It'd be cute and corny to phrase who has the mettle or brain for the kettle moraine, but it's still the proper thought in advance of the 117th edition of the U.S. Open.
Erin Hills Golf Course, an other-worldly slice of land northwest of Milwaukee, is hosting Wisconsin's first-ever U.S. Open. Sculpted primarily by the convergence of glaciers – if you pay attention this week, you'll learn more about geological evolution than you probably ever wanted – it's a bona fide rival to any other natural site for golf. All it's missing is history and tradition, so start the clock.
Published at 7,741 yards and like most modern designs, the stock par 72 will reward length and accuracy off the tee. However, neither isn't a prerequisite due to generous fairways and rolling terrain. The fescue fairways are defended by the potential for severe, uneven lies, while rough (also fescue) very well may be a competitor's friend as long as it prevents wayward strikes from reaching some of the gnarliest second cut you'll ever see. More importantly, with only five trees on the course, the virtual absence of targets on horizons emphasizes the value of preparation and course management.
Since Tiger Woods' last victory in a major at the 2008 U.S. Open, 22 of the 35 winners in majors have been first-timers, including six in the U.S. Open (2009-2013, 2016). Each of the last six majors overall crowned first-timers. Take these facts and trends into consideration when reviewing who gets the nod at No. 1 below.
POWER RANKINGS: U.S. OPEN
1 Rickie Fowler 2 Dustin Johnson 3 Jason Day 4 Jon Rahm 5 Rory McIlroy 6 Adam Scott 7 Jordan Spieth 8 Charl Schwartzel 9 Justin Rose 10 Jason Dufner 11 Hideki Matsuyama 12 Kevin Kisner 13 Martin Kaymer 14 Justin Thomas 15 Louis Oosthuizen 16 Sergio Garcia 17 Francesco Molinari 18 Thomas Pieters 19 Alex Noren 20 Matt Kuchar
Many notables are playing well enough right now to appear above, but they've been bumped to Tuesday's Fantasy Insider. That group will include Wisconsin native Steve Stricker, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Shane Lowry.
Despite opening just 11 years ago, Erin Hills isn't a stranger to the USGA. The U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links sparked the relationship in 2008. The U.S. Amateur came to town in 2011 when Kelly Kraft defeated Patrick Cantlay for the title. Both are currently PGA TOUR members, but neither qualified this week. Still, both would attest to the steep test of the bentgrass greens.
Surfaces average 6,500 square feet – emphasis on "average," for the actual sizes hole by hole vary significantly enough to remind you that an average is but the result of simple math – and will be prepped to roll 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. That matches or at least served as the baseline for the measurement in 2011.
There are 138 bunkers, most (all?) of which are legitimate hazards due to depth, elevation change and the possibility of a lie in the sand up against rough. There are ponds on the course but water doesn't come into play.
Because Erin Hills is exposed, wind is a natural defense. Then, because there are few if any cues to determine its direction, the challenge is compounded. A prevailing wind from the west and southwest is expected throughout, but its impact on club selection may be relevant only with the proximity of storms that are forecast early on both Thursday and Friday, and again later on Friday. Gradually decreasing daytime highs could land in the mid-70s for the conclusion on Father's Day. That's one tradition that's already embedded into this tournament no matter its location.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, The Confidence Factor, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays