The Confidence Factor: U.S. Open
June 13, 2017
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Defending U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson's game was built for a test like Erin Hills. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Although it's never hosted a sanctioned event for professionals, Erin Hills Golf Course isn't entirely foreign land to the field of 156 at the U.S. Open. Eighteen entrants competed in the 2011 U.S. Amateur. Half advanced to match play, including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Russell Henley, Harris English and Peter Uihlein. Among those who failed to advance, Brooks Koepka, Emiliano Grillo and PGA TOUR rookie C.T. Pan are the most notable.
Still, there's only so much calming of the nerves that limited experience as an amateur six years ago can have in a major championship. So, just like a couple before it this year, this edition of this weekly staple focuses solely on specific statistics that project success on the 7,741-yard behemoth northwest of Milwaukee.
NOTE: For each of the stats below, all in the field who rank inside the top 25 on the PGA TOUR are cited.
* - In the Power Rankings
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
Always relevant, its value increases when unfamiliar greens serve as the targets. Hitting full shots is a constant. Being in tune with distance and accuracy is evidence of confidence.
Rank Golfer 1 *Dustin Johnson 2 *Jon Rahm 3 *Sergio Garcia 4 *Francesco Molinari 7 *Hideki Matsuyama 8 *Justin Thomas 9 *Kevin Kisner 10 *Jordan Spieth 11 *Rickie Fowler 13 Paul Casey 14 *Justin Rose 15 Byeong Hun An 17 *Louis Oosthuizen 18 Lucas Glover 19 *Adam Scott 20 Brendan Steele 21 Ryan Palmer 23 *Jason Dufner 24 Marc Leishman 25 Webb Simpson
Greens in Regulation
With generous fairways, the trouble is pronounced around greens. Dastardly bunkers are poised to swallow wayward approach shots. The final leaderboard may very well consist of those who lead the field in GIR.
Rank Golfer 1 *Dustin Johnson 3 Lucas Glover 4 *Jordan Spieth T7 Paul Casey T7 *Sergio Garcia 9 Billy Horschel 10 *Hideki Matsuyama 12 *Justin Thomas 13 Bill Haas 15 *Jon Rahm 16 *Justin Rose 19 Stewart Cink 21 Gary Woodland T23 Keegan Bradley 25 Russell Henley
While the winner is expected to land several strokes under par, lest we forget that this is a U.S. Open. Salvaging pars after finding trouble can feel like finding birdies and can score like half-birdies. So, scrambling supersedes bogey avoidance as the preferred angle. Strokes gained: putting may be more statistically relevant in retrospect, but with virtually zero experience on the greens at Erin Hills, going in focusing on the up-and-down game is more sensible since putting is baked into it.
Rank Golfer 1 Brendan Steele 5 Paul Casey 7 Adam Hadwin 10 *Matt Kuchar 13 Webb Simpson 16 Bill Haas 17 Wesley Bryan 18 *Louis Oosthuizen 19 *Jon Rahm 21 Daniel Berger 22 *Rickie Fowler 25 *Hideki Matsuyama
The USGA has taken heat recently, but it again has the opportunity to showcase which of the world's best golfers deserve to be crowned the 117th champion of the national open. It will not hurt the optics that Erin Hills is the first par 72 to host a U.S. Open since Pebble Beach in 1992. And while all four par 5s can stretch over 610 yards – it's possible for the 18th hole to reach 675 yards – those are the holes that will help generate churn on the leaderboard. Expect the USGA to dial in yardage based on wind, hole locations and relevant difficulty of holes before and after each.
Rank Golfer 1 *Hideki Matsuyama 2 *Dustin Johnson 3 Brooks Koepka T4 *Rickie Fowler T4 Phil Mickelson (will remain in the field as long as he can) T4 *Jordan Spieth T7 Pat Perez 9 *Sergio Garcia T11 *Jon Rahm T14 Whee Kim T14 *Francesco Molinari T14 *Charl Schwartzel T19 Russell Henley T19 *Justin Rose T19 *Justin Thomas T25 *Jason Day T25 Marc Leishman T25 Gary Woodland