Rory, Elkington Go Two Rounds (For Now) On Twitter

The joys of a good Saturday morning Twitter spat to keep us entertained until the leaders tee off many hours from now.

This is following Rory McIlroy's 2017 U.S. Open missed cut...

U.S. Open Friday Setup: 675 Yard 18th, 2-3 Percent Hole Locations

Brad Klein of Golfweek.com fills in some details on Friday's U.S. Open setup that are eye-opening for those interested in the art and science of course preparation.

As always I hope you'll hit the link and read the entire piece. But a few highlights...

Green speeds started out at 12.5 to 13 on the Stimpmeter and lost 6-7 inches of speed during the day. Friday, they’re half-a-foot faster, roughly 12.8-13.5 before they lose some speed.

This one will probably get a few players and caddies riled up:

PGA Tour specifications virtually mandate that the hole not be cut on a slope of more than 1.5 degrees. Sorry for the technical stuff here, but it’s all a matter of physics and topography. The USGA doesn’t shy away from setting the hole on slopes of 2-3 percent.

That might explain the number of balls that took some pretty strong turns right around the hole during round one.

And, in the ball-doesn't-travel-too-far files, this about the par-5 18th.

Friday, it’s been stretched to 675 yards, which means players, even downwind, probably won’t be able to fly it over the fairway bunkers on the right as they did Thursday and reach the downhill kick point on the hole, achieving an average of 318 yards off the tee.

On a positive note, the conservative setup approach light on risk-reward has allowed pace of play to actually be better than in recent years (5:16 average in round one). The slower green speeds surely have something to do with that, too.

2017 U.S. Open: Round One Reads, Day Two Links

It was a splendid first day at Erin Hills unless you were a blimp pilot, hydrated at the 12th hole or a member of the world top six.

Steve DiMeglio's USA Today game story focuses on the obvious underlying question: Rickie Fowler's brilliant 65 to kick off three more days of "will he finally win one" talk.

Jesse Garza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on those pesky government inspectors daring to look out for the masses by catching bacterial appearance at a USGA "hydration station."

The Washington Ozaukee Health Department on Thursday identified the bacteria in a drinking water sample collected from the hydration station connected to a well near the 12th hole, according to a news release from the department.

Gary D'Amato of the Journal Sentinel on the incredible range of scores and encounters with Erin Hills, wonders if a USGA crackdown will come after the U.S. Open record fell for number of under-par rounds in a round one.

Kevin Na experienced no karma issues for his anti-fescue Instagram post, en route to an afternoon 68, reports Golfweek's Kevin Casey.

In the irony special of the day, some of the players who grumbled about the last-minute rough trimming spent way too much time in it, including Rory McIlroy. Jeff Babineau on the elite player fescue pile-up as 44 players broke par, including 5 amateurs.

Michael Collins of ESPN.com talks to an anonymous caddie about the setup and what they expect Friday, with some fun insights about things the USGA does differently than most tournaments.

Paul Casey posted his best round in a major, opening with 66 after picking up a few tips from the morning telecast. Rex Hoggard reports for GolfChannel.com.

Joey Flintz at USOpen.com with the best quotes from day one.

The USOpen.com Photo Gallery from day one features some beautiful work by some of the worl's best images

Tyler Light's first day in the U.S. Open was pretty dreamy for a sectional qualifier who wasn't long ago working the UPS distribution night shift and sorting sawmill logs to support his golf habit. 

Beth Ann Nichols with his story for Golfweek.com.

Off to the side of the par-4 fifth hole Thursday, a portion of Light’s gallery gathered in front of a scoreboard to commemorate his hot start. Light had actually fallen to 3 under at that point, but was in fine company on that leaderboard.

“There’s a sentence I’ve never said before,” Tim said. “Westwood, Fowler, Light … it’s crazy.”

Dad has teared up twice so far.

Golf.com's Michael Bamberger on the impressive opening 71 from Dru Love with dad Davis on the bag.

Bill Glauber , James B. Nelson and Maddie Koss report on the blimp crash that gained much early morning attention, with an update on the pilot's condition.

Fox aired the most incredible footage of all. For The Win's Luke-Kerr Dineen with the video.

The company Tweeted earlier in the day asking for fans to send in photos of their blimp in action. As you might imagine, the responses were, uh, robust.

The star pairing of Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson struggled on the greens. Jeff Babineau with a Golfweek report from inside the ropes.

Dustin Johnson said this about Erin Hills after the round:

Q. Do you think they've got a good U.S. Open setup here for now and in the future?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: We'll have to see. Obviously it would be interesting if it played really firm and fast. Right now it's really soft. The greens are soft, so you can get to the green with any club. That's why you're seeing some big scores, because the greens are so receptive. I think if it got really firm it would definitely play difficult.

