Shackelford: Erin Hills may bite back this weekend

US Open-Erin Hills Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Shackelford: Erin Hills may bite back this weekend

PGA Tour

Shackelford: Erin Hills may bite back this weekend

 

ERIN, Wis.—You’ve heard the comments. This Erin Hills is no U.S. Open course. 

Where is the carnage? 

And the ultimate groaner for people of a certain vintage: it’s the Midwest Bob Hope Classic.

If you’ve sat with other golfers in a 19th hole watching the 2017 U.S. Open or even dared to search “low scores” on Twitter, there is outrage over the vulnerability of Erin Hills. Even here in Erin where the passionate Wisconsin fans see all of the danger lurking and try to figure out how they’d break 150 if they played here, there is still a sense that each birdie delivers a blow to Heartland pride.

“They’re tearing this place up,” Paul Azinger concluded at the start of Fox’s evening broadcast. 

The U.S. Golf Association can’t win. 

Coming off a bumpy few U.S. Opens, it has set up this gargantuan course to err on the side of moving the 156-player field around in what looked like six hours in the making. The field is playing faster and better than anyone could have imagined, thanks to impeccable putting surfaces and winds barely showing up. Couple these factors with early week rains softening up the surfaces and … they’re selling the U.S. Open’s soul?

US Open-Erin Hills-Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy was no match for Erin Hills this week as the No. 2-ranked player in the world missed the cut. (Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports)

Not so fast.

Ask players. Erin Hills is definitely all the test they can handle. So thanks for playing, see you at Shinnecock next year long-bombers Rory McIlroy (78-71) and Jason Day (79-75). By the way, have you got room on your jets for recent Tour winners Wesley Bryan (76-83), Jason Dufner (76-75) and Billy Horschel (79-77)?

They won’t be calling Erin Hills easy any time soon.

While it’s convenient to seize on PGA Tour event-style scoring and the totally foreign U.S. Open sight of more than 40 players in the red, the numbers also suggest Erin Hills could still induce the misery so many crave.

First, though, we might get more rain.

On-site forecaster Jake Swick says we face a 40 percent chance of showers and storms most, if not all, of Saturday. More moisture will soften up the greens and extinguish hot spots that started cropping up Friday. But even if the course softens, USGA executive director Mike Davis and rules chief Jeff Hall have a few course setup cards to play.

In an effort to get the players around without backups, they shelved the risk-reward touches they like to incorporate. Expect that to change Saturday, with many holes to be presented in ways that produce drama. For every eagle or birdie, expect just as many big numbers.

Throw in the .91 inches of overnight rain and players should be able to attack Saturday.

And then there’s Sunday.

According to Swick, the forecasted wind may present “the strongest day of the championship rounds,” with west and northwest winds sustained at around 15 mph, with gusts of 25 mph or so. 

If the USGA tucks up a few hole locations, mows those huge, tight-grass slopes a little tighter and gives the perfect greens one more roll, Erin Hills could be turned into a final-round beast.

So even if the rains come and the red numbers stick around, you need not worry about this test.

A year from now, we will only remember the champion’s name and who he beat. Erin Hills will get another U.S. Open some day. And for the players, it will still be the ultimate challenge.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home