Musings on the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills following round two

It just so happens that my mind tends to wonder about things. With the best golfers in the world converging on Wisconsin for the U.S. Open, it’s only natural that I share my musings — whatever that means!

First of all, who builds a golf course with the express purpose of hosting a U.S. Open? That would be Bob Lang. The man bought parcel after parcel of land and even wrote a letter to the USGA telling them what his plan was. They chose not to ignore him and despite the fact that he sold the course before his dream came true, Erin Hills is indeed hosting the Open.

Then again I did write last week about a guy who built a full sized baseball diamond in his backyard, so perhaps Mr. Lang was not that crazy after all.

When it comes to the layout, two things come to mind and that would be length and fescue. Though the fairways are pretty wide by major tournament standards, if you get in the fescue you will be penalized. That means hitting the ball straight is a priority.

The course played 7,741 yards in round one, the longest ever for an Open venue. That means hitting it long off the tee is a priority. The last time I looked, most golfers were either long or accurate, but not both.

So how have these best golfers fared in the first two days? Well, let’s look at some pairings.

Perhaps the top featured pairing would be Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (ranked No. 2), Australia’s Jason Day (No. 3) and England’s Justin Rose, the Olympic champion who happens to also be ranked at No. 11. Now if you wanted to see some excellent golf this group would likely be at the top of your list.

Well, I hope you got to see them in the first two rounds because none of them will be around for the weekend. Rose went 72-74 to miss the cut by one stroke. McIlroy went 78-71 and Day 79-75. So much for the featured group!

Another stellar pairing was the past three Open champions Martin Kaymer, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. The latter is No. 1 in the world and he also will be absent from the weekend after shooting 148. Kaymer is -3 while Spieth just made the cut on the number — 144.

Another group that got my attention was Gary Woodland, J.B. Holmes and Jason Kokrak . These three guys hit the ball a long ways and they all made the cut.

Length 1 — Fescue 0!

Quite a bit of ink has been given to who is not at this year’s Open Championship. For the first time since 1994, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson will be competing.

Tiger may never play competitive golf again. He has entered rehab again and I hope that he gets his life in order. Playing golf on tour again would be a bonus, if that were to happen.

Mickelson decided to skip the one major he wants to win more than anything. He is doing so in order to attend his daughter’s high school graduation. There has been a lot of chatter about the decision with most people applauding it. My first thought is that it is not that big a deal.

It would be more interesting if he were playing a team sport, say NBA basketball. Would he miss a finals game for the same reason. When you have teammates depending on you, the decision becomes much more difficult.

With that being said, I think Lefty made a good choice. His daughter would have understood if he wasn’t there, but she has to feel great that he will be.

Finally, some caddies got my attention this year. Steve Stricker had to qualify for the chance to play in his home state and a familiar face is looping for him. That would be his wife Nicki who has done similar duty before. The pair is enjoying the week and they are crowd favorites. You watched Saturday as Stricker made the cut on the number.

Davis Love III, Ryder Cup captain and veteran of many U.S. Opens, is on the premises of Erin Hills this week. He is not playing however, but caddying for his son Davis Love IV who goes by Dru. Alas, the son missed the cut in his first Open attempt.

Mike “Fluff” Cowan was mentioned in the opening round when the length of the course was being discussed. The announcers were concerned about how tough it would be for Cowan to traverse the hilly course carrying the bag for Jim Furyk. I mean the guy has been a caddy for 40 years!

Fluff carried clubs for Peter Jacobsen for eighteen years and many forgot that he was Tiger’s caddy for the first few years of Woods’ career. He grabbed the bag for Furyk in 1999 and has been there ever since.

Well, enough musings for now. I have to go because I’m tired just thinking about how a man nearing 70 can tote a bag full of golf clubs for four straight days over the Hills of Erin.

Forty four players broke par in the opening round as they managed the length and fescue, a record number for the Open. Despite the big names that will be absent from the weekend, the finish should be exciting. Enjoy the final round everybody.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist

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