Tournament: U.S. Open Championship, June 15-18
Course: Erin Hills, 7,693 yards, par 72 (just outside Milwaukee, WI)
Purse: $12,000,000 (almost twice last week’s St. Jude Classic purse)
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson. In one of the weirder things to happen at a prestigious golf tournament, Johnson called an official over when the ball he was about to putt seemed to oscillate due to wind on the 5th hole of the final round. Nothing happened, but in the background, officials were reviewing it on video and told Johnson on the 12th hole that he may or may not be assessed a penalty. Not what you want to hear when you’re in contention for a major. He played it cool, and played his golf hot, and won by 3 strokes with some incredible power and finesse down the stretch.
Fun Fact: 58 of the top 60 in the world are playing. One of those not is Ryan Moore who is injured. The other is Phil Mickelson, who is attending the high school graduation of his oldest daugther. The kicker is that Phil was tied for the lead at the 1999 US Open, but pledged to leave no matter the score if his wife went into labor. Phil finished 2nd to Payne Stewart, his wife gave birth a couple of days later, and now that same child is speaking at her graduation and messing with her Dad’s schedule again. He claims that if there is a 4 hour weather delay on Thursday, it should push his 1st round tee time back enough that he can fly from San Diego to Milwaukee and make it in time. Phil gonna Phil.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1), 6-9 p.m. (FOX). Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (FOX). Sunday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (FOX). Can’t wait to see how Fox screws this one up.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Five): Harris English, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson
The USGA contests it’s most desirable championship this week, the mens US Open. And following their recent history, they are departing from traditional courses and trying out newer venues. This time it’s Erin Hills, a big piece of Wisconsin farmland. Not many trees but rolling hills and pretty wide open. The fairways are indeed wider than a usual USGA setup, but the long fescue, dunes, and sand should prove to be plenty of test to the world’s greatest golfers. The bunkers are concave and don’t really have a flat bottom, requiring players to be creative in exiting. And there are many, many blind shots due to small hills and other visual obstacles. Reviews are mostly positive, but we shall see at the end of the weekend.
There are many ways to qualify for this Open, and I’ll lay out how our ‘Dawgs got into the field.
Harris English. 1st round tee time 2:25 pm ET (local is Central). English placed in the top 6 of the Memphis Sectional qualifying tournament. He is paired with fellow Dawg Russell Henley (see below) and amateur Scottie Scheffler. Scheffler is playing in his 2nd US Open, having just finished his junior year at Texas and winning the Columbus, OH Sectional a week ago.
Russell Henley. 1st round tee time 2:25 pm ET. As stated above, Henley is playing with English and Scheffler. Henley qualified by being ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR). Vegas is giving him odds of 100-1, slightly above the field average.
Brian Harman. 1st round tee time 8:40 am ET. Harman is also qualified by being in the top 60 OWGR, and is playing with Tommy Fleetwood and Bud Cauley (‘Bama).
Kevin Kisner. 1st round tee time 9:24 am ET. The Kiz is paired with South African Branden Grace and Florida Gator Billy Horschel. I don’t expect the talk to be much about Jacksonville.
Bubba Watson. 1st round tee time 2:36 pm ET. Bubba is playing with Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia and this grouping will get plenty of TV coverage Thursday. Scott has been playing solid of late, and Garcia won the Masters in April (all 3 are Masters champs). Bubba is listed by Vegas at 60-1 as of press time.
Some other groups you might want to follow:
8:51 am ET: Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, and John Rahm.
Matsuyama was very hot in the winter, but has cooled off. Fowler and Rahm have been among the most consistent on Tour the last 6 months, and both have large followings.
9:35 am ET: Martin Kaymer, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson
Spieth is in a drought but is still a favorite to win, almost as much as Vegas front-runner and defending champ Johnson. DJ just welcomed a son Monday, as his wife Paulina Gretzky (yep, Wayne’s daughter) gave birth in L.A.
3:09 pm ET: Jason Day, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy
All three are among oddsmakers picks, and all three have been shaky of late. McIlroy will bring his new TaylorMade clubs to a major for the first time (he made the switch last month).
3:20 pm ET: Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, Phil Mickelson
Stricker is the hometown favorite being a Wisconsin lad, Cink is returning to form, and Mickelson always delights the crowds with spectacular makes and misses (if he even makes it). And all three are old by golf standards (Cink=44, Phil=47 Friday, Stricker=50).
The US Open is usually called the toughest test in golf due to course conditions (rough length, green speed, tight fairways) and some say they “protect par” by making it so difficult. But the USGA has had some gaffes of late and they don’t need another PR disaster so I think this will be a good week without too much carnage.
So there you go... all the knowledge I can fit in a thousand words (which includes my 750 word fillers). I’m lucky in that I have a birthday and Father’s Day, and this usually gets me at least those 2 days with some serious uninterrupted TV golf. My Nielsen box might explode when I actually turn over to Fox, but I’ll always watch and hope you do too.
And as always...