Hartford, Wisconsin, will host the 117th installment of the U.S. Open this coming week at its flawless Erin Hills golf course. Among the 156 player-field will be two Wisconsin natives: Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge.
Stricker, originally from Madison, has been a regular at PGA majors over the years. When the USGA denied his request for special exemption into the tournament, he took it to heart and dominated the qualifying field. He shot a 67 and 65 during a qualifying round in Memphis, and earned his place in the tournament. He appears in the U.S. Open for the 20th time in his career.
Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Stricker is relishing the opportunity to compete at home.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Not getting an exemption was a motivational factor. Not that I deserved one, but it’s been driving me to achieve this goal. And I’m just happy that I’m going to get to play. It’s a relief to get to play in the first (U.S. Open) in my home state.”
Niebrugge, a young 23-year old competitor from Mequon, also qualified for his first U.S. Open tournament after tying for second place in a qualifying round in Tacoma, Washington. Niebrugge has had his moments in the past, tying for sixth place in the 2015 British Open as an amateur as well as competing in the 2014 Master’s Tournament.
Erin Hills is not unfamiliar territory for Niebrugge who, as an athlete at Oklahoma State, competed there regularly.
“It all kind of started at Erin Hills,” he said, “so I’ve got some good memories there.”
The tournament begins next Thursday, June 15, and will air on FOX and its sports affiliates. The links course is designed to test the world’s greatest, with tricky shorter holes and brutish holes of up to 620-yards. The outcome is anyone’s guess.