This wasn’t billed as the Spring of Gil Hanse & Jim Wagner restorations, but that’s what it’s been.
Four weeks after showcasing the transformation of Southern Hills Country Club for the PGA Championship, the duo is back at it with the latest iteration of The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, for the 122nd U.S. Open.
Characteristics of the charismatic par 70, how it will test and more are detailed below.
POWER RANKINGS: U.S. OPEN
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Hideki Matsuyama 19 Billy Horschel 18 Daniel Berger 17 Corey Conners 16 Joaquin Niemann 15 Will Zalatoris 14 Tony Finau 13 Collin Morikawa 12 Max Homa 11 Patrick Cantlay 10 Cameron Smith 9 Matt Fitzpatrick 8 Jordan Spieth 7 Shane Lowry 6 Xander Schauffele 5 Jon Rahm 4 Sam Burns 3 Scottie Scheffler 2 Rory McIlroy 1 Justin Thomas
PGA TOUR rookies Cameron Young, Mito Pereira and Davis Riley will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
If there were any straight roadways in Boston, The Country Club would be a mere three-mile commute from Fenway Park. In fact, it could be a well-traveled route for eager sports fans what with the Red Sox beginning a nine-game homestand this week. Another two miles into the city – again, only as the crow flies – the Celtics will be hosting Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. So, because it’s getaway day for the Oakland Athletics, one could attend all three competitions on Thursday alone, pending ticket availability, of course.
Boston sports fans are notoriously ardent in their support … and their criticism. All by themselves, they bring to life the good, the bad and the ugly of why we allow ourselves to fall in love with sports. The U.S. Open doesn’t come to town often, so it’s the best problem to have for those planning on taking in at least two of these pursuits. However, once someone strides into The Country Club, there likely will be an urge to stay. The stock par 70 measuring 7,264 yards excites the senses visually, so you only can imagine how it engages with the sensibilities of the 156 in the field.
A primary step in Hanse’s and Wagner’s restoration was tree removal. As a result, striking vistas have replaced the more classic, tree-lined memories of the 1988 U.S. Open and the 1999 Ryder Cup. The 2013 U.S. Amateur is the most recent notable competition to have been contested here. Matt Fitzpatrick prevailed, Corey Conners was a semifinalist, Scottie Scheffler was a quarterfinalist, and Xander Schauffele and Patrick Rodgers reached the round of 16 that week. All and many more who advanced to match play are back this week.
There almost always is an inverse relationship between trees and opportunities to escape, but the new elbow room won’t encourage pulling drivers more often. The three-fold combination of customarily gnarly rough framing sightlines off tees, seriously protected Poa-bentgrass greens and putting surfaces that average just under 4,440 square feet will force most to play target golf. Greens range from 3,222 square feet at the famous, par-4 17th hole to 6,556 square feet at the par-3 sixth.
All in all, conditions are typical for mid-June in these climes, which is to say that not much of tomorrow will resemble today. After a pedestrian opener, the threat for inclement weather intrudes at some point into Friday, and maybe later in the day. It’ll be warm and muggy. Another chance for rain exists on Saturday when the daytime high may not touch 75 degrees. It’ll drop every further for the finale for what should be a fantastic finish. Wind could be a factor throughout, particularly with encroaching energy.
The U.S. Open often is defined as the tournament that identifies the best golfer, but The Country Club likely will showcase one of the best golfers of late. Confidence off the tee establishes the theme, while precision on approach pays off the plan, but the usually fine line between par and bogey is much more pronounced in the U.S. Open. Because of the challenge, not only will par be an acceptable score but there will be some good bogeys squared.
The champion likely will have cooked up a recipe dominated by one part course management and two parts patience. Counting on others to make more mistakes is the secret sauce.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws and Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ’Em Preview
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.