It’s been exactly 25 years since the U.S. Open played rounds at par 72.
Since then, the United States Golf Association has found ways to expand layouts while shrinking par – including the 2015 national open at Chambers Bay, which played as a par 70 despite being the longest course in U.S. Open history.
This week, that all changes.
Erin Hills is too long to mess with – and that includes messing with four massively-long par-5 holes.
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Given that – plus all the forgiving fairways – Erin Hills appears to favor a long hitter who can carry all sorts of trouble.
Here are five who should fare well this week:
His smooth, effortless power should translate well here. He can carry bunkers 300 yards off the tee that all but a handful in the field cannot. Plus, there are other reasons he is the favorite: He is the defending champion and No. 1 player in the world.
Here is to breaking up the fraternity of off-the-grid bombers. He might not have the length to reach all the par 5s, but the Texas native has shown he knows how to get around a major layout as well as anybody. He won at Chambers Bay in 2015, and has that look in his eye this week.
Much like Johnson, facing a big lot under soft conditions fit McIlroy’s strengths to a ‘T’. Plus, expectations for the four-time major winner are lowered after being sidelined by a rib injury. When he feels free to go after it, very few, if any, better at attacking a course.
It would surprise nobody if the big-hitting rookie from Spain came away with the big prize this week. He is tied with Justin Thomas for most top-10 finishes (seven) on the PGA Tour, including a win at the Farmers Insurance Open. It’s scary how many times he’s knocked on the door at big events.
It is hard to fathom that he’s played on a European Ryder Cup team before playing in a U.S. Open. But that is the case, and the Belgian is another long hitter who isn’t afraid of the big moment – he was 4-1 in the Ryder Cup last fall, and tied for fourth at the Masters in April.