Series of unfortunate events surround U.S. Open golf venue at Erin Hills

Let’s hope for the best in the final two rounds of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

The death of an elderly spectator Friday afternoon of natural causes marks the third time in two days that unfortunate news not about golf arose around the course about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

A quick recap:

PILOT INJURED: On Thursday, a pilot sustained serious injuries when a small blimp crashed and burned near the course. Initial reports from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office indicated that there may have been mechanical problems before the crash.

Fox6 News reported that the CEO of AirSign, an aerial advertising firm with operations across the country, told the TV station that there was “catastrophic failure” of the air ship’s outer skin. Patrick Walsh told the Milwaukee TV station that nothing similar has ever “happened in their history” and that the pilot, Trevor Thompson, is “the most sought after pilot to fly this type of blimp model.”

AirSign operated the blimp, which was carrying advertising for a credit union. The company tweeted Thursday that they expected the pilot to be OK.

Fox6 News reported Friday night that the pilot, who had been involved in two previous emergency landing situations, was still in the hospital.

Eyewitness accounts and video were posted on Twitter on Friday.

BACTERIA IN WATER: Friday morning, health officials reported that E. coli bacteria had been found in a drinking water sample taken from a hydration station connected to a well near the 12th hole. There were no reports of illness.

The bacteria can cause a person to become ill with flu-like symptoms. The USGA is providing complimentary bottled water at all such stations the rest of the week.

SPECTATOR DIES: Friday afternoon, rescue workers and sheriff’s deputies were called to the grandstand near the sixth hole when a Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, man, 94, was reported to be without a pulse. After CPR was performed, the man was moved to an ambulance where he was pronounced dead.

“The USGA was saddened to learn that a spectator at Erin Hills passed away a short time ago,” a statement from the USGA said. “Out of respect for the family, we are unable to provide additional information at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with those surrounding this individual during this difficult time.”


Meanwhile, on the course, the top three ranked players in the world – Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – all missed the cut Friday. Eight of the top 12 in the world won’t be playing Saturday on the longest course ever to host a major.

Four players – Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman and Brooks Koepa – were tied atop the leaderboard Friday at 7-under entering the third round. None has ever won a major, and neither have the next 14 players behind them. The last four-way tie after two rounds in a U.S. Open took place in 1974, but involved well-known players: Raymond Floyd, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Hale Irwin.

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