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.