Welcome to US Open week here in Wisconsin. Many of you will be venturing down to Erin (or Hartford or Richfield--I've seen all three used to describe the location of the course in stories) for practice rounds the next three days--or for the competitive rounds Thursday through Sunday (and possibly Monday--more on that later). Here are a few tips for those of you not familiar with the course or the tournament.
Don't expect to park anywhere close to the golf course. Only a couple of two lane, rural roads lead to Erin Hills--and authorities didn't want them choked with traffic for seven straight days. Therefore, general parking will be located in two spots north and south of the course--and you will get to relive your childhood by riding a shuttle bus about a half-hour back and forth. It might be a good idea to bring everything you think you might need with you on that first trip--rather than thinking you can just "run back the car real quick".
Don't expect to see Phil Mickelson playing. Phil needs just a US Open win to complete the career Grand Slam. But his participation is questionable as his daughter's high school graduation is Thursday in Carlsbad, California and she is giving the commencement speech. I saw Phil talking on CBS yesterday that he needs a four hour rain delay on Thursday to make his tee time--which is currently scheduled for 3:30 that afternoon. Phil has the money, maybe he should invest in a time machine if he thinks he could still make it. Oh, and no--Tiger Woods will not be here either this week.
Don't go to the hill inside the dogleg on hole 8. That is where I want to station myself for most of the day. It's the highest point on the golf course and we counted eight different holes you could see clearly from there. Don't go under the tree to the left of 15 either. It's the only spot of shade on the golf course and that hole might be played short enough to be driveable one of the days--so I'd like to station myself there as well.
Don't expect to see great scores. The USGA says every year that they don't care if someone goes low in the US Open. But then they make every effort to ensure that the golf is more like a death march that a stroll in the park. The fairways at Erin Hills are 50% wider than average US Open fairways. Nothing was done to narrow them from what the public has played for years. But miss the fairway by five yards in either direction and you will have to play from the nastiest fescue rough I have ever seen in my life. I could advance the ball only ten yards in that stuff when I played there a couple of weeks ago--and it's entirely possible we could see some of the pros completely whiff trying to just punch out.
Don't expect to see a winner crowned on Sunday. The US Open has never gone more than nine years without requiring a playoff to decide a winner. It has been nine years since the last US Open playoff. Because the Open has the best tiebreaker in golf--a full 18-holes on the following Monday, those without weeklong passes may end up watching things wrap up on TV a week from today.
And finally, don't expect to play Erin Hills any time soon after the tournament. My caddie last month told me that they have already booked 2000 more tee times for this year than they did all of last year--and the course wasn't even open for public play before the Open. There will likely be groups hustling to finish their rounds before dark every day out there the rest of the year. Oh, and the price is going up another 75-dollars for a round now that it is a "former US Open Host".
It's going to be hot. It's going to be windy. It's going to be expensive. But it should be fun this week at Erin Hills.