ERIN, Wis. – Johnny Miller no longer owns the lowest round in relation to par in U.S. Open history.
That record now belongs to Justin Thomas, after his 9-under 63 during the third round at Erin Hills. Miller’s mark stood for 44 years, after he shot an 8-under 63 in the final round of the 1973 Open to win by one at Oakmont.
“Taking nothing away from 9 under par – 9 under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure,” Miller told GolfChannel.com on Saturday. “But it isn’t a U.S. Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was set up.”
Miller mostly took exception with Erin Hills’ massive fairways, a stark departure from the USGA’s preference to take its premier event to courses with narrow corridors and thick rough.
“It looks like a PGA Tour event course setup,” Miller said. “There are 50-yard fairways. I’m not sure where the days of the 24- to 29-yard-wide fairways that we played every time went. It’s interesting to see where the USGA has gone with the U.S. Open, being a little more friendly than in years’ past.
“I don’t know what the thinking was. You’re supposed to be a great driver of the ball, or hitting 1-irons to keep it in play. Maybe they figured with the length of the course they wanted to hit driver and get them in more trouble. Whatever it is, there are a lot of good scores.”
Miller, who was on-site at Erin Hills on Saturday for a sponsor outing, said that he wasn’t surprised that it took so long for his tournament record to be broken.
“It was going to get broken, and it was most likely going to get broken on a par-72 course, with four par 5s,” he said. “That really helps. With course setup and rain, it was a perfect storm for a good score. The course wasn’t designed to be soft, and if it was going to be soft, it should have been 26- or 27-yard-wide fairways. That’s what made it easy. The guys aren’t afraid to bomb it.
“It was never that way in the U.S. Open. It was always about really tight fairways and having to be a great driver. This went totally against the tradition of the U.S. Open.”
Miller said, in his prime, he had a lot of similarities with Thomas’ game.
“He’s a lot like I am,” he said. “He’s a streaky player.”
Whether Thomas can match Miller and go on to win the Open after his record round remains to be seen.
“A 63 for a par 72 is a heck of a score,” Miller said, “even if it was the Milwaukee Open.”