Erin - Coming to relatively new Erin Hills, which is hosting
its maiden major championship, gives the world's best golfers a taste of the
unknown this week at the US Open.
But being a US Open, players can expect a mental and
physical challenge at the year's second major. The 11-year-old, tree-less
course 56 km northwest of Milwaukee stretches beyond 7 700 yards,
where calf-length fescue grass waves in the wind alongside fairways.
"It's one of the toughest mental tests that you're
going to encounter out there, and it's important to be fresh, and at least I
think I've got that part," British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden
told reporters on Monday.
"I've had a week off in Sweden and haven't really
focused much on golf. So at least we're fresh."
Spain's Jon Rahm, a candidate to become the sixth successive
first-time major winner, said he also was trying to lessen his stress level
before Thursday's start.
"I wanted to get some rest at home, work out, practice
on my game. And made sure I stayed patient, not get the anticipation built up
Rahm, who tied for 23rd as the low amateur at last year's US
Open at Oakmont, has been a sensation since turning professional.
He won the Farmers Insurance Open in January and has
recorded five more top-five finishes to zoom up the world rankings to number
Rahm played a full round of practice on Monday and was full
"I absolutely love the golf course," he said.
"It's a very long golf course, big greens. ...It's like a links golf
course on steroids."
The Spaniard said he plans to dial down his practice to stay
"Played 18 holes today to get a feel of the golf
course. I'll play nine tomorrow and nine Wednesday, and after the nine holes
try to get my touch around the greens which I think will be very
important," he said.
The greens, like the fairways, are full of slope. Although
there is no rough around the greens, swales can carry errant approach shots far
away from the pins.
Stenson took a different approach to getting acclimated.
"It's important to have your mental strength and energy
over the weekend, if you're going to do well, and not overdo it in the first
couple of days," said Stenson, who added the Olympic silver medal in Rio.
"So I walked 18 today (Monday), and then I'll play nine
tomorrow (Tuesday) and nine on Wednesday and that should be good," Stenson
said in between sneezes.
"One thing I forgot to say, this is hay fever heaven,
and I expect any local pharmacy to sell out of antihistamines. If you haven't
gotten yours, make sure you get them quickly.
"I forgot to take my pills this morning and I've been
sneezing about 50 times already."