Rory McIlroy has expressed his dismay at the decision of tournament organisers to cut down heavy rough on four holes at Erin Hills ahead of the US Open.
Tall fescue grass on the fourth, 12th, 14th and 18th holes was being cut as McIlroy gave his pre-tournament press conference, which caught the 2011 champion by surprise.
“Really?” an incredulous McIlroy said. “We have 60 yards from left line (of the fairway) to right line. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The United States Golf Association (USGA) told the Golf Channel that cutting the rough was part of a “prescribed plan based on weather” and not down to criticism from players.
But McIlroy had little doubt that videos posted on social media by the likes of Kevin Na, which showed him trying to hack out of the fescue, were behind the decision.
“These are the widest fairways we’ve ever played in a US Open,” McIlroy added. “Even the first and second cut is another 10 yards on top of that. So if you’ve got 50 or 60 yards to hit into and you’re complaining about the fescue that’s wider than that, I don’t think that’s an issue.
“I get that it’s thick and whatever, but it’s a hazard. If you put red lines [denoting a hazard] just right along that people wouldn’t complain. It’s a US Open, it’s supposed to be a tough test.
“And if guys can’t put it into play within a 50-yard zone I don’t think they’ve got much to complain about.”
Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth was also surprised to hear about the rough being cut down, adding: “I’ve hit it in the fescue multiple times over the last few days.
“I’ve had it to where I needed to hit gap wedge out about 100 yards into the fairway, and I’ve also hit an iron on the green out of it. It just depends on where it ends up, what the lie is.
“It’s not unplayable. I don’t think the golf course is unfair, by any means, because of the fescue. We have a wide enough area to hit it and you need to drive the ball well in order to win.”