JFK grad eyes U.S. Open
Erin Hills was built about a decade ago, transforming farmland into a links-style golf course — one that you would find in the United Kingdom.
But oh, that fescue.
It’s picturesque, with the wind blowing against the knee-length strands whipping around.
Not so much for the golfers playing in this year’s U.S. Open in Erin, Wis.
Now the fescue was cut back in spots, but is still prevalent around Erin Hills.
Go to Kevin Na’s Instagram account and see his video of how impossible this so-called rough is for the U.S. Open field to make contact with an errant ball.
Ask John F. Kennedy High School graduate Jason Kokrak, who made the field for the second straight season.
“There’s not a thing I’ve ever played like this fescue,” he said. “There’s spots out there you’ll be taking an unplayable lie, or if you can even find your golf ball.
“You’re going to hit it in there and you’ve got no prayer.”
You can bet Kokrak’s group is going to be hitting the ball quite far with some of the longest drivers on the PGA Tour — Kokrak, J.B. Holmes and Gary Woodland. The three all rank in the top 20 on tour.
They tee off at 9:02 a.m. today, off No. 1.
Playing with similar-style players benefits Kokrak, who averages 304.3 yards per drive.
“It’ll be a fun day with three big hitters,” Kokrak said. “It’ll be a group to watch out there for sure.”
The furthest tees, which are the black ones, measure at 7,800 for the 18 holes. All four par 5s are more than 600 yards with No. 18 at a whopping 665 yards.
Kokrak said the course is likely to be around 7,500 to 7,600 yards with the No. 18 more around 640 yards and the No. 1 608-yard hole plays at a disadvantage.
“There’s a forced carry on the left side,” Kokrak said. “Half the field can’t carry that from the back tee box.
“It’s sort of an unfair tee box.”
You would think Kokrak might be at a disadvantage this weekend with his caddie Bobby Brown away this weekend to be with his wife, who is having a baby.
“He’s at home supporting her,” Kokrak said.
That means Aaron Alpern comes back aboard Kokrak’s bag for the first time since they parted ways in December 2014.
“When we parted ways, we parted on great terms,” Kokrak said. “He’s a good friend. I’m happy to have him out on the bag.”
Brown is still with Kokrak in spirit in Wisconsin.
“You have to go with the flow,” Kokrak said. “You’re going to play good golf. You’re going to play bad golf. It’s don’t get too high, don’t get too low.
“It’s hard to do sometimes, but as my caddie Bobby Brown says, ‘You’ve to go stick to the process.’ “
Kokrak has been on tour for six straight seasons, but his best finish this year was May 18 at the Byron Nelson — taking fourth and earning $360,000.
“People talk about how I haven’t won out on tour,” Kokrak said. “Six straight years out here is a good feat. It’s been tougher every year to do that. It’s difficult.
Using anything but a driver this weekend would make things quite hard at the U.S. Open.
“They’re so long you have to hit driver,” Kokrak said. “In the U.S. Open you never want to hit a 3-, 4- or 5-iron into some of these greens. If you can get it down there and not risk hitting into this crazy fescue it’s definitely an advantage.”