RORY MCILROY blasted the US Open organisers after they reacted to a players’ mutiny by chopping back the knee-deep rough at Erin Hills.
The world No 2 was furious, as he felt the decision reduced his chances of claiming a fifth Major title – before the U-turn he said many of the 156 players in the field were beaten before the first ball was struck.
As the best driver of the ball in the game, McIlroy was planning a highly aggressive plan of attack, even with the fescue waiting to snaffle loose shots.
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He seethed: “Really? They’re cutting it back? 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.
“These are the widest fairways we’ve ever played in a U.S. Open. Even the first and second cut is another ten yards on top of that.
“So if you’ve got 50 or 60 yards to hit into and you’re complaining about the fescue that’s wider than that, I don’t think that’s an issue.
“I get that it’s thick and whatever, but it’s a hazard. If you put red lines just right along that people wouldn’t complain, it’s a hazard, and you’d go — and so, I don’t know, I just think it’s a U.S. Open, it’s supposed to be a tough test.
“And if guys can’t put it into play within a 50-60 yard zone I don’t think they’ve got much to complain about.
“I feel like some of the players this week, the rough’s already got into their head. That’s not the way you want to start off. You want to start off with positivity and a positive frame of mind, and that’s the way I’m trying to approach it”
Before he heard the mowers were out, McIlroy had been buoyant about his prospects, even though this will be his first tournament back after a second long lay-off to rest a troublesome rib injury.
He said: “I like the course. It’s really good. It lets players be aggressive.
“I feel like. You can be aggressive off the tee. And I don’t think it’s a secret that I feel like my driver is one of my biggest weapons in my bag.
“If I can get that in my hands more regularly, and I think if the field has to hit driver more, as well, that plays into my hands, too, it works to my advantage.
“I wasn’t crying when I saw the thunderstorms last night and this morning. It’s a long golf course and it’s only going to play longer. That benefits a few guys, and luckily I’m one of them.
“I think driving the golf ball is a big skill in golf, and I feel like this golf course definitely tests that. And you need to have driver in your hand here if you want to take advantage of the golf course.
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The rough is still fearsome in plenty of places, and not everyone agreed with McIlroy’s view that the original set-up should have been left the way it was.
Lee Westwood took one look at the course and declared: “It’s a jungle out there.”
And Westwood proved his point by posting an Instagram video of caddie Billy Foster crawling out of a patch of knee deep rough. clutching a golf ball and announcing: “I’ve found it!”.
Westy was not the only one who took to social media to show how gnarly thee tough is at Erin Hills, a new links-style lay-out close to Milwaukee.
American pro Kevin Na dropped a ball into the long grass – describing it as a cornfield – and after taking a few seconds to locate it he took two swipes without moving it.
His third swish was also unsuccessful, and he announced his ball was lost in the thick stuff, adding: And it’s like that on every hole!”.
Korea’s Kim Meen-whee, who will be one of the first players on the course at 6.45am local time tomorrow (Thurs) highlighted the problem posed by the wafer-thin bunker at the side of the par three ninth hole.
It is too small to stand in, and Kim – runner-up in last week’s Fed-Ex St Jude Classic – tried to hack his ball out of it four times without success, while standing on the lip of the bunker
His last shot bounced back from the face on the bunker and struck him on the leg, before falling back into the sand.
That would have resulted in a two shot penalty in tournament play, and he tweeted: “No way out- don’t go there”.
Foster has also caddied for the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, and Darren Clarke while clocking up more than 100 appearances at Major championships. He described Erin Hills as “long and smelly”.
He added: “The smelly part is obviously that rough. It’s among the longest and thickest stuff I’ve ever seen at a tournament.
“And the course is already the longest ever for a Major at 7,741 yards, but it’s playing even longer after the thunderstorms we had on Monday and Tuesday.
“If you’re long enough, and you can stay out of the thick stuff, it’s actually a really nice course. It’s certainly good to look at – thankfully, I’m not the one playing it.
“The weather forecast is a lot better for the tournament itself, and the fairways are a bit wider than we usually see at US Opens, so it should be playable.
“But if the wind picks up, that rough will come more into play – and then, watch out.”