US Open 'borderline' greens could bring peril at Pinehurst

football12 June 2024 22:20| © AFP
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Pinehurst © Getty Images

Pinehurst's lightning-fast domed greens, already seen by some as "borderline" unfair, will bring peril for every golfer when the 124th US Open begins Thursday.

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The famed 7 543-yard sandhills tract offers plenty of sandy waste area and wiregrass – dirt and weeds – for wayward shots but the pressure doesn't subside when the ball reaches the putting surface.

The US Golf Association (USGA) wants the toughest test in golf and this week's setup, with a hefty 13 on the stimpmetre that measures green speed, will fit the bill.

"We've putted off a lot of greens," 15-time major winner Tiger Woods said. "It depends how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides.

"When Donald (Ross) did this golf course and made the greens this severe, I don't think he intended it to be running at 13 on the stimpmetre."

Defending champion Wyndham Clark said on Monday the greens "are extremely fast. They already are borderline."

Norway's Viktor Hovland, fifth in the world rankings, worries pin placements could have players struggling to avoid rolling off greens or well past holes again and again.

"I miss it maybe a foot low side, with just a hair too much speed, the ball is off the green," he said. "Some of those pins are a little bit close to the dropoffs.

"I don't really know where they're going to end up putting the pins, but if they were, in my opinion, borderline when the greens were soft, what if it starts blowing up a little bit and the greens just keep getting firmer and faster? It'll be just interesting to see."

World No 1 Scottie Scheffler doesn't expect dubious USGA pin placements.

"It's extremely challenging," he said. "I don't really think they have to do too much to trick it up with the way the greens are if they want the scores to be high."

"A lot of it is going to be missing in the right spots but there are certain holes out here that there isn't a 'great miss' – you've just got to step up there and hit a great shot."

John Bodenhamer, the USGA chief championships officer who tries pushing greens to the limit but never over, likes what he sees.

"Our strategy is built around tough but fair, but these are difficult greens, no bones about it," he said.

"We'll play in the (stimpmetre) mid-13s for most of the day. That'll drop down as the day goes on... but we think with the hole locations we choose, if the weather cooperates, we think that's a good place to be, along with everything else that's here with Pinehurst.

"We're going to be tough but fair. The players know that. I think they want that. I think that they want to win something special."

They don't, however, want to be embarassed doing it. That can happen if the greens go over the top, which has happened before. And Pinehurst is hard to start with.

Among 468 players in three prior US Opens at Pinehurst, only four broke par for 72 holes and just one, 2014 winner Martin Kaymer of Germany, finished better than one-under, running off to an eight-stroke triumph on nine-under.

"It's a brutally hard golf course," 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson said. "It's very long and there's no letup. You have to be incredibly disciplined. You have to accept 30-footers all day."


Kaymer never chipped in his victory, putting his way around trouble from off the green.

"You chip five balls, you're probably going to chunk one of them," Simpson said.

Hovland says putting isn't always the safe play either.

"There are certain slopes that are so steep, because it's so hard into the grain, if you're just off by a little bit, you're going to look like a fool," Hovland said.

"Just hitting the greens itself is of high value."

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy says creativity is at a premium.

"A course like this definitely demands a different skill set and also some creativity," he said. "That will be on display this week."