The Confidence Factor: U.S. Open
Although it's never hosted a sanctioned event for professionals, Erin Hills Golf Course isn't entirely foreign land to the field of 156 at the U.S. Open. Eighteen entrants competed in the 2011 U.S. Amateur. Half advanced to match play, including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Russell Henley, Harris English and Peter Uihlein. Among those who failed to advance, Brooks Koepka, Emiliano Grillo and PGA TOUR rookie C.T. Pan are the most notable. Still, there's only so much calming of the nerves that limited experience as an amateur six years ago can have in a major championship. So, just like a couple before it this year, this edition of this weekly staple focuses solely on specific statistics that project success on the 7,741-yard behemoth northwest of Milwaukee. NOTE: For each of the stats below, all in the field who rank inside the top 25 on the PGA TOUR are cited. * - In the Power Rankings Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green Always relevant, its value increases when unfamiliar greens serve as the targets. Hitting full shots is a constant. Being in tune with distance and accuracy is evidence of confidence. Greens in Regulation With generous fairways, the trouble is pronounced around greens. Dastardly bunkers are poised to swallow wayward approach shots. The final leaderboard may very well consist of those who lead the field in GIR. Scrambling While the winner is expected to land several strokes under par, lest we forget that this is a U.S. Open. Salvaging pars after finding trouble can feel like finding birdies and can score like half-birdies. So, scrambling supersedes bogey avoidance as the preferred angle. Strokes gained: putting may be more statistically relevant in retrospect, but with virtually zero experience on the greens at Erin Hills, going in focusing on the up-and-down game is more sensible since putting is baked into it. Par-5 Scoring The USGA has taken heat recently, but it again has the opportunity to showcase which of the world's best golfers deserve to be crowned the 117th champion of the national open. It will not hurt the optics that Erin Hills is the first par 72 to host a U.S. Open since Pebble Beach in 1992. And while all four par 5s can stretch over 610 yards – it's possible for the 18th hole to reach 675 yards – those are the holes that will help generate churn on the leaderboard. Expect the USGA to dial in yardage based on wind, hole locations and relevant difficulty of holes before and after each.
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