US Open 2017: Blimp crashes, pilot injured


Spectators and players at Erin Hills watched as the airship collapsed and sank to the ground not far from the course on a sunny, breezy morning Thursday.

The pilot is being treated for “unknown injuries,” according to a statement by tournament organiser the United States Golf Association.

“According to local authorities, a commercial blimp not affiliated to the USGA or the US Open Championship Broadcast crashed in an open field approx. half a mile from the Erin Hills golf course at approx. 11.15 am CDT,” said the USGA statement.

“First responders were quick to arrive at the scene and the pilot is currently being treated for unknown injuries. No other people were involved in the incident and local law enforcement is currently investigating. Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot at this time.”

World No. 9 Rickie Fowler set the early pace with a first round of seven-under 65.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson pulled out on the morning of the event to attend the graduation ceremony of his daughter, Amanda.

The 46-year-old left-hander has been runner-up in the US Open a record six times and needs the title to become only the sixth ever player to win all four of golf’s four major tournaments.

The defending champion is world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who defied a rules controversy to win his first major at Oakmont last year.

Erin Hills, located 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee in the Kettle Moraine region, was first opened in 2006 and is hosting its first US Open.

The 7,741-yard course caused controversy in the build up because of the knee-high length of its rough alongside several holes.

Several players posted videos on social media mocking the thick grass, but world No. 2 Rory McIlroy said it should not be a factor.

“You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here,” McIlroy told reporters. “If we can’t hit within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

Groundstaff subsequently cut the grass on four holes, but the USGA said the decision was “based on weather” and not player feedback.

The USGA accepted 9,485 entries, the fifth-highest total in US Open history, for the first stage of qualifying, whittled down a to a championship field of 156. The record of 10,127 entries was set in 2014.

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