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Andy Lyons (Getty Images)

By: Bennett Smed |

2014 US Open: New Golf Course, Players to Watch, Local Flavor, lead list of things to watch at Pinehurst No.2

When viewers tune into the US Open this week, the initial reaction to the newly renovated Pinehurst No.2 might be, “Where is all the perfectly manicured grass?” When Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were commissioned to renovate Pinehurst back to its original Donald Ross design, that resulted in rough being replaced by sandy areas dotted with small wiregrass bushes and covered in natural vegetation. It required the removal of 35 acres of sod, and only 450 sprinkler heads (down from 1,150) remain.

So if you are tuning in to see a perfectly green golf course with players hitting the same shots from the same spots, this is not the tournament for you. This US Open will be won by the player who exudes creativity, ball striking prowess, and as the case for any tournament especially a major, a hot putter.

Now going off of the aforementioned criteria, who are some of the players with the best chances this week at Pinehurst?

  1. Rory Mcllroy- When the former world number one broke off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki three weeks ago, questions swirled of how this will play into the 25 year-olds performance on the course. He quickly answered those questions by coming from 7 shots back on the final day of the European Tour’s flagship event, The BMW PGA Championship, to win by one. The very next week Mcllroy opened with a 9 under 63 at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio and turned that into a top-10 finish. The one word that defines Mcllroy heading into Pinehurst, trending.
  2. Phil Mickelson- Based on performance alone in 2014, Mickelson probably would not be on this list, with his best finish of the year being two T-11 finishes. This is the longest Mickelson has ever gone into a PGA Tour season without a top 10. On a course that puts an emphasis on creativity however, Mickelson cannot ever be ruled out. Especially since he has extra motivation this week, needing only the US Open to become the sixth man complete the career grand slam, and trying to avenge a second place finish here in 1999 to the late Payne Stewart.
  3.  Adam Scott- The new World No.1 justified his top spot by winning in his first week atop the rankings, downing the reigning PGA champ Jason Dufner in a playoff. Scott has been playing very well all year and it was about time the 2013 Masters champion translated that good play into a win. Scott has been experimenting with a new green reading technique, which will need to be working on all cylinders if he wants to capture his second major.

Along with the known favorites, there is some local flavor competing in the years second major. Donald Constable and Clayton Rask are two former Gophers who made it through the two stages of qualifying to earn a spot at Pinehurst. Constable, of Excelsior, shot rounds of 72 and 69 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md, to earn one of the available spots in the US Open. Rask of Otsego, finished his 36 hole sectional qualifying with the same total at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Ore.

This week’s tournament will be the first major championship for both players, but Constable has some history at Pinehurst, winning the 2010 North & South match-play amateur championship as the 31st seed.