The most important tool for the professional golfer when they are on the course besides their caddie is their yardage book. You know, that little book they pull out of their pocket with all the numbers, formulas, and lines. Tour players study it feverishly prior to each shot and with their caddies base all their on-course decisions from this little book. Ever wonder what’s inside that yardage book and how the Tour Player approaches dissecting the course?
This week with the new course at Erin Hills and no history to speak leaves us a bit in the dark as to how the course will play but the press comes to our aid in majors with super charged coverage leading up to the event. At 7,700+ yards, a ton of hills, and nary a tree to speak of Erin Hills is like a links course on steroids. Lots of long irons and small greens with plenty of trouble abound. It is big boy golf 100% of the way this week, don;t be looking for too many scrubs to rise up to the occasion this week. For all the in depth course angles, be sure to read my other article Tee 2 Green: The First Cut @ The US Open as we check out course angles and such. For now let’s get into the mid week updates, weather and the yardage book.
Course Condition Report
Well the BREAKING NEWS is the cutting of the rough prior to tee off at Erin Hills! As you might have seen, at the time of writing this Twitter blew up about the USGA caving to the demands of the likes of Kevin Na and proceeded to cut the rough on some holes in what appeared to be an effort to make the course less penalizing for missing (generous) fairways by only 5-10 yards.
I am not sure how I feel about this as a fan yet but as a analyst in evaluating a course, it certainly changes the dynamic and will change the way players approach the holes that have been widened. Initially, it makes you think this would be a huge advantage to the bombers who will now be less hesitant in their lines off the tee and less penalized when they go a bit wayward.
When selecting players this week I do think this news is early enough that most people will have a chance to react and I would suspect that most people will favor a bomber heavy approach even more so they they might already have been.
I will say that even cut back this stuff looks pretty tough and i doubt you will be making any birdie runs if you are playing many holes from it anyway. For all the fuss about cutting it back, I am not sure it really makes the course any easier, if only more playable. I still expect a really tough course and lots of less than favorable lies out of that fescue.
The course was hammered by heavy directional rains the past day and it has caused the grounds crew to call for all hands on deck as they combat that weather damage and prepare for the biggest stage.
Right now Thursday is looking like an ideal golf day especially if the course gets softened up a bit like expected and the greens are receptive enough to let someone get a low number. There is little chance of rain and the winds for Thursday are expected to be steady around 6-9 in the morning wave with gustsap to the 12mph mark. The afternoon wave will see slightly higher winds in the 12-16 mph range for steady breezes and gusts up to 25 mph. Generally speaking that is the theme this week with the winds according to several reports I have read about the patterns at Erin Hills. Calmer morning at 6-12 average and wicked afternoons in the 15-24 mph range..
Friday looks to potentially bring some more rain and thunderstorms in the morning hours. It is is a better than 50% chance of showers in the morning at this point and winds that mirror Thursdays in that the morning wave may get slightly higher winds due to the storms that can move through in the morning. This makes us start thinking about a draw bias that could develop if the forecast bears out as is (doubtful, check again before lock) to lean AM/PM wave stacks. We will have to wait and see closer the lock if that comes true but stay tuned.
It looks like Friday night will bring some more rain that will likely spill over into Saturday morning, potentially impacting play. Either way the course will get some more water and be receptive (hopefully not sloppy) for a moving day depending on when play gets started. Sunday brings less of a chance of rain but it is still there. The winds on the weekend are lighter than average but peak when the storms cells have potential to move through. The winds on the weekend will be a shifting target and projecting them this far out is not a useful exercise as they will change. Suffice to say that weather will be a factor this week both in wind and rain.
Stats from the Pro
As we do each week, we will take a look at what kind of stats the pros think are going to be important to succeeding around Muirfield Village this week. Remember that birdies or better % is not always factored here but should definitely be factored into your models each week. These are the stats that the pros will focus on this week in order to get to and stay at the top of the leaderboard, not necessarily for scoring DK points.
The correspondence from the guys out there this week has them looking at a few different things for success that we have touched on all week in our key stats for finding DK success.
The stats for the pros this week
- SG: Off The Tee
- Total Putting
- Gotta Be Tough (Physical/Mental)
Scrambling is going to be WAY more important than most people think this week. Even with the wet conditions, guys will be missing greens and getting up and down form that will be the difference on a course where missing the green is/can be extremely penalizing.
The Long iron game is historically what has decided the U.S. Open, the demand on precision control with the long clubs is what sets players apart.
Getting around Erin Hills with your driver efficiently will be key (even after the cutting of the rough)
The greens are pure out there and a good putter will have an advantage (assuming they can get tee 2 green ok)
Finally, this is the US Open!!! It is brutal (even with short grass) on the mind and body! Erin Hills is a LONG course with a ton of elevation change. Guys are going to be getting a workout daily just to play the round, let alone if the conditions get bad and delays occur…it is going to break some of these guys. When the body gets tired, the mind follows and vice versa; Erin Hills is set up to make you both mentally and physically tired…no telling what happens with these guys when the rigors of a major championship course take their toll this week. Target golfers that know how to plan their way around a course, when you have a plan for each hole and are disciplined enough to stick to it you tend to do better. Guys that can compartmentalize and know that they have to buy their time to get a shot back will have a leg up this week. Going on tilt and getting greedy at a place like Erin Hills will put you in a bad spot in a hurry. Guys that stay patient this week should do well.
So a quick recap of the card…Erin Hills is a brutal course. Lots of long irons and lots of trouble for missed greens. At this point it doesn’t look like the fairways are going to be running out much with the rain and the fact that they cut the fecsue back should make the course even easier from a driving perspective. That said, it will come down to long irons and scrambling as guys will need to hang on to shots around this place.
Erin Hills is going to be a great course to watch all week mainly because of the flexibility and dynamic nature of the “ever” changing winds around here too. You will notice that the wind direction column is missing because it is rarely consistent from day to day around here and with the storm projected to roll through and change it even more I choose to omit it simply because I don’t think it will be helpful to use for our decision making this week. Expect a different course everyday from the crew at Erin this week and the USGA, they love the multiple tee set ups for every day.
I have included the varied yardages the holes will be played at above. We have a wide range of distances that the holes can change by daily this week. For example the 12th is set to be the same everyday with only 1 tee marker range while the 18th will be played from a different tee each day and will vary by 53 yards. The 1st will also see multiple tee locations and be varied by nearly 70 yards throughout the tournament, and finally the largest variation will occur on the occasionally drive-able 15th. It will vary by 118 yards throughout the week.
It should be an amazing week of golf on a gorgeous and well suited golf course for the event.
Best of luck this week everyone!