ERIN, Wis. – Opinions regarding Erin Hills have varied wildly this week, with players predicting the winning score could be anywhere from even par to 20 under, but there was a common theme regarding the layout – avoid the fescue rough at all costs.
Marc Leishman knew he needed to avoid the shin-high fescue, but his game didn’t cooperate. The Australian hit just 8 of 14 fairways on Day 1 (136th in the field of 156) and yet he still managed to move into contention with a 68.
Leishman found the fescue at the fourth, sixth, 14th and 17th holes, but each time he was fortunate enough to be able to advance his golf ball and he made just a single bogey (at No. 17) as a result.
“Early in the week I said to my caddie, ‘Anytime we hit it in [the fescue], we need to make sure we putt for par,’” said Leishman, who is tied for seventh. “I didn't try and get greedy out of it. Most of the time I had a lob wedge out, just trying to get back in the fairway and give myself a chance. It worked.”
Leishman said his round was saved by his putting and short game on Thursday, but he knows he will need to improve from the tee if he’s going to remain in the hunt.
“If I can drive it like I did a couple of weeks ago at Memorial, it will go a long way to shooting under-par scores,” Leishman said. “Hopefully I can keep hitting my irons and wedges the way I have been and tighten up all the tee stuff. I missed with the driver, I missed with the 3-wood, I missed with a 3-iron on 14.”