Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

124th US OPEN PREVIEW – Golf News

By admin Jun6,2024

The US Open returns to the No.2 Course at Pinehurst for the fourth time in its history from June 13-16, but who will rise to the occasion at the Cradle of American Golf to claim this year’s penultimate major championship

While it has been a decade since the US Open was last held at Pinehurst’s famous No.2 course – when Martin Kaymer laid waste to the field with an eight-shot win – golf fans should be prepared to get to know every blade of its 7,500-plus yards in the years to come following the USGA’s decision to host no fewer than five future US Opens at the North Carolina venue over the next 23 years.

One of the USGA’s new ‘anchor sites’, Pinehurst will be popping up on our screens every five or six years between now and 2047, giving Donald Ross’s masterpiece plenty of airtime and the new generation of golfers plenty of opportunities to get to grips the nuances of this sand-strewn course with its upturned saucers for greens.

THE TOUGHEST TEST

The US Open is known for being the toughest test in golf, with long courses, narrow fairways and heavy rough, but the challenge posed to players at this year’s championship will be slightly different.

Originally designed by Ross in 1907, Pinehurst’s No.2 received a major overhaul in 2012, with Bill Coore and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw restoring many of Ross’s features by widening the fairways, removing 35 acres of maintained Bermuda grass rough, turning off peripheral irrigation that spilled out into the rough, and planting hundreds of thousands of wiregrass plants, while creating uneven native areas flanking the fairways.

The result is unevenness and unpredictability in these unmanaged areas, with the ball likely to come to rest in places that could be either quite easy or very hard to get back into play, as we witnessed when Kaymer et al were in action in 2014.

The par 4, 12th hole on the Pinehurst No.2 Course (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

BUNKER DEBATE

With formal bunkers intertwined among wide area of broken sandy ground, each group of players will be accompanied by a rules official whose task it will be to declare the ball either in or out of the bunker – with the rules pertaining to each status made clear.

In some cases, that will not be a straightforward decision. USGA officials have made it clear that if there is any doubt, referees will tip the balance towards declaring the ball in a hazard, so that players can be careful not to ground their club.

There will be a lot of tee shots that run off the fairway and into more tricky territory, which will require players to show patience and accuracy in equal measure, so expect to see a few unhappy golfers, and a few big scores.

“With Pinehurst No.2 we feel that the golf course is always close to US Open ready,” said Tom Pashley, the President of Pinehurst Resort. “We don’t have to grow up the rough, we don’t have to narrow the fairways.

Matt Fitzpatrick lifted the US Open trophy in 2022
(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

HOW WILL THE GREENS PLAY

We focus on firming up the conditions and making sure it’s fast. Now with Bermuda grass greens instead of Bent grass greens, we can’t wait to see how the greens perform under US Open conditions.”

Aside from the Bermuda grass, not much will be different from the 2014 US Open. The only other material change is at the par-4 13th hole, where the fairway has been narrowed by 12 yards.

The landing area on the 381-yard hole will be around 28 yards wide. As a whole, No.2 will play to 7,540 yards from the back tees with a par of 70. The distance is flexible from 7,300-7,500 yards depending on the weather and the wind.

The greens will be rolling 13-plus on the Stimpmeter and the course will be quick, firm and fast.

EVERY CLUB WILL BE USED

Speaking at the press launch ahead of the tournament, USGA president John Bodenhamer said: “We’re known for toughness, and you’ll see it right here on No.2, but a lot of people have a misconception about ‘tough but fair’.

It does not mean that our goal is for the winner to shoot even par, but it does mean that we want that winner to get every club in his bag dirty when he wins a US Open, including the club between the ears.”

“We want to test every part of their game. We want them to hit it high, low, left to right, right to left. We want them to think about their golf ball. What happens to when it hits the ground, not just in the air,” he added. “We don’t come in and put a cookie-cutter USGA approach on these great golf courses.

We stay true to what Donald Ross intended and the great architects of these great vigils intended. We want players to be able to control the golf ball on the ground, not just in the air.”

Payne Stewart of the celebrates victory at the 1999 US Open: Harry How /Allsport

SHOTMAKERS COURSE

That being the case, those hoping to contend at this year’s US Open are going to have be far more creative than they were, say, at last month’s PGA Championship, which saw record low scores on a Valhalla course that allowed players to hit it and rip it without much thought to the consequence thanks to generous fairways and softened greens.

There won’t much of either of those two elements at Pinehurst, ensuring that the bombers and gougers won’t be able to overpower the course in quite the same way as they did at the PGA.

So, while distance will, as ever, be a vital part of any likely winner’s armoury, especially given the style of the greens, which are not very receptive to low-trajectory second shots, those likely to prosper will be straight hitters who can control both their spin and ball flight.

Rory McIIroy is currently 10/1 to win the US Open, Tiger Woods 200/1

WHO WILL WIN AT PINEHURST

With that in mind, it will be no surprise to find world no.1 Scottie Scheffler, a master at wedge distance control, at the head of the golf betting

Following the unfortunate off-course incident at Valhalla, which must surely have put him off his stride, the Masters champion is a warm order at 4/1 to return to winning major ways at Pinehurst, although his lack of course form will give his rivals, among them Rory McIlroy (10-1) cause for hope, while newly crowned PGA champion Xander Schauffele (12/1) has the form and the patience to thrive in the testing conditions that the field look certain to face.

Selected odds 

Jon Rahm 16/1

Viktor Hovland 16/1

Bryson DeChambeau 18/1

Brooks Koepka 20/1

Cameron Smith 33/1

Matt Fitzpatrick 33/1

Tommy Fleetwood 33/1

Robert MacIntyre 50/1

Justin Rose 60/1

Phil Mickelson

Tiger Woods 200/1

For a complete list of odds on the US Open visit Betway.com

 

Sky Sports will be broadcasting live coverage of all four rounds of the 124th US Open from June 13-16.

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