter, Jr.: Desperation knows no Tour affiliation. Potter is 9 of 11 on the Web.com and eight finishes have resulted in T-17 or better.

Alexander Levy: He sat just three shots out of second after 54 holes at Chambers Bay, his last and only adventure in this major championship. In his last six events in Europe he has won and added a pair of top 10’s while not MC.

Russell Knox: Top 50 GIR and top 15 in fairways never hurts in this championship but he going to have to get the ball in the hole. He flashed signs of life two weeks ago at Memorial opening 71-70 and posted 67 to close up shop in Memphis last week for his best round in two months. Hush.

 

Fades:

Bubba Watson: With semi-blind shots and usually a set-up that has driven him crazy in the past, I’m passing. His top 25 at Memorial was his only top 25 in 2017 and he’s only played the weekend in three of his last six tries at this event with nothing better than T-32.

Brandt Snedeker: He WD from THE PLAYERS with a hand injury and took five weeks off. He returned with MC at AT&T Byron Nelson and followed that with T-48 at DEAN & DELUCA. His past history in this event is tempting but there are too many other healthy horses to saddle this week.

Jim Furyk: His record in this event sounds like he’s an automatic but his current form screams the opposite. Big ballpark and recent struggles makes Oakmont feel like it was a very long time ago in his native Western Pennsylvania.

Jimmy Walker: He’s currently battling Lyme disease and hasn’t teed it up since THE PLAYERS. This course would be an excellent fit but I can’t rely that he’s ready to go after the layoff.

Danny Willett: For those of you who follow the OWGR rankings, Willett still remains in the top 30. For those of you who tune in for the majors only and remember he’s a major champion, I’ll remind you that he WD from THE PLAYERS with a back issue and followed that with T-58 at the BMW Championship at Wentworth.

 

Next:

 

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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