ERIN, WISCONSIN – The U.S. Open may be golf’s ultimate mind game.
Though its caretakers go to great pains to insist they’re not concerned with par – much less the unnerving sight of under-par scores cluttering the leader boards – the U.S. Open is golf’s boot camp.
It won’t be any different at Erin Hills, which is epic in scale and as subtle as a punch in the nose.
Part of the battle is being prepared for what everyone knows is coming.
“Golf at the U.S. Open has always been a bit harder (than) at the Open (Championship) or any of the other ones,” Henrik Stenson said. “We know Augusta has got the challenges, and the Open you’ve got the weather.
“The U.S. Open you normally play on golf courses that are tricked up just to the limits, sometimes over the limits and sometimes just underneath. So it’s certainly a tiring week. But it’s all worth it if you stand there with the trophy on Sunday.”
Getting to Sunday afternoon is the hard part. Even the winners look exhausted. Remember Dustin Johnson’s face last June?
Jon Rahm has played in exactly one U.S. Open but he gets it already. Talking with amateur Mason Andersen, Rahm offered this bit of advice about handling all that Erin Hills, the USGA and Mother Nature will throw at the players this week.
“I told him, listen, this is a marathon, and the U.S. Open is like an uphill marathon. It’s going to be mentally exhausting, it’s going to be a long week. Take it easy,” Rahm said.
There is nothing easy about the U.S. Open. That’s not what it’s about.
Getting to Erin Hills isn’t easy. Walking around Erin Hills isn’t easy. Picking a winner this week isn’t easy either.
“It’s a different type of Open setup. Is it right? Is it wrong? I don’t know,” two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North said.
“It’s a situation to where the fairways are as wide as you’ve ever had at a U.S. Open. There’s not any rough around the greens. And I think wind is going to have a huge impact on what happens. Yes, there’s a lot of fescue out there, but you’ve got basically an area of 50-plus-yards wide to drive the ball to keep it out of the fescue.
“There are going to be some big scores. I could see some rounds where a player makes three birdies, 14 pars and a triple. You have one error, and you’ll see big numbers. If you put the ball in the fairway, as long as these guys hit it, don’t get caught up with the 7,700 yards, these guys hit it long enough that that’s not that long for them. If you put it in the fairway you’re going to see some decent scores, but the wind is going to have a huge factor.”
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