Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnston tipped for US Open success
Tournament organisers desperate for trouble-free event at Erin Hills after drama of past two years
Golfer Rory McIlroy will be the man to beat at the US Open at Erin Hills this weekend, although the organisers are merely hoping for a trouble-free tournament.
However, concerns are already growing about the length of the course, while after complaints from players, the US Golf Association has been forced to say it has not cut heavy rough at the side of the fairways.
Nevertheless, play got underway as scheduled on Thursday and the pundits are tipping Northern Ireland's McIlroy to prosper.
"This is a drivers' course and, even if the 138 bunkers are unusual and penal, it is hard to see anyone but a boomer coming through on a rain-softened layout. And because of this, McIlroy is full of self-belief, despite having played only once competitively in the past 10 weeks because of a rib injury," says James Corrigan of the Daily Telegraph.
"Erin Hills in this condition could almost be made for the 28-year-old and nobody should be surprised if, just as he did at Congressional in 2011, the Northern Irishman spread-eagles the field with a show of tee-box dominance."
But Dustin Johnson, the world number one, is also one to watch, says Rick Broadbent of The Times. "Erin Hills, a rolling heartland course that is the longest in major history, should suit their bludgeoning metier. The problem for both is that they come into this with disrupted preparation."
It is "significant", he adds, that neither McIlroy or Johnson have joined in the complaints about the length of the course or the rough.
The event has been hit by controversy over the past two years, which will be remembered for "dodgy greens and a rules farce".
In 2015, the Chambers Bay greens were not up to scratch, while last year's tournament was overshadowed by a farcical debate about the rules over a moved ball.
With the US Golf Association desperate for "a trouble-free tournament" this time, says Broadbent. "Johnson versus McIlroy would do nicely".