The U.S. Open is historically the toughest test in golf. The first round of the tournament began Thursday, June 15, 2017, and will run through its traditional Father’s Day final round on Sunday, June 18, at Erin Hills Golf Course, in Wisconsin.
This is the 117th edition of U.S. Open. It is the second major tournament of 2017. It is also the second leg of golf’s venerated “Grand Slam.” The other major tournaments comprise The Masters, and The Open Championship, which is also known as the British Open, and the PGA Championship.
The Toughest Leg of the Grand Slam of Golf
The grand slam is the ultimate goal in golf. No one has ever won all four of these tournaments in one year. However, since the grand slam has always been considered winning the four majors, there is an argument that one player did win the Grand Slam in a single year.
The Legendary Bobby Jones won all four of golf’s majors in 1930. Not only was Jones the sole winner of all the majors, but he only managed to do so once. Moreover, he did it as an amateur golfer. That was the way he accomplished this since, at the time, two of the four were the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur Championship. The U.S. Open and The Open Championship remain of the original majors. Neither the Masters nor the PGA Championship existed in 1930. In fact, Jones, himself, conceived and began the Masters.
Only five golfers have ever won all four modern major tournaments over their entire careers. They are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Is a Grand Slam Possible in 2017?
The technical answer is that yes, a grand slam is possible in 2017; just not highly probable. In this case, it is possible, at this time, since only one tournament, the Masters is complete.
The odds are just too high against it happening. When Jones accomplished the amazing feat, it was likened to breaking the four-minute mile. It went beyond the barrier of what people believed anyone could do.
The difference? While runners now routinely clock sub four-minute miles, no one has matched Jones’s brilliant mark. Professional golfers have spent their entire careers trying to win four majors in the same year. Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods.
The 2017 Masters was held in April and there Sergio Garcia won his first major title. Garcia is competing and shot a very respectable 70 which places him at -2, or 2-under-par, after the first round. The very slight chances of Garcia winning a grand slam in 2017 remain. The U.S. Open remains a formidable challenge.
The current leader after Round One is Ricky Fowler, who shot a superb 65 for a score of -7. That is a record for the first round of the U.S. Open. However, do not be deceived into thinking this will mean exceptionally low scores to finish the tournament. That is, not if history is to be believed.
Traditional Toughness of Play
The U.S. Open has traditionally been known as the most difficult of the major tournaments. The United States Golf Association is the governing body of the tournament. It is the goal of the USGA to keep it that way.
The USGA [takes] pride in calling its prize “The ultimate examination,”…[To become] champion demanded the straightest driving, intelligent iron play, and nerve on the green.
That resolve has not wavered in the past 116 U.S. Opens. It is the most difficult, to score under par, of any of the majors:
The scoring at the U.S. Open is far worse than any other major. The winning scores in six of the last nine Opens have been even par or higher.
The winning scores of all the other majors combined in the last 61 years have only seen above par, a total of six times!
Erin Hills Is Not as Easy as Some Believe
Some of the participants spoke about how the very high rough of 15 inches might be troublesome. But the USGA mowed back some of the rough so the openings are wider than ever. Not everyone thought this was a good idea. Winner of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, Rory McIlroy, disagreed with the decision to cut the rough:
Really? We have 60 yards from left line to right line. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here, if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.
After one round there have been some impressive scores. However, McIlroy might think a bit differently today because his score was not one of them. He finished the first round with a 6-over-par 78. It will be difficult for him to make the projected cut of the top 59 and ties for the weekend play.
U.S. Opens have a history of low first-round scores followed by higher scores and tougher conditions when wind and dryness begin to take their toll. As impressive as Fowler was, he will be hard-pressed to stay in the lead.
Those at the top of the leader board after the second round will face a tough test to keep under par the rest of the way. It should be entertaining for any golf fan to enjoy for a Father’s Day bonus gift.
Opinion News by D.T. Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
CBS Sports: U.S. Open 2017: USGA cuts down rough, Rory McIlroy says pros should be fine
USGA: U.S. Open
GOLF: Setting a New Standard: Bobby Jones Wins the Grand Slam in 1930
GOLF: Nine reasons why the U.S. Open is the meanest, toughest, roughest, cruelest, stingiest SOB in major golf, plus the Van Cynical Mailbag
Golf Digest: Don’t Call Erin Hills a Pushover Just Yet
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of David Hilgart’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License