Golf.com's Jeff Ritter went up to Holy Hill and describes both the experience and shares images of the beautiful facility that is seen from Erin Hills' 18th.

Day two links...

Your television full viewing guide is here. USOpen.com has exclusive early coverage and live featured group coverage all day.

Tee times.

The leaderboard.

Golfweek.com's Live Blog has social media highlights and other updates throughout the day.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's full U.S. Open coverage page.

The Friday weather forecast is improved, the Saturday forecast is more ominous.

"He’s the most-read golf writer in the world. He just wants a little more company."

Ed Sherman uses the U.S. Open to file a Poynter.org story on AP golf writer Doug Ferguson and the dwindling number of golf writers covering the sports for local papers.

He notes the concern about the increased presence of PGATour.com covering the sport over independent outlets.

Ferguson can’t help but take note of the PGA Tour going all-in with PGATour.com. During most tournaments, the tour’s digital operation makes up a large chunk of the press room with its writers and social media crew.

Clearly, the PGA Tour has the most resources and the greatest access, but Ferguson contends golf fans don’t get the complete picture from its site. He says the content always comes from a biased and, let’s say, decidedly positive point of view.

“I don’t know a lot of people who go to the site except to look at the leaderboard,” Ferguson said. “You’re only going to see the birdie putt that gets made. You’re not going to see the birdie putt that gets missed.”

2017 U.S. Open Is Here! Round One This And That

Phil Mickelson is officially not joining us due to perfect, sunny, warm conditions at Erin Hills Thursday. But 156 fine players with great stories to tell are here to contend for the U.S. Open.

Your television full viewing guide is here. USOpen.com has exclusive early coverage and live featured group coverage all day.

Tee times.

The leaderboard.

Golfweek.com's Live Blog has social media highlights and other updates throughout the day.

For the local angle, the Journal Sentinel's Chip Shots blog will keep things up to date.

Jordan Spieth thinks the scoring could be good (Romine/Golfweek.com).

“I don’t see (even) par winning the tournament. I see closer to 5 to 10 under,” Spieth said. “Someone who has very good control of the ball off the tee will have plenty of opportunities to make birdies, given the conditions that we’re expecting. And I think the USGA is very much OK with that.”

Things may get wacky at the 18th green and certainly will at the ninth hole (D'Amato, Lewis Journal-Sentinel).

Alan Shipnuck profiles Austin and Dustin Johnson (Golf.com) and some of their on-course, uh, strategizing.

There are several college teammate player/caddie contestants (Romine/Golfweek.com).

The Love's have a lot to say about their father-son act this week (Driscoll/USOpen.com).

Kevin Na swears he wasn't trying to rip the USGA with his now infamous Instagram video (Gray/GolfChannel.com).

On the USGA front, I'm still not seeing exactly how future rules situations will be impacted by procedural changes, as I wrote in this analysis for Golfweek.com.

Jeff Babineau at Golfweek says the USGA better get it right this week and all signs suggest they are trying to do so. But on a first time venue loaded with wild and wacky holes, that's no given.

Gary Van Sickle praises the naming of Chief Referee Thomas Pagel but wonders about that decision too (MorningRead.com):

You may recall Pagel as the unfortunate fellow who was on TV trying to explain last year’s decision when Johnson was penalized for his ball moving on one green, even though he never touched the ball or grounded his club behind it. Pagel’s reasoning was that it was “more likely than not” that Johnson caused the movement.Personally, I never bought that reasoning, and neither did a lot of others, hence the controversy.

Now, the USGA seems better-poised to pounce on a problem. If we don’t hear Pagel’s name all week, it’ll mean the new changes worked to perfection. We’ll be happy, and so will Mr. Pagel.

The USGA is working hard to communicate better with players (Hoggard/Golfweek.com).

Davis said he explained to the players that the USGA, as a non-profit organization, invests over $200 million a year in golf.

“What we came to realize is that very few, if any of them, actually understood what the USGA does,” Davis said. “They don’t realize about the turf grass research, they don’t realize what we are doing with juniors, or what we’re doing for history. Once they understood that I think they had a little more appreciation for what the U.S. Open is doing for the game of golf.”

USGA Names Bob Ford U.S. Open First Tee Starter For Life

Win the Bob Jones Award, get put to work!

In USGA President Diana Murphy's inspired opening remarks ("We think we have a real show stopper at Erin Hills") to the 66-minute extravaganza of a press conference, she revealed that longtime Seminole and Oakmont golf professional Bob Ford would be the new USGA first tee starter.

Greeting them and the rest of the field to the first tee this week will be our new honorary starter, Bob Ford. Bob is our 2017 Bob Jones Award winner whom we honored last night and he certainly embodies all that's wonderful in this game of golf, sportsmanship, respect, and character.

