June in the golfing world means only one thing…it must be time for the US Open. There's no doubt that the United States Open Championship is the hardest of the 4 Major Championships to win from a course difficulty perspective. The US Open has a history of visiting the most challenging golf courses across the country, but 2017 sees the United States Golf Association's (USGA) throw a curve ball with the pretty much unknown Erin Hills hosting the tournament from Thursday 15th June to Sunday 18th June 2017. The 117th United States Open Championship sees this famous Major Championship visit Wisconsin for the very first time and take on a course that very few in the field will have ever played competitively.
Now into our 8th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US Open tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2017 coverage with outright market tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free tournament and player statistics, plus of course our famous statistical Predictor Model.
Recent US Open history features a new breed of Major winners. 2017 saw the buccaneering Dustin Johnson show huge mental resolve to capture his first Major despite being told on the 12th tee of the final round that he was being assessed for a penalty sustained for his ball moving on the 5th green as he was addressing his putt. 2016 saw 21 year-old Jordan Spieth win back-to-back Majors at a versatile Chambers Bay course which split the opinions of both players and the wider golfing public. 2014 saw Martin Kaymer in a class of his own as he made playing Pinehurst Number 2 look unnaturally easy on his way to winning his 2nd Major title. 2013 saw Justin Rose capture his first Major Championship with an emotional victory at Merion Golf Club. These victories followed on from first Major wins from Webb Simpson (Olympic Club 2012), Rory McIlroy (Congressional 2011), Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach 2010) and Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black 2009). So just who will be the 2017 US Open champion?
So what do you need to know about the host course, Erin Hills?
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis has decided to go down the new course route which he followed with Chambers Bay in 2015. 2 years ago the course located on Puget Sound came in for some incredibly negative feedback from players, spectators and commentators alike, but although only 11 years old Erin Hills should offer a more traditional test. Erin is the romantic name for Ireland and the course has plenty of links to the Emerald Isle with the club's logo being a shamrock and there's also an Irish pub on the property. The course certainly has links-type connotations with golden fescue surrounding each hole and the layout will be the first Par 72 contested for this Major since 1992. Davis has already admitted that we may well see lower scoring in 2017 with the course facilitating a yardage of up to a maximum of 7,900 yards but featuring wide fairways which, in normal conditions, offer plenty of run.
What to Expect at Erin Hills
Erin Hills is located a 40 minute drive to the north-west of Milwaukee. Set in rolling countryside, the course undeniably has a links-like feel with plenty of undulations, fescue covered mounds, uneven fairways and a number of elevated green complexes. Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, they set out to mould the course to the local glacier defined topography and that is something they have achieved, letting the natural contours of the land provide the main challenge to the 2017 U.S. Open competitors. The result being that despite the course being completed as recently as 2006, Golf Digest ranked Erin Hills as the '8th best public course' in the United States and 42nd amongst the United States' greatest courses. In the views of USGA Chief Executive Mike Davis, the course stands up to the likes of Pebble Beach, Oakmont and 2018 U.S. Open venue Shinnecock Hills. High praise indeed.
Erin Hills Golf Course, Erin, Wisconsin: Designer: Hurdzan, Fry and Whitten 2006; Course Type: Technical, Inland Links; Par: 72; Length: 7,693 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 0; Fairways: Fine Fescue; Rough: Fine Fescue; Greens: 6,650 sq.ft average A4 Bentgrass.
The USGA have marked Erin Hills up as a 7,693 yard, par 72. With 3-5 tee boxes on most holes, there's in-built flexibility across the property. The course undoubtedly has a set of huge challenges which plenty of the players in the field will find wanting for. The course has elevation changes the like of which are rarely seen and the number of blind and semi-blind tee shots and approaches per round is notable. Fairways themselves are cantered with most of them featuring uneven landing areas. A mixture of deep and sprawling bunkers plus lengthy surrounding golden fescue generate a huge penalty for the wayward, plus a high number of the greens complexes are both raised and multi-tiered. Another Erin Hills feature which will differentiate it from other U.S. Open host courses is the number of green complexes that are surrounding by closely mown areas. Greens are well contoured with many of them repelling approach shots away from the putting surface and into deep surrounding swales. Undoubtedly high greens in regulation, scrambling from distance and 3-putt avoidance will be critical.
