It’s a big week golf fans. It’s time for the second major of the year and the 114th playing of the US Open Championship. This year’s event will be played on the No. 2 course of the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina and what a golf course it is! Designed by Donald Ross, it was opened in 1907 and described by its architect as “the fairest test of championship golf I ever designed.” Ross was an apprentice to ‘Old’ Tom Morris (designer of Muirfield amongst others). He worked on the course for many decades to get it just as he wanted it, and what a masterpiece it is.
Key elements to Ross designed courses include a British style of allowing players to run the ball onto the greens. He is known for punishing balls that run through the green with trouble through the back as well. His ‘signature’ design element is his use of ‘turtleback’ greens and these are a real feature at Pinehurst. They will be key this week. Around Pinehurst No.2, the greens are small targets. Whoever leads the greens in regulation stats at the end of this week will be in with a chance. The course looks slightly different to usual US Open set-ups as the USGA have cut back the deep rough in favour of ‘native areas’. In an interview for the resort Rory McIlroy mentioned that it’s potluck in these areas. You can have a lie you can do anything with or you can be really stuck. He also mentioned that the fairways seemed very ‘generous’ so I’m expecting a lot of birdies, not necessarily low scoring though.
Previous winners around this track include the kiwi Michael Campbell in 2005 and the late great Payne Stewart in 1999. The celebration that followed his winning putt in ’99 has been immortalised in a statue at the club. Incidentally the man Stewart defeated that day was arguably the same man who is the story of the week this week, Mr. Phil Mickelson. So who could be facing that slow 18-foot putt up the hill that Payne drained to lift the US Open Trophy?
Well as I have alluded to, the story of the week is Phil Mickelson. In winning the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield he has just one more major golf title to collect for a ‘career slam’. He has a brace of US Open runner-up spots on his resume (’99,’02,’04,’09,’13), but never the win. It will be a fairytale finish and sure headline grabber if he takes the title, but his results this year haven’t been brilliant. He is yet to finish in the top-10, but you know what, this is Phil Mickelson. He is one of the still-playing legends of the game and it would be great to see him win.
Another possible champion this week would be Rory McIlroy. He is playing well this year and is recently off the back of his maiden victory on British soil at the BMW European PGA Championship. He has the ability to put together runs of birdies and he hits it long. The course is playing around 7,500 yards this week so length will help especially hitting into the small targets. Remember also that he won the championship in 2011 too.
My dark horse for this tournament is Stephen Gallacher. I’m not sure if I see him winning but I reckon he has definitely got a top-10 in him. He is playing some great golf this year and he just quietly goes about his business with solid and drama-free golf. He is one of two Scots in the field this week along with Chris Doak.
The tournament went down to the wire last year when Justin Rose took the title in a re-enactment of Ben Hogan’s long iron finish at Merion many moons a go. I cannot wait to sit back and watch this. What World Cup?!
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