Erin Hills Delivers As U.S. Open Host Despite Lack Of Drama, Star Power On Sunday
Opinions "were mixed on whether Erin Hills deserved to be called a U.S. Open-caliber course," but players for the most part "loved the course, especially the young bombers who are taking over the game," according to a front-page piece by Tom Oates of the WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL. Players "griping about the course is a staple at U.S. Opens and, tellingly, there was little of that once the tournament began Thursday." Golfer Brandt Snedeker said, "The USGA did a great job with the golf course. I know it’s not what everybody expected U.S. Open-wise, but they didn’t try to monkey with the course and get some arbitrary numbers. They let the course stand for itself." The week was a "perfect storm for scoring and the course shouldn’t be written off because of it." Oates notes rain early in the week "left the greens uncharacteristically receptive for the first round." The course started "drying out by Friday afternoon, but a storm Friday night kept the conditions ideal for scoring." It "didn’t help that the wind -- Erin Hills’ best defense -- was a no-show until the final day." A "kinder, gentler USGA contributed" to lower scores as well, as the organization seemed "determined to make sure Erin Hills was well-received in its debut." Some tweaks "need to be made should the U.S Open return." Still, the word most used by competitors to "describe the course was fair" (WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, 6/19). Fox’ Joe Buck during yesterday's telecast said, “I didn’t talk to anybody who didn’t tell me that this golf course was tough, but fair. ... All in all, people walk away from this experience at Erin Hills going, ‘This is a place I want to play.’” USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis said, “It's been a wonderful host site. ... We've been very pleased. Like you do at any one of these things, if you had to do it over, you'd make a few alterations here and there. But a great start to a golf course that's only a dozen years old” ("U.S. Open," Fox, 6/18).
GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION: In Tacoma, Todd Milles wrote Erin Hills was "nothing short of spectacular in its U.S. Open debut." It made "such a favorable impression ... that it would be hard not to see it emerge as the USGA’s go-to venue in the Midwest for the foreseeable future." Golfer Michael Putnam: "I have not heard one negative comment yet" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 6/18). In Charlotte, Ron Green Jr. wrote no one was "quite sure what they would find when the U.S. Open came to Erin Hills." It turned out to be a "place worth returning to in the future" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/18). In Milwaukee, Alec Lewis notes a "number of golfers weighed in on the course" throughout the week, and each "relayed a similar message: They really liked Erin Hills, even if it didn't produce 'U.S. Open-like' scores" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/19).
THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes under the header, "'Awesome' Erin Hills Deserves Another U.S. Open." This was a "non-traditional U.S. Open," and despite the "drama-free Sunday, it produced a damn good time." Golfer Jordan Spieth said, "It's an awesome golf course. ... That's been the consensus from everybody" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/19). Golfer Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin native, said that he "hopes the U.S. Open returns." He said, "I would think they want to change a few things. Maybe narrow the fairways a little bit. I'd like to see the fescue a little bit thinner and the fairways a little bit narrower, so it's not a full shot penalty for hitting in the fescue, but it's going to be harder to hit fairways. ... It would be great for them to come back here" (ESPN.com, 6/18). GOLFWEEK.com's Geoff Shackelford wrote Erin Hills "works better" than Whistling Straits, located about a hour north, as a "major venue." The design "features more standout holes" and the players "barely complained about anything." However, the USGA "needs to have more significant events before awarding tournaments to modern venues." It will be "at least a decade before they visit an untested and newish design." The Erin Hills setup "erred on the conservative side out of concern for wind and firm conditions accentuating its many big design features." Regardless, the USGA "needed a week where it was about the players, even if it meant producing a record-tying winning score" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/18).
WHAT THE USGA NEEDED: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard wrote the U.S. Open "may not have been the showstopper officials had been hoping for, but after taking a few shots to the chin in recent years the USGA's experiment at Erin Hills was widely considered a success, qualified or otherwise" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/18). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes the week "showed how much fun our Open can be, when the course on which it's played lets its hair down, even if unintentionally." The best players in the world were "allowed to be creative and to dare" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 6/19). Newsweek’s Eamon Lynch said, “I do think the USGA was a little gun-shy this week, frankly, after the embarrassment of Chambers Bay two years ago where they lost the golf course, and then the rules fiasco last year at Oakmont so they really kind of constrained themselves to a much greater degree this week than they have in the past” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 6/18). GOLF.com's Sean Zak as part of the site's weekly roundtable wrote, "[The USGA needs] to construct a fair, difficult test for the U.S. Open once a year. That does not need to include any preordained notions about par." He noted the USGA "succeeded this week in keeping the focus off them, and on the competition." GOLF.com's Josh Sens: "The combination of the weather and the safe setup made it less than a great U.S. Open course this week." SI.com's Jeff Ritter noted a "true U.S. Open includes small moves up the leaderboard, but the real drama comes from watching guys hold on for dear life and avoid the spectacular crashout." Ritter: "This edition lacked that" (GOLF.com, 6/18).
NEEDS MORE COWBELL: In N.Y., John Harper notes if U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka "goes on to become a big name in his sport ... we'll all remember this as the U.S. Open at which a star was born." However, his "impressive game wasn't enough to make this U.S. Open particularly memorable." The tournament was "pretty disappointing for the average golf fan." Harper: "I sit down to watch the U.S. Open on Sunday hoping it delivers in three ways: 1. Star Power. 2. Drama. 3. Misery." This Open "gave us little to none of the above" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/19). In Chicago, Mike Imrem writes the U.S. Open was as "dynamic as a grammar-school checkers playoff." Koepka was "about as flamboyant as a clump of fescue." When he "dropped the final putt, a couple weak fist pumps signaled relief rather than victory" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 6/19). In N.Y., George Willis writes if people "don't follow golf" they probably "didn't recognize the names on the leaderboard Sunday." People have been "waiting to see who will be the next Tiger Woods." Willis: "We’d better get accustomed to the fact that may never happen, not with the depth and the talent that was on display this weekend" (N.Y. POST, 6/19).