As the USGA did with Chambers Bay, Erin Hills hosted the United States Amateur Championship back in 2011 to assess how the course plays and to see where improvements can be made to make it a sterner test for the U.S. Open. Below is a list of players who played that week, many of whom will be competitors in the 2017 U.S. Open:
Below are some revealing comments about Erin Hills from the 2 finalists who competed here in the final of the 2011 US Amateur Championship:
Patrick Cantlay, Runner-up: "It was definitely the firmest day. Not quite as firm as Chambers, I don't think, especially in the fairway. The greens were close, but not the same. But it's still very firm, and the wind was blowing early this morning, made some holes play much different. I chipped 3-wood into 8, and yesterday I hit 9-iron or pitching wedge into 8. So that's just how much the golf course can change."
Kelly Kraft, Champion: "Yeah, you definitely have to play for that first bounce. In stroke play you could spin some shots back, but you didn't really have to play for any extra distance with your longer clubs whenever they landed on the greens. But now I think that you gotta play it 20 or 30 feet short of the flag if you have a 5-iron. You can't land it right on the hole because it's not going to stop. You're going to be 30 or 40 feet past the hole. So you definitely gotta play for that. With a wedge, they'll bounce probably 10 to 15 feet before they check. They'll check hard at the end. You know, they're not spinning back at all. But I mean I hit a couple like gap wedges that I kind of bounced in there, landed them 30 feet short and they spun right close to the hole. We play in the wind quite a bit, and the wind hasn't been horrible here. And right now the courses back in Texas are really hard, so we're used to playing hard courses, real firm courses. I don't know. I think it's great that there's some Texans in the matches tomorrow."
Erin Hills has never hosted a professional golf tournament. The course is long, wide and features contoured fairways which are surrounded by relatively thin primary cuts of rough, which will naturally be 4"+ thick. Any wider drives will visit thick, gnarly golden fescue. So key stats to look at should include Total Driving, Strokes Gained Tee to Green (on the PGA Tour) plus Greens In Regulation from other than the fairway. The property features no trees so the course is extremely exposed to the elements, which as ever could well be a huge factor. A wet course will be extremely long for shorter hitters and any meaningful wind will turn this into a ball-strikers contest.
Controlled length off the tee has to be an advantage at Erin Hills and players with a low stinger drive in their armoury if conditions get tough will have a huge advantage. Naturally a course that has a links-type feel always plays to the strengths of creative players who have excellent 'on the ground' skills in terms of both approach shot chip and runs and scrambling. That becomes imperative when green speeds are likely to be touching 12 on the stimpmeter, with plenty of raised green complexes featuring shaved run-off areas around them. Unlike Chambers Bay, the greens though should be excellent here as they feature established A4 Bentgrass putting surfaces.
But these comments made at The Masters in April by Mike Davis may prove to be very revealing when it comes to defining just how Erin Hills will play and what the target winning score might be, "All things being equal, I think the scoring will be lower at Erin Hills than at most other sites. The course should set-up at between 7,700 and 7,800 yards, but in reality the golf course actually will play shorter than most U.S. Opens. Shinnecock in 2018 will play longer as it will be a 7,500 yard Par 70. Not to mention that the fairways at Erin Hills are very generous and bouncy. Those who report that this will be over the top distance-wise, they don't get it. The clubs that the pros will hit into these greens, I promise you, will be less than some Opens."
Erin Hills: A links-style test where long-range aggression is rewarded.
Recent Form Is Paramount
It’s hard to draw comparisons between Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy, and Graeme McDowell but that's the beauty of the US Open course rota system. McDowell triumphed on a classical, poa annua greened coastal course. McIlroy created US Open history by taking apart a rain-softened, hybrid classical course which yielded the Northern Irishman an incredible 19 birdies and an eagle allowing Rory to shoot a US Open record low 268/-18 winning total. So it was guaranteed that the USGA would not allow that to happen again, cue Simpson's +1/281 total at Olympic Club (2012), Rose's Level/280 total at Merion and only three players broke par at Pinehurst in 2014. Fowler and Compton shot -1/279; but the USGA were thoroughly defeated by the sublime play of Martin Kaymer who lapped the field by shooting -9/271. The manufactured, coastal challenge of Chambers Bay by comparison was generous, allowing 8 players to shoot under par with Jordan Spieth winning when he converted for birdie on the 72nd hole, whereas Dustin Johnson 3-putted. This made Johnson's victory last year all the more impressive at Oakmont where his power-packed game, love for technical tracks and poa annua greens eventually prevailed after Shane Lowry crumbled in the Pennsylvania heat.
