Tour Confidential: Will this U.S. Open be as brutal as expected?

Max Homa pinehurst no. 2

Max Homa plays from a native area on Pinehurst No. 2.

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The difficulty of Pinehurst No. 2 has been a major talking point at this week’s U.S. Open, but as we ready for the first round, do you think that storyline has been overblown? Or do you think we’ll see scores much higher than expected on Thursday?

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor (@jess_marksbury): No matter how hard a golf course is supposed to be, it seems like there is always someone who manages to shoot an outlier low score. But that said, I do think Pinehurst will show some teeth this week, and I expect even par will be considered a great round.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I’m very, very concerned by the amount of green-watering that seems to be going on. But if you believe the players, this thing is gonna be brutal — in a good way. Tiger Woods talking about guys playing ping-pong. Wyndham Clark called the greens borderline on Monday. Martin Kaymer, who won here last time, talking about how much tougher it looks this time around. Those of us who love watching the pros tackle a terrifying U.S. Open test are often disappointed to get to tournament time and see the course play easier than advertised, but I don’t think that’ll happen this week. I hope not. Winning score is three under. 

Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): I really like the six- to 10-under-par that has been winning U.S. Opens of late. Yes, the greens are challenging and while they are watering the course now, as Dylan reports, it’s going to take a lot more than hosing to soften this course with the high temperatures coming Thursday through Sunday. After the greens, the next defense of this golf course is the length because you can get away with some big misses off the tee. These guys will still have lots of wedges into greens. There will be plenty of birdies to keep the winning score in that sweet spot scoring zone, but also lots of train wrecks to keep most of the field on the other side of par. Sounds like a U.S. Open to me.

Sean Zak, senior writer (@sean_zak): It’s been accurately portrayed. It’s all the players can seem to talk about, a breath of fresh air from Valhalla last month, which one caddie told me today, “Didn’t feel like a major.” That’s because the ball sat exactly where it landed on the ground. There was no thinking, no hard work for caddies. Players are talking about the difficulty of the course because their brains are switched ON. They should be. It’s exhausting. It’s the U.S. Open. I don’t see scores ballooning, necessarily, but there is definitely room for some chaos, which is great. A wicked fun weekend awaits. Six under wins.

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): I’m sure the test will be stern, but I don’t see scores being as high as they have been in the previous Opens here, with just four players total finishing under par. Since the Saturday massacre at Shinnecock in 2018 (giving us Zach Johnson’s infamous “They’ve lost the golf course” speech) the USGA has been very cautious about pushing things to the edge. The winning U.S. Open scores since then have been 13 under, 10 under, and three times at six under.  I’d guess that the winning score this year will be something in that six under range. Carnage isn’t as much in the DNA for the current USGA regime.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): The good news about this week is that the course won’t need to be tricked up to be toughened up. The greens alone at No. 2 are enough of a defense to keep scores from running into deep-red Valhalla numbers, without having to cut pins on goofy nobs or bake the putting surfaces to asphalt consistency. And because they’re now bermuda (a change since the last U.S. Open here in 2014) the course setup peeps should be able to get the putting surfaces super-tight without worrying about burnout. Should be fierce but fair. By the end of the week, I suspect you’ll be able to count the total number of players under par on one hand. Scottie Scheffler will probably be the lowest of them, at seven under.

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