ERIN, WISCONSIN – Just when it seemed we’d seen it all at the U.S. Open, the strangest thing happened Tuesday morning.
They mowed the rough.
“Really?” Rory McIlroy asked upon hearing the news.
They didn’t mow it all but after heavy overnight rain – and perhaps the biting sarcasm of Kevin Na’s video and Lee Westwood’s Instagram posts – portions of the really thick fescue that guards some holes like an ankle monitor was trimmed.
— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) June 13, 2017
It happened on four holes – Nos. 4, 12, 14 and 18 – and it’s a bit like scooping a gallon of water from the ocean but the adjustment surprised some players, including McIlroy who happens to be one of the best drivers ever.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” McIlroy said, his exasperation apparent as he talked. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here, if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.
“These are the widest fairways we’ve ever played in a U.S. Open. Even the first and second cut is another 10 yards on top of that. So if you’ve got 50 or 60 yards to hit into and you’re complaining about the fescue that’s wider than that, I don’t think that’s an issue.
“I get that it’s thick and whatever but it’s a hazard. If you put red lines just right along that people wouldn’t complain, it’s a hazard … It’s a U.S. Open, it’s supposed to be a tough test and if guys can’t put it within a 50-yard zone, I don’t think they’ve got much to complain about.”
The fescue at the US Open is too long? Don't tell Rory McIlroy that nonsense.pic.twitter.com/L4KU41jMAB
— TotalProSports (@TotalProSports) June 13, 2017
During a morning meeting with reporters, USGA President Diana Murphy said some areas of the fescue would probably be trimmed because rain had caused the grass to lay down, making it more difficult to play from.
“Cutting the rough back doesn’t necessarily make it easier and what I mean by that is you then are presented with a shot where it’s almost a tease,” Jordan Spieth said. “You think, OK, they cut this back, this isn’t too bad. And all of a sudden that rough grabs your club and you hit a full 8-iron instead of hitting out to a good wedge number and you end up in the left fescue.
“I don’t think the golf course is unfair, by any means, because of the fescue. We have a wide enough area to hit it and you need to drive the ball well in order to win a U.S. Open. I think that’s a fair thing to say.”