The second Major of the year takes place at a picturesque course in the US Midwest, writes GARY LEMKE in Compleat Golfer.
Perhaps Forrest Gump would be able to best sum up the US Open. ‘It’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.’
When Jordan Spieth won the US Open in 2015 it was on a Chambers Bay golf course that had veterans of the game shaking their heads in disbelief, given how it was set up. Henrik Stenson called it ‘a tricked-up links course’; Ryan Palmer said, ‘It’s not a championship golf course, given the way the greens are and the pin placements,’ while Ian Poulter reckoned it was ‘a complete farce’. Even Gary Player, South Africa’s nine-Major legend, said it was set up so tough that ‘an average golfer would struggle to break 100’.
Still, someone had to win and Spieth came through on five under, a remarkable red-number score considering the nature of Chambers Bay.
And that’s the thing with US Opens. You never know what you’re going to get.
Rarely does a US Open champion bring a course to its knees during this week of the second Major of the year. In 2016 Dustin Johnson won with a four-under score, while Martin Kaymer went nine under at Pinehurst Resort in 2014. But even that is low
for the US Open.
In 2011 Rory McIlroy went 16 under at Congressional Country Club, but that kind of score is virtually unheard of, while Tiger Woods was 12 under at Pebble Beach in 2000.
But each time that happens, it’s as if organisers feel they need to teach these pros a lesson for daring to go so low and they soon revert to type.
The 2012 and 2013 US Opens were won on one over par (Webb Simpson at Olympic Club and Justin Rose at Merion Golf Club), while in 2006 and 2007, a final total of five over par was good enough for Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot and Angel Cabrera at Oakmont Country Club, respectively.
In terms of the South Africans who have won the US Open, Player was two over at Bellerive Country Club in 1965, Ernie Els five under at Oakmont in 1994 and four under at Congressional in 1997, Retief Goosen four under at Southern Hills in 2001 and again four under at Shinnecock Hills in 2004.
And what of the 2017 venue, Erin Hills?
‘It’s not heathland, it’s not parkland, it’s not linksland,’ says Andy Ziegler. ‘It’s what it is. It’s Erin Hills,’ Ziegler owns the place.
He purchased Erin Hills in 2009 for $10.5-million because it was a distressed property in danger of losing the 2011 US Amateur.
Erin Hills has no members; it’s a public course with a $265 green fee. Its lone decision-maker is Ziegler.
‘There’s so much flexibility here,’ Ziegler says of a course that could stretch past 7 800 yards.
‘If [USGA executive director] Mike Davis wants to set it up where no one could break 80, he could. If he wants to set it up for someone to shoot 62, he could do that too.’
Let’s hope the USGA doesn’t decide on either of those options.
A golfer having to work hard with maybe the first page of the leaderboard in those red numbers come the final round on the Sunday, would make for the best TV entertainment.
– This article first appeared in the June issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale