U.S. Open Test Figures as Challenging as Championship can be
07 Jun,2024 Credit : Harry How - Getty Images

By Tim Liotta


U.S. Open Test Figures as Challenging as Championship can be

Expect Pinehurst No. 2 to be as challenging as any U.S. Open course can be. 

And that has as much to do with last year's U.S. Open at LACC - where Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele posted first-round 62s, record-setting lows for a U.S. Open, and 18 players finished with 72-hole, sub-par scores over the Los Angeles Country Club course - as it does Pinehurst No. 2. 

That's because the U.S. Open does not respond kindly when golfers make the Championship look easy. 

Four times in its history, the U.S. Open has been completed with a winning score double-digits under par. 

In 2000, Tiger Woods won at 12-under at Pebble Beach. 

In 2011, Rory McIlroy won at 16-under at Congressional. 

In 2016, Brooks Koepka won at 16-under at Erin Hills. 

In 2019, Gary Woodlands won at 13-under at Pebble Beach. 

In 2024, Wyndham Clark won at 10-under at LACC. 

Each time this has happened, the year after the double-digit winning score, the United States Golf Association has responded with a setup leading to a far different result in terms of final score. 

In the four previous U.S. Opens that have been held the year after a double-digit, sub-par winning score, a grand total of five golfers have posted sub-par scores for the championship. 

Over the last three, just one. 

In 2012, Webb Simpson won with a 1-over-par score at the Olympic Club,

In 2017, Koepka repeated with a 1-over-par score at Shinnecock Hills. 

In 2020, Bryson DeChambeau did win at 6-under-par over Winged Foot. However, he posted the only sub-par total for the week, won by six shots, and his final-round, 3-under-par 67 was only sub-par score that day, three shots better than the next-highest score. 

In 2001, Retief Goosen beat Mark Brooks in a play after posting 4-under-par scores, but only four players beat par for the week. 

Stewart Cink was third at 3-under, and Rocco Mediate was fourth at 2-under. Paul Azinger and Tom Kite tied for fifth at 2-over-par. 

Also remember that severe thunderstorms halted play on Thursday with less than half the field completing their rounds, after which Brooks shot a 6-under-par 64 in the second round over the softened No. 2, a score equaled by Tom Kite and Vijay Singh in the final round. 

And don't let Martin Kaymer's 2014 winning score of 9-under-par over Pinehurst Number Two make you think any different. He won by eight strokes, and only three players finished under par that year, with Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton finishing tied for second at 1-under. 

The rest of the field in 2014 was +1 or higher. 

Payne Stewart was the only player to finish under-par for the championship in the first U.S. Open over Pinehurst #2 in 1999. He needed to make a 18-foot, par-saving putt from 18 feet on the final hole to defeat Phil Mickelson by a single stroke for his second U.S. Open Championship.

Michael Campbell of New Zealand won the second U.S. Open held over Pinehurst Number Two by completing 72 holes in even-par. He needed a birdie on the 17th hole of the final round to hold off Tiger Woods by two shots. 

Add it up. Five golfers under-par in U.S. Opens the year after a double-digit winning score (out of 612 golfers), and five golfers under-par (out of 468) in the three previous U.S. Opens over Pinehurst No. 2. One thousand eighty golfers teed it up over those seven U.S. Championships, and a grand total of 10 bettered par.  And this year, the two factors are teamng up against the 2024 field of 156. 

Expect Pinehurst No. 2 to be as challenging as any U.S. Open course can be.