The construction of Erin Hills began in 2004 and it officially opened in 2006. Courses like Erin Hills developed the latest trend in US golf course instruction...find unused land out of the middle of nowhere and develop that land into an upscale golf retreat. Much like Bandon Dunes out in Oregon or Streamsong Resort in Florida.
The course was designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan. I have played a couple of Hurdzan's designs and his early designs I really didn't care for. However, you could see tremendous progress he has made in his design concepts as his more recent designs are quite excellent. The general reviews for the design of Erin Hills are very positive. It's just a case of how much the USGA wants to mess it up.
One of the issues at hand is the tall fescue that apparently is on every hole. Kevin Na recently discussed this in an Instragram video he made:
I'm a huge fan of the US Open and all things being equal, it's my favorite golf tournament. But my worries are that the USGA will, once again, make the course visually and physically unappealing to watch. I've heard nothing but good reviews about Chambers Bay by golfers that have played there, but the 2015 US Open made the course look like a goat track and play like a pinball machine. Sure, everybody is playing the same course, but turning a good course into a disaster just lacks common sense.
In essence, the USGA needs to do away with the 'we want the winning score to be even par' mantra and just break it down into:
1. If you hit a below average shot you will likely be penalized
2. If you hit a better than average shot you will not be penalized for it.
It's not rocket science.
I actually like that the US Open is now being played at more modern courses. Traditional courses like Baltusrol, Medinah and The Country Club are fairly boring to me. And honestly, I find Oakmont to be boring outside of the incredible speed of the greens and the church pews. I still think Pebble Beach is a fine course, but the conditions during the US Open are almost always dreadful.
What we know about Erin Hills is that it may play to over 7,800 yards and has an index rating of 77.9 with a slope of 145. The greens are bentgrass and should be fairly slick. However, I doubt they'll get them above 13 on the stimp (let's keep our fingers crossed with the USGA) due to the undulations and possible winds which would make it difficult to keep the ball from rolling on the greens if they are too fast.
What's also nice is that they haven't created any super ridiculous par-3's and have reserved more of the length of the course for the Par-5's which are 608, 607, 613 and 663 yards a piece.
It's always difficult to project a course that the Tour hasn't played, but Kelly Kraft won the US Amateur at Erin Hills in 2011. Here's a look at Kraft's key performance metrics this season:
It's a stretch to accurately judge the winner by looking at Kraft's metrics six years after he won a US Amateur there. But, my educated guess is that iron play will be a larger deciding factor and because it'st he US Open, I would look at performance from 175-250 yards (yes, extend out to 225-250 yards). It's interesting that he is a poor Driver and Short Game performer. However, Payne Stewart wasn't the greatest driver of the ball when he won his US Opens and Graeme McDowell was a notoriously poor around the greens when he won the US Open at Pebble Beach.
With that being said, the safe bets are still to look at:
- Performance from 175-250 yards
- Performance off the tee
- Short Game play from 10-20 yards
- Avoid players that missed the cut at Memphis
- Avoid players that have never won a PGA or European PGA Tour event
Since the field is so much larger at the US Open, I will give 20 picks (10 favorites, 10 dark horse picks):
Dustin Johnson +750
Jordan Spieth +1,200
Rory McIlroy +1,200
Jason Day +1,400
Jon Rahm +2,000
Justin Rose +2,200
Sergio Garcia +2,200
Adam Scott +3,000
Justin Thomas +3,300
Branden Grace +4,000
3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS
Louis Oosthuizen +5,000
Kevin Kisner +6,600
Shane Lowry +6,600
Daniel Berger +6,600
Jason Dufner +6,600
Marc Leishman +8,000
Byeong-Hun An +10,000
Brendan Steele +12,500
J.B. Holmes +12,500
Martin Laird +20,000