U.S. Open: Five bold predictions

Dustin Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dustin Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Prediction: Look for at least one ace on the par 3 9th and at least one triple bogey on the par 3 13th.

Can we expect to see some aces at Erin Hills?  Which hole is going to befuddle and ruin some player’s day? Let’s take a look at the par 3s.

No 6 will play somewhere in the 237 yard range, an easy iron shot for the U.S. Open field. But the hole has a couple of built-in challenges – a false front and a green that slopes away from the approaching players. So the likelihood of aces is diminished from the outset. A short shot will roll back down to  the front of the green and a long shot will . . . well, it’s likely to run a bit. The hole is situated to befuddle. Don’t look for any aces here. Don’t even look for many birdies. This could be a boondoggle of a hole.

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No 9 will play about 165 yards and has a pleasant elevated tee. A wedge will get it there although wind conditions – this is the Great Plains we’re talking about – could complicate club selection. Pin placement will be critical on this hole. The green is protected by some complicated bunkering that’s not visible from the tee and will therefore be tough to judge. But a well-placed tee shot under the right conditions could produce an ace.

No 13 will play in the 215 yard range and there’s not much margin in this hole for error. Thick rough between tee and green spells disaster for short shots. There’s a real mess over on the left side of the green – a complex bunker and an area of swale – that also needs to be avoided. Landing over there is going to send scores up higher than anybody wants to contemplate. There’s just no safe place to miss the green; and while an ace doesn’t involve missing the green, that’s where the double bogeys – or worse – are going to show up.

No 16 will play about 200 yards and looks very promising for players like Phil Mickelson who like to take risks and bounce their shots off hillsides. The green is snugged up against a hill and, in theory at least, the right kind of kick off the hill should send the ball to the cup, depending on pin placement, except for the bunkers at the bottom of the hill – invisible from the tee – that are going to ensnare balls that might have otherwise taken a lucky bounce and found the bottom of the cup. But I’m not counting on that happening on the 16th.