With 36 holes finished here at Erin Hills, the U.S. Open has reached its halfway point, and is more intriguing than ever. Thirty-two players are within five shots of the lead. Here are five burning questions we have before groups tee off Saturday.
1. How much rain will we see?
The forecast calls for plenty of rain, but just how much? Will it be enough to delay play? The course received nearly 1.5 inches overnight on Monday into Tuesday morning, which led to soft fairways and receptive greens. Rain can not only slow play, it can also lead to lower scores.
2. Will we see another 65?
With low scores in mind, can anyone shoot 65 on the weekend? We’ve already seen Rickie Fowler carve up the course to seven under on Thursday. Then Hideki Matsuyama ran out in 30 on the front nine Friday, and added a birdie on the back for a 65 of his own. The USGA is well-known for making life difficult for the field on the weekend, so the best score might be a lot closer to 68 or 69.
3. Who will join the pack?
We saw Matsuyama come back from a disappointing 74 on Thursday. The crew of six players at four under and five players at three under will have rolled through Erin Hills’ (relatively) easy first two holes before the final pairings hit the course, and they could create a comeback. Look for one of them to make a few birdies and hop up the leaderboard and into contention. That’s when things get interesting on the weekend.
4. And who will leave?
Erin Hills packs a punch. We’ve seen 77 double bogeys or worse through the first two rounds. Someone in the group of 12 players between five and seven under is sure to find the fescue more than once, make a couple bogeys en route and be unable to recover. Erin isn’t exactly giving in to aggressive play, so any player who backtracks and then tries to get it all back in quick fashion could be in trouble.
5. How will the 9th hole play?
The signature hole at Erin Hills was also the site of the USGA’s trickiest pin placement Friday. Where they place the pin on Saturday should be very interesting. It sat just over a ledge toward the back of the green Friday, in which going long meant bunker and being short meant collection area. Where will the Saturday pin be? There’s plenty of room short right that brings high-spinning wedge shots into boom or bust zone.