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Eight months before the playing of the 2024 U.S. Open, the U.S. Golf Association has few concerns and no complaints.
Not about the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. No. 2 will be U.S. Open ready in June, USGA officials say, when the major golf championship is played for the fourth time on the revered course in the Sandhills.
“There’s no place like No. 2 in the world,” Jeff Hall, USGA managing director, said Tuesday during a “First Look” media briefing. “It’s an iconic, memorable, challenging, just fantastic U.S. Open venue.
“The best players in the world will be here. They’re so talented. We just sit off to the side. We’re working hand-in-hand with Pinehurst to set that stage where the actors get to do their thing.”
The crowned, humpback greens, so distinctive on the Donald Ross design, were changed from bent-grass surfaces to Champion Bermudagrass after the 2014 Open at Pinehurst. The USGA held the 2019 U.S. Amateur men’s event on No. 2 and came away convinced the greens would be U.S. Open fast in 2024.
How fast? Darin Bevard, USGA senior director of championship agronomy, said the greens should roll 12 to 13 on the Stimpmeter, the sloped device used to see how many feet a golf ball rolls when released on the green.
Remembering Payne Stewart’s epic finish
In 2014, it didn’t seem to matter how fast or slow the greens were to Martin Kaymer. The German found an early groove, led wire-to-wire and won by eight shots over Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
Michael Campbell of New Zealand topped Tiger Woods to win in 2005 on No. 2, six years after Payne Stewart’s scintillating finish, Stewart knocking in a winning 18-foot par putt on the final hole to hold off Phil Mickelson.
Stewart’s victory pose in 1999, his right arm and right leg extended, is seemingly frozen in time. A statue memorializing the moment stands behind the 18th hole near the clubhouse.
Photos of Stewart’s celebration show the green ringed with fans, their arms held high above their heads. If there’s a similar finish this year, fans around the green can take their own photos – cell phones will be permitted on the course, unlike 2014.
About 250,000 people will be on the grounds during the week of the Open, said Leighton Schwob, USGA senior director of operations. There were 325,000 in 2005 and 250,000 in 1999 and 2014, he said.
Another change this year will be the look of the par-70 course, which will play to 7,543 yards. After the extensive restoration made by golf architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw before the 2014 Open that included giving the sandy waste areas more of an “original” Donald Ross look, Pinehurst No. 2 came off scruffy and brown, especially for those watching the Open telecasts.
Almost 35 acres of Bermuda rough had been replaced by the waste areas, with roughly 250,000 wiregrass plants added.
Bevard said there was a “backlash” from the public and some of the golfers about the course’s aesthetic appearance, adding, “We would like to present a greener golf course than what we had in 2014 … if the weather cooperates.”
That might be the USGA’s biggest concern: the weather. It can rain a lot in the South during the summer time. The previous three Opens at Pinehurst have not been affected by the weather, but it is unpredictable.
“Mother Nature has a seat at the table and then we react to that,” Hall said, smiling.
2024 U.S. Open Championship
Where: No. 2 Course, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club,
When: June 13-16, 2024.
TV coverage: NBC, USA Network, Peacock.
Of note: Future U.S. Opens to be played at Pinehurst will be held in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. In 2029, the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open both will be played at Pinehurst, a repeat of the back-to-back Opens in 2014.
The USGA announced Tuesday that six additional events are coming to Pinehurst including men’s and women’s U.S. Amateurs and a future U.S. Adaptive Open.