U.S. Open Preview

I’m not sure what it says about us that we have a barbaric impulse to watch the best golfers in the world suffer. On Thursday, 156 said golfers will descend on the Heartland, taking amateur-like 7s and 8s on holes as they battle waist-high fescue and 7,800 yards of madness. Here’s a little preview so you can sound like a dad on Father’s Day.

Defending Champ: Dustin Johnson

The Course: Erin Hills, Erin, Wisconsin, (35 miles NW of Milwaukee, actually pronounced mill-e-wah-que, which is Algonquin for “The Good Land”)***

Par 72, 7,741 Yards, Rating 77.9/Slope 145 (nasty)

Erin Hills is a new U.S. Open venue, which means they and the USGA will want to showcase it as a brutal test (why do we love punishing ourselves?). It has hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links (2008) and the U.S. Amateur (2011). It’s a mix between a parkland and links course, and will be the first U.S. open in 25 years to play at a par 72. They’ve made the 138 bunkers on the course inhuman hazards, with no flat bottoms and plenty of restricted backswings. You’ll see a lot of players bailing out on what are normally routine bunker shots. It’s also the first U.S. Open to be played in Wisconsin.

The Field: It’s a major. It’s a good field. Only the top 60 and ties out of 156 make the cut, so you’re going to need to get really lucky to make any money if you play DraftKings. On a quick side note, much has been made about Phil Mickelson possibly missing the event due to his daughter’s high school graduation. As you’re probably aware, Phil has finished runner-up at 6 U.S. Opens and it’s the only major he’s never won. I say good on him. For all the bad acting, fake smiles and brushes with insider trading, he’s still an awesome dude. Way to put your ego aside Phil.

The Favorites:

Dustin Johnson (29/4 Vegas Odds): DJ hates Wisconsin. Well, maybe not the state as a whole, but he’s had some harsh misses. That being said, as always nowadays, he’ll be in the hunt. He just had a baby two hours ago as of this writing, so he’s carrying newborn swagger. Definitely a possibility, unless there’s a staircase in his rental or another vengeful USGA official.

Jordan Spieth (9/1): He plays great on crazy courses like this, but I just don’t see the firepower at 7,800 yards. It is interesting that he lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur in 2011, so he might have a bit more course knowledge than most.

Jason Day (11/1): I just feel like he’s going to be bitten by a disease-ridden mosquito before the tournament. He has all the tools to make it happen, besides luck.

Rory McIlroy (12/1): Uh-oh. This was my pick at the beginning of the year, so I suppose I have to stick to it. It can certainly happen if the putter gets hot, and it can happen by a lot of shots. I hate putting right now too Rory.

Jon Rahm (18/1): This is an extremely intriguing pick, and one many will be high on considering it’s pretty much a brand-new course for everyone. The Next Big Thing could contend, but I see a debilitating 9 on the scorecard somewhere.

Rickie Fowler (18/1), Justin Rose (20/1), Hideki Matsuyama (28/1), Sergio Garcia (28/1): For some reason, this feels like a Justin Rose tournament. He’s on a tear this year, with four top-tens and two seconds in his ten starts. The crazy thing is, his long-adulated approach game has held him back. If he finds that, watch out. As for the other three, I’d reverse Sergio and Rickie’s odds, and give Matsuyama a probable top-20. Sergio has virtually no pressure coming in, and he’s playing a course built for ball-striking, of which he’s long been the best in the world. I want to take him but will be too much of a wuss to pull the trigger.

Others to Watch: Byeong-Hun An, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Shane Lowry, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Daniel Berger

Sleepers: Graeme McDowell (my boy!), Jaimie Lovemark, Charl Schwartzel, Peter Uihlein, Talor Gooch (based on great name), Tommy Fleetwood, Ross Fisher

Prediction: Rory, can I trust you? Probably not, but if there’s anyone who could roll a course like this, it’s him (and DJ). I should take Justin Rose, but I’ll go with Rors and hope for the best.

Have a fantastic golf weekend, and a very happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hopefully you get a chance to play (the Hart Ranch Two-Person Best Ball is Saturday btw), then watch some excellent golfers complain about the USGA. Happy golfing!

***Hopefully you caught the reference