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US Open Greens Expected To Create ‘War Of Attrition’

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The US Open is known for being “golf’s toughest test,” and Tiger Woods anticipates another “war of attrition” at Pinehurst this week.

In the three previous US Opens held at Pinehurst’s Number Two course, only four players finished under par.

This year’s 124th US Open is expected to be equally challenging, with the speed of the ‘upturned saucer’ greens being a major concern.

Defending champion Wyndham Clark noted on Monday that the greens were already “borderline” in terms of speed, while Woods remarked on Tuesday that he, like many others, had “putted off lots of greens” during practice.

The United States Golf Association (USGA), which runs the US Open, will aim to avoid issues similar to those at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 and 2018, especially with temperatures forecasted to be above 30°C.

In 2004, Woods accused the USGA of “losing the course” after they failed to water greens following the second round, forcing green staff to hose down the seventh hole’s putting surface between groups in the final round. In 2018, Phil Mickelson hit his ball while it was still moving on the 13th hole, leading to further criticism of the USGA’s course setup.

Woods, 48, was in his prime during the first two US Opens at Pinehurst in 1999 and 2005. He finished third in 1999, when Payne Stewart was the only player to beat par. In 2005, Woods missed out on his 10th major, finishing two shots behind New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, who won on level par after Woods bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes in the final round.

Woods missed the 2014 US Open due to a back injury, when Germany’s Martin Kaymer won by eight shots on a course that had undergone significant renovations, removing the heavy rough and narrow fairways and introducing sandy ‘native areas’ and ‘turtleback’ greens.

Only Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton broke par alongside Kaymer, who finished nine under after being ten under after two rounds.

Woods expects a similar theme this year.

The course, designed by legendary architect Donald Ross, who grew up playing and working on the fabled links of Dornoch in northern Scotland in the 19th Century, opened for play in 1907.

Ross, who worked with Old Tom Morris in Scotland, designed courses largely styled by nature using only wheelbarrows and spades to move the earth.

“When Donald did this golf course and made the greens this severe, I don’t think he intended it to be running at 13 on the stimpmeter (a device used to measure green speed),” said Woods.

“They were the speed of fairways. They’re very severe and we’re playing under faster conditions.

“It’s more of a test. It’s going to be a great test and a great war of attrition this week. It’s going to be a lot of fun for all of us.”

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