Tuesday At The 2022 U.S. Open
The Country Club won't be a bomber friendly, Brooks gets chippy, field factoids, good quotes, Barkley's awkward Live From hit and the USGA touts digital viewing options.
Francis Ouimet once said The Country Club “takes knowing.” Tuesday saw players building a better understanding of its quirks and changes made since the 2013 U.S. Amateur. Initial reviews for the design and turf—unlike those offered for the media center pulled pork sliders with hints of cole slaw—have been glowing.
Day two’s low humidity and warmth should have TCC trending faster by Thursday’s first round, but expect the post-Mike Davis USGA staff to monitor fairway and greens speeds closely given the slope severity. This is a long-winded way of kicking off today’s Quad by examining two holes that should tell us who is likely to contend in the 2022 U.S. Open.
TCC Looks Prepped To Reward Patience
Notwithstanding the obstructed-view tee shots or the occasional granite outcropping, The Country Club fairways appear inviting from the tee. But as players study the holes and take note of the worst rough patches, the course increasingly looks like a test of patience and conservatism.
That’s not to say old school lingerers like Matt Fitzpatrick are guaranteed to contend. But even after just nine practice holes Tuesday, Rory McIlroy suggested what’s likely to be rewarded this week.
“It seems pretty playable off the tee,” he said Tuesday. “There's some rough, but if you just miss a fairway, you can certainly get it to the green. You're going to lose control of your ball and not be able to spin it into the greens, but at least on the front nine there's a lot of greens that have very manicured run-ups, so the greens probably play a little longer than they actually are.”
He sees shades of Winged Foot in the presentation but thnks players will have to be “a little bit more strategic.”
Two holes on the front nine will give us a sense of whose judgement is clouded and who has the patience to stick around until late Sunday.
The downhill, 499-yard 3rd will require driver into the wind and offers more width for a safer tee shot, a common theme here. A long tee ball threading a fissure of fairway surrounded by fescue-covered outcroppings should reach a lower valley to provide a decent green view. The pinch point is just 21-yards-wide and narrows to 10 paces at 324 off the tee.
A safer play short of this prime spot leaves a longer approach to a green backed by a road and lake. While that ominous penalty area is likely out of play thanks to an upslope in the green, the players laying back will face a long second. With the ample approach that McIlroy pointed to as essentially lengthening the green, it’s a hole the plodders can survive. Don’t get greedy here.
Another good gauge of player temperament arrives at the 375-yard 7th. I can’t see a scenario where it’s wise to be even mildly aggressive here. A lay-up short of the first fairway bunker will find the flattest and most generous portion of the fairway. This leaves a short-iron approach to an uneventful green.
Driving farther up the steeply tilted fairway only brings headaches into play left and right. Once the righthand bunkers begin, the 7th’s effective width might be 10 yards upon accounting for the right-to-left slope. Getting a better green view is not especially helpful here. Any reward for having a flip wedge in hand isn’t apparent.
If you see a player pushing their luck here, they’re probably going to be watching from home on Saturday. There are other opportunities to score throughout the round: the front nine’s two short par-4’s, both par-5’s and even holes like the 7th when played judiciously.