Thursday, June 13, 2024

US Open golf 2024: Pinehurst No. 2 course, why is it so hard, preview, news, greens, grass,

Must read

The third golf major of the year, the US Open, is always a brutal test.

It’s almost always hosted at notoriously tricky courses – like at Winged Foot, where Australian Geoff Ogilvy won in 2006 with a score of five-over par.

This year’s host is no different: it’s a ruthless, gruelling slog for the world’s best.

But at the same time, Pinehurst No. 2 – the second of ten courses at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina – is a unique challenge.

Here’s what makes it so difficult, and why it will deliver a thrilling, unpredictable weekend ahead.

Watch every round of the US Open LIVE & Exclusive to Fox Sports, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

Ogilvy relives historic 2006 US Open win | 03:34

THE HISTORY

The Pinehurst Resort opened in 1895, with a rudimentary nine-hole golf course opened three years later and added to in 1899. Scottish designer Donald Ross was hired in 1900, and besides fixing the first 18-hole course, he designed a handful more courses at Pinehurst over the years – including No. 2, a masterpiece of golf architecture. Ross would become a legend of the golfing world, designing or redeveloping over 400 golf courses in his life (including Oak Hill, Seminole, and Inverness). But none have stood the test of time quite like Pinehurst No.2.

It has hosted a raft of major tournaments since 1903 – from the 1936 PGA Championship to a Ryder Cup, three US Amateur Championships, two TOUR Championships, and three US Opens in 1999, 2005, and 2014.

After this year, it’s already been locked in to host the US Open repeatedly in the future – in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

So what makes it so special?

MORE US OPEN COVERAGE

‘Had to ask … is that right?’: Fellow pros in awe as Scott’s ‘insane’ majors streak saved

AUSSIE HOPES: Star’s key change; Smith ‘built for’ ruthless course

Tiger Woods practising at Pinehurst this week.Source: Getty Images

THE COURSE

The first thing you notice at Pinehurst is that there’s no rough.

Not the kind of grassy second cut that you’d expect, anyway.

Miss the fairway and you’ll find in large sandy regions full of native wiregrass. There’s scruffy bushes too, into which a ball can disappear.

As former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy told Fox Sports’ preview show, Aussies at the US Open: “It’s just a really tough test. It’s firm.

“It’s actually not like a normal US Open venue in that it doesn’t rely on being narrow (with) long rough. It’s quite wide. But you can see from the pictures it’s pretty bad if you do miss the cut surface, you’re in some sandy, long, gnarly sort of grass. Lots of sand everywhere.”

What makes it so difficult is the variation in hitting conditions from the rough. No two shots ever feel the same. It’s hazardous and unpredictable.

Make the fairway, on the other hand, and players are likely to be handsomely rewarded – the grass is farm and fast, meaning long rollouts add distance. But this isn’t simply a course where the long-hitters can spray it off the tee and ‘overpower’ the course – because at Pinehurst, approach shots are king.

The greens are famous – or infamous – for their domed shape. Often known as ‘turtlebacks’, almost all of the 18 greens on No. 2 have a very small middle of the green, with the rest sloping downwards in every direction. The greens themselves are firm and fast, meaning more punishment for those who get the velocity or spin of their iron play wrong.

There’s a famous saying of Pinehurst that goes something like this: they don’t track Greens in Regulation, they track Greens visited in Regulation.

Ogilvy added: “But the real challenge at Pinehurst No. 2 is the greens are all upside-down saucers. They repel the ball on all four sides. Almost all 18 greens, if you’re sort of towards the edge of the green, the ball is gonna roll off the green.

“That sets up a real apprehension in your mind, it makes you nervous. You really start aiming at the middle of the greens and they start seeming smaller and smaller. It’s just a test, it’s relentless. It keeps coming at you.”

The result of those two features is that the course is remarkably deceptive. It looks rather straightforward – only one hole has a sight of water, and there’s hardly any out of bounds areas. But try and play it, and the results speak for themselves.

How Min Woo Lee is primed for US Open | 06:58

THE RESULTS

In the three men’s US Opens held here, only four golfers have made it under par.

The remarkable 2005 US Open in Pinehurst was the perfect proof of the course’s devilish side.

2001 and 2004 US Open winner Retief Goosen had a three-shot lead entering the final round, only to go 11 over (81). The two players tied for second entering the final round equally capitulated: Jason Gore hit a 13-over 84, and Olin Browne hit an 80.

When Pinehurst hits, it hits hard.

The 1999 and 2005 editions of the tournament came before a major redevelopment of the course in 2011.

In an attempt to make the course more like it had been designed over a century earlier, Pinehurst removed 20 acres of grass from the roughs, leaving it a sandy wasteland. The number of sprinklers around the course was reduced from 1,100 to 450.

The rough soon returned to how it had been intended all along: the natural sandy soil of the region, with plenty of wiregrass around the holes.

This is not the pristine manicured world of Augusta National, host of the Masters – Pinehurst is as scruffy and rough around the edges as it is prestigious.

“It’s like it’s seemingly built for the US Open and the USGA, Pinehurst No. 2,” Ogilvy said. “You could play 365 (days a year) at Pinehurst No. 2 and have a US Open. It’s that sort of course. It’s always difficult.”

That restoration was done in preparation for hosting the 2014 US Open. A decade on, the course has become even harder. More and more of that wiregrass has grown, as have other native plants like gore bush.

USGA Chief Championships Officer John Bodenhamer said last month: “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.”

Expect to see plenty of players battling in the unique rough.Source: Getty Images

This year, the greens are using a new type of Bermuda grass – and early indications are that the greens will be even faster than usual.

Reigning champion Wyndham Clark said yesterday: “I mean, they are extremely fast. If they get any firmer and faster, the greens, I mean, they’d be borderline. They already are borderline.”

He added: “I find myself hitting uphill putts six feet by, six, seven feet by. Common theme in our group. I mean, multiple guys putted off the green. Multiple guys hit putts, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh’. Definitely the defence right now (from the course against low scoring) is the greens.”

His comments came after rain on Sunday at Pinehurst. When the course bakes in, it could go from ‘borderline’ to truly savage.

But that’s what makes Pinehurst so special. For over 100 years, it’s tested the very best.

This weekend, making par might win a major.

Latest article