In some ways, the association is learning as it goes, with Los Angeles the third course to make its Open debut in the past decade. The other two offered wildly different winning scores. Erin Hills, a par-72 course, saw Koepka win with a 272. At Chambers Bay, a par-70 setting, Jordan Spieth’s five-under showing was enough.
“Obviously now they can see, hey, we can put a little bit more into it, so, yeah, I would be expecting a little tougher over the weekend,” Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner, said of the tournament organizers. He noted that players see the ideal tournament as playing to 14 under and that the U.S.G.A. could grow flustered at the notion of a winning score belonging to a golfer in double-digits below par on Sunday evening.
Harrington, after all, had been quoted in the Irish press this week as signaling a willingness to surrender “body parts” to be at four under after the final round. It was a number, he mused after his Friday round that put him at two over, that was now apparent would not be enough to win this tournament, given the conditions and the scoring.
“They’re not giving up body parts for that anymore,” he said.
McIlroy, who played in Koepka’s group on Thursday and Friday, confessed that he, too, had not anticipated seeing so many low numbers.
“The course has played maybe a little easier than everyone thought it would, but wouldn’t be surprised on Saturday/Sunday to see it bite back,” he said, adding: “It should be tough. It should be just as much of a mental grind out there as a physical one.”