He will be our first starter for as long as he so chooses, so I hope you have a chance to welcome him. He's joined on the 10th tee on Thursday and Friday by Dr. Skip Gist, who is a five-year veteran and just recently retired from the executive committee and a very proud New Westerner [midwesterner].

Bob, Diana Murphy is on line one again. You want me to send her to the voice mail where we send all of the USGAers who want to play Seminole?

Fescue, Schmescue: Now About The Other Dangers At Erin Hills

Yes it's strange and maybe a little embarrassing that the USGA didn't notice pre-tournament that this really lush native grass just outside the roughs was total overkill, and even more bizarre that they had to have crews descend upon the crime scenes so aggressively.

But Bradley Klein, who was out early with the crew Wednesday as they cut down more roughs on the 18th hole, writes for Golfweek.com that this all started a week ago, so perhaps we can chalk all of this up to just seeing how the course plays and adjusting accordingly.

Actually, the cutbacks of fescue started more than a week ago, before the players arrived en masse, before the bellyaching from some golfers. The USGA and the Erin Hills maintenance crew have been pulling back some of the denser, taller fescue to uncover bunkers that had gotten overgrown, opening up more lines of visibility. On the 338-yard, par-4 second, crews removed the tallest fescue from the back of a massive fairway carry bunker. The move created more options for players to try the 280-yard carry and benefit from the downhill slope behind – without the risk of losing a ball that made it over.

USGA championship agronomist Darin Bevard explained it as he drove by. “We’re doing it for playability, visibility and aesthetics. Not to make the course easier, just to make it the way we wanted it to play before the fescues got so high.”

Rex Hoggard writes at GolfChannel.com that much of the fuss involves deep-seeded tensions between players and USGA.

The USGA has become the game’s most polarizing organization. Some questioned Tuesday’s nip/tuck as more than simply a “prescribed plan based on weather,” as the association’s spokesman explained. They contend the “trimming” was an attempt to quiet the crowd at an event that desperately needs to avoid another major miscue.

Whether that’s the case really didn’t matter. Not on Tuesday as news of the cutting was met with a mixture of eye rolls and raised eyebrows. It’s not that players didn’t believe the official statement, but they’ve become conditioned to think the worse when it comes to the USGA.

In buried lede news, Brentley Romine notes at Golfweek.com, the bunkers may be the real danger at Erin Hills. I've already seen some bizarro stances, lies and situations in very basic practice round situations. When the gates open, expect more madness.

And speaking of that, I've written a guide for the sadists, lookie loos and others who want to know what holes to watch for the crueler antics. If things are at all firm, we'll be talking about these greens on Sunday night instead of fescues.

Fox Sports Viewing Guide For The 2017 U.S. Open

I've heard from a few folks wanting clarity on feeds, times, FS1 vs. big Fox, and I haven't had a clear answer.

If you are watching on a tablet, it appears the Fox Sports Go app is the way to go, as the U.S. Open app is only offered in an iPhone version currently. However, that will require a cable subscription login.

And do note the early exclusive usopen.com/app coverage during the first two rounds. Also here is the viewing guide with Golf Channel coverage windows.

So here goes:

USGA Takes Down Some Of Erin Hills' Fescue Rough, Rory Says "Really?"

As I note in this item for Golfweek.com, the USGA agronomist is suggesting this is not motivated by player complaints, but instead by the possibility of upcoming rains causing dense fescues to lay over.

"It would be unplayable," USGA agronomist Darin Brevard told Golfdom.

While a case could be made that the grasses were already unplayable in spots, allowing them to have gotten to such a point of density is another matter. At a course where the meticulous maintenance attention-to-detail is so utterly impressive, it's hard to understand how the prairie grasses were allowed to get so dense.

Either way, as my item notes, Rory was not pleased. But I'm happy for the marshals who may have fewer lost ball scares on the holes effected. And it's not like the 4-inches of dense fescue left behind will be a cakewalk.

ShackHouse 38: Mark Loomis And The 2017 U.S. Open

Mark Loomis, the producer behind Fox's USGA coverage joins the ShackHouse to discuss all that goes into a U.S. Open production, Erin Hills, his career in sports broadcasting, Keith Jackson and the state of televised golf. I think you'll find the conversation engaging!

Before Loomis, House and I set up the U.S. Open, Erin Hills and the players we think...might...might contend this week. It's a tough one to handicap, but that doesn't stop these two degenerates from helping you allocating your capital.

And in case you missed it, we interviewed USGA Executive Director Mike Davis on last week's issue as part of the runup to the U.S. Open.

As always, you can subscribe on iTunes and or just refresh your device subscription page.

