SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Much of the talk at the U.S. Open this week is about how the championship is returning to a “traditional” venue at Shinnecock Hills.
Brooks Koepka won last year with a 16-under-par total at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. The course featured wide fairways that were softened by rain, which played into the hands of big hitters in the absence of wind. Some think his winning score indicated that Erin Hills was not a proper U.S. Open test.
But Justin Thomas, who shot a third-round 63 at Erin Hills and went on to win the PGA Championship later in the summer, made a spirited defense of the course during his pre-championship news conference Tuesday.
“I just think when you look at low scores and how people talk about, you know, this isn’t what we want, this and that, people forget the fact that it poured rain that week,” Thomas said. “It’s the same thing as these fairways (at Shinnecock). If these fairways – just like Erin Hills – if they’re firm, their width turns into half of what they are.
“I’m trying to think of a good hole last year. Take a hole like 17 (he probably was referring to No. 8). It’s a relatively tough drive at Erin Hills, the dogleg left. A hard hole. If that fairway is firm, you have to hit a draw there to hold it and that slope, whereas when it’s soft you just need to land it in the fairway.
“I think that just completely gets overshadowed by the fact that people are like, ‘Oh, you know, (Koepka) shot so much under par, it was soft, this and that.’ Well, he beat the brains out of everybody else pretty good and he won a U.S. Open and it doesn’t matter what the conditions are and what the golf course is.”