What a two-time U.S Open champ thinks of the U.S. Open setup at LACC


The par-3 14th gap on the North Course at LACC.

getty pictures

Ample fairways. Aces. Document-setting scoring.

If early motion from Los Angeles Nation Membership has made you assume the U.S. Open is taking part in too simple, you’re not alone.

You additionally needn’t fear, in accordance with a two-time winner of the occasion.

“I don’t like seeing a pair of 62s, both,” Ernie Els mentioned. “However belief me. Issues are going to actually tighten up.”

It was Friday morning, halfway via the second spherical, and Els was talking from his house in Florida, the place he has been having fun with a uncommon week off. At 53, roughly half his life faraway from the second of his two U.S. Open titles, Els retains loads busy with household, the Champions Tour and varied aspect ventures, together with a vineyard and a course-design enterprise.

However when the nationwide championship rolls round, he makes a degree of tuning in.

Up to now, he conceded, this one hasn’t seemed like a U.S. Open.

“It’s a stupendous course—the way in which it flows so naturally over the land virtually jogs my memory of the Australian Sandbelt,” Els mentioned. “But it surely was a bit of comfortable that first day, and also you’ve obtained a bunch of holes the place guys are coming in with wedges.”

A recipe for blood-red numbers.

What’s extra, Els famous, “These fairways are so broad, wider than something I’ve seen in a U.S. Open. It virtually makes me want I might be on the market taking part in.”

Tony Finau gets ready to play a shot from the bunker.

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Possibly not this weekend, although, when he mentioned situations are destined to get grueling.

The pleasant first-round setup, with a number of tees pushed up and a handful of pins in weak areas, mirrored what Els described as a cautionary—however essential—strategy by the USGA.

“If you go to a golf course the place you don’t have quite a lot of expertise holding huge occasions, you wish to be sure you have a good contest,” he mentioned. “And in case you go overboard early, issues can get out of hand.”

Having competed in 27 U.S. Opens, Els mentioned that he’d seen circumstances the place the USGA had “panicked over scoring,” and brought excessive measures to defend the venue.

He cited 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills (the occasion the place Phil Mickelson putted a transferring ball in petulant protest) for example the place the governing physique had protected in opposition to par however comprised the character of the design.

“That’s the vital factor,” Els mentioned. “It doesn’t matter what you do, the character of the course should come via.”

In that regard, Els mentioned he likes what he seen from LACC. Vast fairways? That’s the how the course was meant to be performed.

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“And the greens look completely excellent,” Els mentioned. “I’d fee them a 12 out of 10.”

Some issues, in fact, can’t be managed. In 1997, at Congressional, Els gained his second U.S. Open on a rain-softened course. Three years prior, at Oakmont, he’d captured his first on a course that had been baked dry by a warmth wave. 

“They have been simply doing what they might to maintain it alive,” Els mentioned. “And on that final day, issues have been so quick and agency, there have been only some guys who broke par.”

Els suspects {that a} equally powerful problem awaits this weekend.

“The greens are going to be quick, the tough goes to be powerful, there’s going to be stress,” he mentioned. 

As he spoke, Wyndham Clark held the lead at 9 beneath.

Els mentioned he didn’t assume that quantity would final.

“Six to eight beneath,” he mentioned. “Someplace round there for the successful rating.”

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, meals and journey author, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Journal contributor since 2004 and now contributes throughout all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Finest American Sportswriting. He’s additionally the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Enjoyable But: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.


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