2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills Picks, Including the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #isitThursdayyet

“It’s like a British Open, except with hills and green grass.”  Ok, actually no one has said that quote (yet), but basically that’s what I see and feel with Erin Hills as the U.S. Open host course this week.  

The USGA continues their shakeup of “the usual” U.S. Open rota, as two years after sidestepping to the unconventional Chambers Bay (where players described the greens like putting on broccoli or cauliflower), the blue bloods have brought us to another newbie in Erin Hills in rural Wisconsin.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bringing new tracks into the mix, it’s just that such a deviation from the norm for an organization like the USGA is eye-opening to say the least (well, it used to be anyway).

Erin Hills is a behemoth, playing over 8,100 yards from the super tips.  Yep, you read that number right.  EIGHT THOUSAND YARDS.  No, that’s not some like metric conversion mixup, that’s like in real life, dude.  But, have no fear, the U.S. Open card has it “only” around 7,700 yards for this week, and it likely will even play shorter than that as Mike Davis and his crew annually get crafty shifting those tee markers around.  The course is filled with fescue grasses galore that will swallow an errant shot like nobody’s business and its rolling hills provides for just enough elevation change to create some blind tee and approach shots and make for some tricky club selection.  Oh yeah, and then there’s the diabolical, like-putting-on-your-kitchen-floor green surfaces that will likely run in the 14 range on the stimpmeter.  You may see players and caddies in helmets this week so that they don’t slip and fall and crack their heads open on those slick surfaces (#kiddingjustsortof).  And then there’s the mother nature element, as with it being in the prairie it’s highly susceptible to the breeze, which will add to the carnage this week.

It’s almost impossible to predict a winning score on such a new venue, but despite its length and other trouble, I’ll call for some stud in particular (see below) taming the young beast and posting a winning 3-under mark this week.

I’ll be there in person on Friday and Saturday.  #cantwait

Now, let’s hop into some picks:

LOCKZILLA (Last Week: Dufner MC)

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka
– Inevitable.  That’s the word that I’d use to describe Brooksy’s chances at winning a major, and if I had to bet on it happening I’d go with the U.S. Open (which actually I did already in Vegas while there in April :).  He has an extra gear that he seems to be able to kick his game into at majors, with five top 11s already in his young career, most recently a t-11th at the Masters in April.  He also has a game that seems to move from year to year and venue to venue at the U.S. Open, going t-4th at Pinehurst in 2014, t-18th at Chambers Bay in 2015 and t-13th last year at Oakmont.  He’s a basher off the tee with a mighty fine touch around the greens, both of which are something that the winner this week will need to possess.

SEMI-FLIER (Last week: Kirk t-67th)

Kevin Kisner
Kevin Kisner
– Grit.  Guts.  Drive.  Desire.  Confident.  Those are five words that I’d use to describe Kevin Kisner’s game and also five words that I’d say are ideal qualities of a player poised to host our nation’s winning trophy.  I was actually hoping that he would not win at Colonial a couple weeks ago, as I wanted him to stay extra under the radar heading into this week.  But, that second career win, as well as two other runner-ups since March (Bay Hill, 2-man at Zurich) are something that he can draw some extra confidence from.  Expect for that Southern grit to be on full display in contention this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Sadlowski MC)

Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia
– This is all too easy… If you merely look at his U.S. Open record (and major record for that matter), it’s quite solid, with a t-5th last year and no missed cuts since ’07 and ’06, but with a first major championship in tow I’m calling for an extra lackadaisical attitude this week towards the entire week (surely including some negative comments about the fescue to the media) and ultimately a weekend off.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last week: Haas t-12th)

Marc Leishman
Marc Leishman
– I mentioned the breeze above and there aren’t too many better in those elements than the 33-year-old Aussie.  Leishman is having a very fine season with 8 top 25s, including a win at Arnie’s event back in March, and has maintained that good form finishing t-15th at the Memorial just a couple weeks ago.  Last year at Oakmont he finished t-18th, despite a 77 on Saturday and has been close in majors 3 times before, with a t-4th at the Masters in 2013 and a t-5th and t-2nd at the British Open in ’15 and ’16.  He’s bound to break through at some point, and it’s hard to imagine a better setup for him than this week.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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