Tour Confidential Daily: Is Erin Hills a U.S. Open-caliber course?

Friday June 16th, 2017
1:22 | Tour & News
Fowler's 65 means we're on '63 Watch' at Erin Hills
Jessica Marksbury and Jeff Ritter talk about Rickie Fowler's strong opening round at Erin Hills and whether it means we'll see the first 63 at the U.S. Open since Johnny Miller in 1973.

We got our first look at rookie major venue Erin Hills on Thursday. So now we have to ask, is Erin Hills a U.S. Open-caliber course?

Alan Shipnuck: It was a fun day with lots of memorable shot-making. How often at the U.S. Open do you get bang-bang eagles like Sergio and Rory made this afternoon? And Rickie, among others, played simply beautiful golf. Given that this was the first-ever Open round at Erin Hills the USGA certainly erred on the side of caution in the setup. They can now start tightening it up, turning this place into a brute. I still think four under or five under could be the winning score, and that is right in the range of a successful Open, without any trickery in the setup.

Michael Bamberger: I think Erin Hills showed that it's a really good golf course for a U.S. Open. That's not the same as being a really good course. Merion is a really good course but not (in my opinion) a really good U.S. Open course. Six-hundred-fifty yards (18) ain't what it used to be. The game's gone crazy with the inability of the governing bodies to reign in equipment. As a result, you need an Erin Hills for a national championship. By the way, it's spectacularly beautiful, as is the drive to it.

Marika Washchyshyn: I'm sold. Any course that can draw scores ranging from 65s to 81s and have people guessing who shot those scores (be it the amateurs or the pros), is a worthy and exciting U.S. Open challenge, in my view. Now, bring on the weather!

Alan Bastable:I got my first good look at the course following Fowler's group today. (His round was stupid-good, btw.) First impression: It's hard. I mean, HARD. The fairways are wide, sure, but severely pitched, effectively shrinking the landing areas. The bunkers are nasty. The elevated greens require high, precise approaches. I can't imagine how difficult this place will play when the greens bake out. It could get ugly in a hurry. Open-worthy? Heck, yes.

Finally, in a round that counts, we got to see Erin Hills challenge the game's best.
Kohjiro Kinno/SI

Sean Zak: It might not REALLY blow hard until Sunday, so don't be shocked if scores hover near eight, nine or even 10 under after 36 holes. This wicked combination of wind, softness, fescue and wide fairways made for a gettable course for those playing well and a sometimes-brutal track for players struggling. That's VERY entertaining golf, and aren't we all just here to be entertained?

Sean Steinemann: One-thousand percent YES. And here's why: Fourteen shots separate leader Rickie Fowler and World No. 3 Jason Day. Fowler played lights out, while Day played from the fescue; good shots were rewarded and bad shots were penalized. What more could you ask for in a U.S. Open venue? Sure, Mike Davis may not be thrilled with some of the low scoring – and we are likely to see some devilish pins Friday because of that – but at the end of the day Erin Hills looked fantastic on TV and provided must-see, debacle-free golf. At least for one round…

Josh Sens: Yep. Today the course yielded more scores under par than in any first round in U.S. Open history. But as Alan says, that was as docile as we are likely to see it. Erin Hills is plenty stout to hold its own without any need of trickery to defend it. If we're lucky, and I suspect we will be, the course will recede as a storyline. No quirky conditions to cultivate rules controversies. No complaints about course setup, especially if Kevin Na stays under par and off Instagram.

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