News & Opinion

World’s top 3 take their lumps at Erin Hills

ERIN, Wis. – The U.S. Open week started with numerous storylines, but most of the talk concerned the top three golfers in the world rankings: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

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© USGA
Rory McIlroy fails to find his swing at Erin Hills and will have the weekend off.

All three will not be in Wisconsin over the weekend after missing the cut. It’s the first time the top three golfers failed to qualify for the weekend in a major championship since the Official World Golf Ranking debuted in 1986.

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Tee times: http://www.usopen.com/tee-times.html#!round-3

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For Johnson, the week started with the birth of his second son, River Jones Johnson, but that would be the highlight. The defending champion never could get comfortable on Erin Hills’ sweeping greens and was at times wild off the tee, finding the deep fescue too often to contend.

“This is the United States Open. It's a major. It means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I'm definitely disappointed I'm not playing the weekend, but there is a lot I can take out of it. I feel like I'm striking it very well. So, I just need to go home, relax a little bit, hang out with the family and I'll see you at the Open Championship in a month.”

Coming back from a rib injury, McIlroy hadn’t teed it up in five weeks, since the Players. The time off did little to help his game, as the Northern Irishman dug a deep hole with a 6-over 78 in Thursday’s first round. He recovered with a 1-under 71 on Friday, but the 149 total was four strokes too many. He has missed cuts in two consecutive U.S. Opens and has missed the weekend in three of the past five majors.

“I'm hungry, but I'm not going to force it,” said McIlroy, whose four major titles include the 2011 U.S. Open. “I'm going to let it happen. I'm going to play. The worst thing I can do is go and force it, because that's not my game. I sort of have to let it come to me a little bit. And I know if I go out and play the golf I'm capable of, good things should happen.” 

Day came to Erin Hills after a playoff loss to Billy Horschel at the AT&T Byron Nelson last month and a T-15 at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago. His two rounds at Erin Hills represented a regression in his game and his first missed cut in seven U.S. Opens, which includes five top 10s.

“It's pretty frustrating when I got here Friday, put a lot of work in -- not a lot, but I tried to pace myself,” Day said after a 3-over 75 on Friday left him at 10-over 154. “I did the work, looked at the golf course, made sure that I could actually play and visualize the golf course. And I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week. And just unfortunately this didn't pan out.”

The carnage among the OWGR leaders was not limited to the top three. No. 6 Henrik Stenson (74-73–147), No. 8 Alex Noren (73-77–150) and No. 10 Jon Rahm (76-73–149) also will miss the weekend festivities at Erin Hills.

Of the top 30 in the world rankings, only 15 made the cut. With the top 18 on the leaderboard not having won a major title, those missing the cut will lament the missed opportunity.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli