This US Open is lacking star quality - who will provide it?June 17, 2017 Golf News
We've seen unprecedented scoring at Erin Hills. But many of the game's big names will be watching the weekend's action at home...
This was the day the empire was supposed to strike back.
Tuck in those pin positions, dry out those greens. Let Erin Hills bare its teeth. The USGA wouldn’t stand for another 65.
Instead, Chez Reavie made a run at the US Open scoring record.
Hideki Matsuyama had a go too, as the wind dropped and the benign conditions meant it was like shooting ducks for a lot of the field.
The cut line, at one-over-par, was the lowest since Medinah in 1990.
All of which makes it even more of a surprise that the Wisconsin track has proved such a struggle for so many of the game’s best.
For the first time since the world rankings began 31 years ago, none of the top three have made the cut in a major.
Nothing to worry about for Rory McIlroy. He’s just not match fit.
No one could keep up the stratospheric levels Dustin Johnson has produced over the past year. At some point, there had to be a lull.
And Jason Day has only been able to find pockets of good play since returning after his mother’s illness. Given the emotional impact of that, it’s understandable.
What this leaderboard needs, though, is some star quality. Of the world’s top 10, six will have to put their TVs on to catch the weekend action.
Having Brian Harman tied for the lead is all well and good but, to use a phrase forever attributed to Tiger Woods, it’s not like he ‘moves the needle’.
Rickie Fowler was supposed to fill the gap.
He looked every inch a major winner for the first 28 holes. Then he wobbled like he was guarding a one shot lead on Sunday afternoon.
From not missing a putt inside 10 feet for a day and a half, Fowler got a serious case of the jitters. Luckily, it’s not terminal.
He’s won the Honda Classic this year, but the chief criticism of him is that he can sometimes struggle to get it done from the front.
Fowler was bang there at Augusta too, just one shot adrift, going into the final round.
But as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose went shot for shot, he limped to a 76 and finished eight adrift.
Coach Butch Harmon has largely weaned him away from social media, convincing him that putting in more hours will bring better rewards than showing off his spring break snaps.
Now he’s got to try and coax him over the line on the biggest of stages. No easy task.
Fowler might bring in the TV numbers but is it now time for Brooks Koepka to finally bag the big win he’s always threatening?
Having finished in the top 20 in this over the past three years, he’s one of the few contenders to have played Erin Hills at the 2011 US Amateur. Maybe that’s why he’s looked so comfortable up to this point.
Two Englishmen will also certainly have something to say about the trophy’s destination over the weekend.
Paul Casey’s an habitual place finisher on the PGA Tour but even that looked in doubt on Friday as he careered off the first page following an eight on the 14th.
While you can criticise his lack of wins Stateside, you have to tip your hat for a recovery that saw him reel off five birdies in a row around the turn.
Tommy Fleetwood’s been just as impressive. This may be only the second cut he’s made at a major – the other was at the US Open in 2015 – but he looked really good in crafting his 70.
We might be without the stars, but that doesn’t mean the next two days won’t be quality.
Who will step up?