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What golfers are saying about the U.S. Open rough at The Country Club in Brookline

"Rough is pretty tough, and it's only going to get tougher because I'm sure they won't cut it."

US Open rough
Brooks Koepka tees off in a practice round behind the tall grass rough at the fifth hole at The Country Club, Monday, June 13, 2022. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

As is often the case at the U.S. Open, the rough at The Country Club in Brookline is expected to pose its fair share of challenges for players when the tournament gets underway on Thursday.

“Rough is healthy per usual,” quipped 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

As the competition returns to Brookline for the first time since 1988, the course itself comes under a scrutiny from the world’s best golfers not seen in decades (though, as Scheffler noted, he’s played on it before).

“I was here in 2013,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “The course has changed a bit since then. I think they’re mostly good changes. Should be a good test.”

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But while players might be expected to project a certain level of optimism heading into the Open, their experiences — even in practice rounds — can often paint a more realistic story.

This was true for Italian golfer Guido Migliozzi, who posted a video on Instagram of his ball disappearing into the rough.

Observers have speculated that The Country Club’s version of rough might actually be rougher than what players saw in 2020 at Winged Foot, which itself is a course Tiger Woods compared with the toughest in the world.

Given its history, The Country Club’s reputation preceded it as players began arriving earlier in the week.

“It’s a cool place. It’s very in front of you. It’s old school,” noted Justin Thomas. “You’ve got doglegs. I haven’t been on the course since I was here Monday, but I’m sure it’s going to be long rough and firm and fast greens.”

Obviously, the idea of “long rough” is to increase the difficulty. The course, one of the five original members of the United States Golf Association dating back to the 19th century, is not known for its length. With golfers in the modern era driving the ball well beyond what was considered possible only a few years ago, the usage of “U.S. Open rough” will hamper their progress, albeit in a refined way.

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“The idea is, ‘OK, you’ve missed the fairway a little bit, we’re going to give you three inches,'” explained USGA senior director Jeff Hall. “You may be able to do something with [a ball hit here], but you’re not going to be in control of that golf ball. You’re not going to be able to get that to the green and spin it. So you’re a little bit at the mercy of the lie.”

And as Hall continued, things could only get worse for a golfer who finds their way into the deeper rough.

“That will not be cut for quite a while,” Hall said, gesturing towards rough that will be grown out to five inches in length.

It all amounts to a conspicuous challenge for competitors trying to stake their claim at one of golf’s premier events.

“Rough is pretty tough, and it’s only going to get tougher because I’m sure they won’t cut it,” said Brooks Koepka.

But while the conditions will factor into the results, Rory McIlroy sounded upbeat after making his initial assessment.

“It seems pretty playable off the tee,” he said. “There’s some rough, but if you just miss a fairway, you can certainly get it to the green. You’re going to lose control of your ball and not be able to spin it into the greens, but at least on the front nine there’s a lot of greens that have very manicured run-ups, so the greens probably play a little longer than they actually are.”

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