Here is The Ringer's show page.

Same deal with Soundcloud for the show, and Episode 38 is here to listen to right now.

ShackHouse is brought to you by Callaway, makers of the Epic Driver that is now part of Callaway's very groovy Customs program along with Chrome Softs and other fun stuff. Check it out just in time with Father's Day, or, if you just want to enjoy some fun customization practice play with the new Customs features. It's wonderfully therapeutic!

The ShackHouse wedge above was created in the program and, as noted in the show, promo code HOUSE25 will get you $25 off a custom wedge purchase for the next two weeks.

Here is the Callaway Father's Day Gift Guide.

Here is the embed, though as always we recommend you subscribe wherever fine podcasts are streamed!

Kevin Na's Rant & The Lush Native Swath Of Erin Hills Rough

I can't fault Kevin Na entirely for his rant about the Erin Hills natives. The fescue grasses are beautifully managed throughout a property that is pretty stunningly maintained. The grasses are sparse where they'd naturally be thin and more dense where water collects.

So to see the native grasses clearly receiving fairway irrigation overspray is not generally a shocker. We see it all too often on prairie courses. But the decision not to manage (trim) these crucial areas just off the primary cut is a risky one given how severe they are (to the point of the natives leaning over). A herd of goats or some refined thinning practices could have alienated what will be a potential lost ball issue.

That said, Na's suggestion that players should be handling setup is a frightening one!

Here is what he posted on Instagram:

Here are some photos I Tweeted yesterday:

And a video that may require hitting the link as Twitter video embeds are acting strange.

Eye On Design: The U.S. Open On Modern Links Courses

Enthusiasm for this U.S. Open isn’t exactly off the charts and I’m guilty of having shared that sensibility given a new venue and a major championship return to this market in less than two years. However, on Sunday (we hope…) the U.S. Open Trophy will be awarded along with the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal and the history books will not remember this was played at 13-year-old inland, Irish-inspired, treeless, 350-acre course.

For all of the fun holes, beautiful bunkering and other cool features, Erin Hills has much going against it due in large part to just how browned out and bizarre Chambers Bay looked in 2015. That’s it's Tacoma, Washington counterpart in what was, at one time, the USGA’s effort to introduce new (public) venues into their unofficial rota.

I’ve heard much consternation about these non-traditional U.S. Open venues and the awarding of this championship to such relatively untested layouts for a variety of reasons. They all have some merit but also ignore the need to work in new venues too. Whether it’s their lack of history, architectural scale or minimalist brand name cache, the concern is understandable. But as we know, so many venues that once hosted U.S. Open's can no longer do so because today's players are linebackers, tri-athletes and overall mega-jocks armed with equipment that the USGA and R&A say hasn't done a thing for them over the last decade!

I digress.

There is also the legitimate concern that within the Grand Slam scheme of things, an Erin Hills or Chambers Bay skews things toward the creative links-lover and away from the U.S. Open’s test as one of supreme patience and precision. 

So before I get a post up with some images and things to look for this week, consider this Eye On Design where I bat around these issues in the grand scheme of things with the U.S.G.A. bringing America’s national championship 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Hopefully I offer a few thoughts for your inevitable 19th Hole debates this week. (PS - here is the list of future U.S. Open venues noted in the piece.)

 

Video: Erin Hills Eighteenth Hole Flyover

At 637 yards with 25 bunkers this one won't be listed anytime soon as an example of sustainable golf, but it sure will make for a fascinating finishing hole to the 2017 U.S. Open.

Both the USGA flyover and the Erin Hills version give a sense of just how exposed this green appears, but with massive grandstands around the green, will that make depth perception a little easier? Or will the whole thing become incredibly imposing.

Either way, after what I saw today in my first walk around here in a decade, I'm not sure if this hole will be very tempting if played from a forward tee, assuming things are firm and fast. The fall off behind the green is so severe that players would be wise not to fire too directly here with a fairway wood if given the opportunity. We shall see!

 

Davis Love III To Loop For Dru Love In 2017 U.S. Open

Davis Love is going from a successful cart driving stint to luggage handler this week for son Dru, reports Doug Ferguson.

''I'm excited for him,'' Love said Sunday afternoon as he watched from some 300 yards away as his son, who goes by ''Dru,'' teed off during a practice round with Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk. ''I've played with a bunch of 19- and 20-year-olds. But it makes me feel old that he's playing.''

Before you say the Loves have a case of the presumptuous, Ferguson says the opportunity only arises after publication of the Official World Golf Ranking on Monday where only one player is expected to move into the top 60 and therefore this week's U.S. Open at Erin Hills. This will leave five spots for Sectional Qualifying alternates and Ferguson says Dru Love's qualifier is fifth on the priority list.