U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills

At the media center at Oakmont last year I was utterly shocked by the handling of events by the USGA concerning the Dustin Johnson penalty, more than anything it was the confusion and delays in the ruling that caused the most embarrassment. Johnson went on to win by three strokes making the point moot and in doing so he may have just saved the USGA from one of their mishandled ruling in recent time.

The USGA said it regrets the way it handled a penalty assessed to Open Champion Dustin Johnson during Sunday’s final round at Oakmont Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh.

“Upon reflection, we regret the distraction caused by our decision to wait until the end of the round to decide on the ruling,” the USGA said in a statement. “It is normal for rulings based on video evidence to await the end of a round, when the matter can be discussed with the player before the score card is returned.”

This week, June 12-18, 2017, the U.S. Open Championship will be contested in Wisconsin for the first time. The championship will welcome the world’s top players vying for the title that has been contested since 1895. The United States Golf Association will provide the ultimate, most comprehensive test in golf to identify the best of the best, with past champions including Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Wisconsin’s own Andy North and Tiger Woods.

The U.S. Open is played at iconic venues around the country, with 51 courses to date holding the distinction of U.S. Open site. Erin Hills will be the sixth public access course to host the championship (joining Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Bethpage, Torrey Pines and Chambers Bay). More than 35,000 spectators are expected to attend each day, and more than 5,000 volunteers are needed (and those positions have already been filled). The championship will support the community through more than $130 million in anticipated economic impact.

When the US Open arrives at Erin Hills in 2017, players and viewers are in for a treat. At first glance, Erin Hills looks like a links-style layout. Erin Hills has brilliant green islands adrift in a sea of long golden, blowing fescue. There are just six trees on the course, and only two small ponds, neither of which should come into play. Under a flattening camera lens, Erin Hills looks like a course where a golfer should learn to play a knock-down, a pitch and a bump-and-run.

U.S. Open Championship

Erin Hills

Erin Hills runs across some 632 acres of land in the Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin. Carved some 20,000 years ago by glaciers, the irregular terrain is quite striking. The highest elevation at Erin Hills is a ridge which runs between the fairways on holes eight and twelve and stands at 1, 012 feet above sea level. The lowest is near the green on 17, which stands at 952. The difference of 54 feet doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that’s the height of a five story building.

On the scorecard, Erin Hills stretches to 7,800 yards from the tips. I was told that the USGA could push that to over 8,000 for the 2017 US Open.  Tees are also set at 7, 147; 6,754; 6, 233; and 5, 082. The longest tees play as a 77.9/145 — an extraordinarily difficult course. I played from 6, 233 yard, which is rated as a 75.5/131.

U.S. Open Championship

Erin Hills stretches to 7,800 yards

A year after capturing his first career major, Dustin Johnson is the favorite to repeat at the 2017 US Open. Of course, with the amount of elite talent that has emerged in 2017, it won’t be easy for the 32-year-old to become the first player since Curtis Strange (1988 and ’89) to win back-to-back US Open tournaments.

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are threats as always, but it’s no longer as simple as saying there’s a Big 3 or Big 4. Tour rookie Jon Rahm, who has exploded onto the scene with a win, three Top-3’s and seven Top-10’s, has a lot of similarities to Johnson. Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas both have multiple wins this year. Rickie Fowler, after a disappointing 2016, seems to always be around the leaderboard on weekends. Then, of course, there’s Sergio Garcia, who is fresh off his first major victory at Augusta and as confident as ever.

Johnson may be the clear favorite, but it’s a long list of contenders. Here’s a complete look at the odds for a few key players.

2017 US Open Odds

  • Team New England’s only Player: Keegan Bradley: 175/1
  • Hometown Favorite Steve Stricker: 200/1
  • Dustin Johnson: 6/1
  • Rory McIlroy: 9/1
  • Jordan Spieth: 10/1
  • Jason Day: 11/1
  • Jon Rahm: 16/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 20/1
  • Justin Rose: 20/1
  • Sergio Garcia: 22/1
  • Rickie Fowler: 22/1
  • Hometown Favorite Steve Stricker: 200/1