So with such disparity it’s interesting to note that all 7 players have one thing in common. They had all found top form going into the US Open. Nothing earth shattering in that, but in addition they had all performed well on courses that had similar characteristics to those on which they then went on to win on to capture the US Open.
Dustin Johnson had finished 4th at Riviera Country Club in February which featured poa annua mix greens. He had also finished 4th on an ultra-fast Augusta set-up despite finishing Thursday in 34th spot. A warm-up 5th the week before at the notoriously grinding TPC Southwind had also featured a closing -7/63. Spieth had won at the difficult Copperhead layout in February and finished 2nd at the technical TPC San Antonio prior to winning his first Major at Augusta. Kaymer had won The Players Championship at the technical TPC Sawgrass. Rose finished 4th at the technical PGA National and runner up at classical Bay Hill, before warming up with a strong 8th at the classical tree-lined Muirfield Village a fortnight before his 2013 Merion triumph. Simpson finished 10th on the technical, tree-lined Copperhead course at Innisbrook and 4th at classical Quail Hollow prior to his 80/1 triumph in San Francisco. McIlroy dominated at the most classical golf course on the planet, Augusta National for 54 holes, 2 months prior to capturing his first major championship at Congressional. However as part of his post Masters rehabilitation a chat with Jack Nicklaus produced a 5th behind Steve Stricker at the classical, bentgrass greened Muirfield two weeks prior to Congressional.
Dustin Johnson 2016 Results Pre US Open:
Jordan Spieth 2015 Results Pre US Open:
Martin Kaymer 2014 Results Pre US Open:
Justin Rose 2013 Results Pre US Open:
Webb Simpson 2012 Results Pre US Open:
Rory McIlroy 2011 Results Pre US Open:
Graeme McDowell 2010 Results Pre US Open:
Be Extremely Wary of the World Number 1
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 at the US Open? OWGR No.1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson (at the time of writing) undoubtedly has the perfect game for a long, inland links-like affair like Erin Hills. One of the very longest from off the tee, his outstanding wind play, accurate wedge game and top-class short game always make him a favourite when conditions get technical.
However, fact is a player going into the US Open as the World Number 1 ranked player has only won the title once in the last 13 attempts and that was Tiger Woods, who had won at Torrey Pines 6 times prior to his 2008 US Open victory there:
|US Open Winner||World Golf Rank|
Razor-Sharp Approach Play
Ask me what the key attribute is that a player needs to win the US Open and without hesitation I'll answer strong approach play with irons and utility clubs. The US Open invariably boils down to a key putt here, a missed putt there, but to be in the mix coming down the stretch on Sunday, a player needs to be hitting plenty of greens in regulation compared to the rest of the field. None of this is rocket science I grant you, but invariably players who can hit the ball close from the fairway, plus make putting surfaces when their drives stray from the short stuff, will have a huge advantage at Erin Hills.
Take the past 3 years where in 2014 Martin Kaymer, before arriving in North Carolina, had finished 3rd in the Greens in Regulation category at both TPC Sawgrass and Wentworth. Spieth (not known for his approach play in particular) had been 3rd for Greens in Regulation in Houston, 2nd at Augusta, 9th at Colonial and 2nd at TPC Four Seasons. 2016 saw Dustin Johnson play 2 consecutive weeks building up to Oakmont on tough golf courses, namely Muirfield Village and TPC Southwind. Results of 3rd and 5th were eye-catching enough, but Dustin also finished 3rd for Greens in Regulation at The Memorial Tournament and 10th for Greens in Regulation at the St Jude Classic.
|US Open Winner||Greens in Reg %||Season Green in Reg%||Proximity to Hole|
|2010||McDowell||58.33%, 12th||76th (Euro)||1st|
US Open Tips 2017
Our final US Open tips for the 2017 US Open from Erin Hills will be published as we approach the event in June - watch this space. Author Steve Bamford. Steve published his final 2016 US Open Tips here last year -click here for his final preview.
Researching the Open Championship? Read our Open Championship Tips 2017 guide for pre-event pointers!