Power Rankings: 124th U.S. Open - PGA TOUR (2024)

    Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf

    OK, it’s finally time to identify the best golfer. As if! With enduring respect for the late Sandy Tatum, we already know who it is. He would, too.

    As chairman of the competition committee for the U.S. Open, it was Tatum who coined the famous phrase concerning the setup for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Country Club 50 years ago this week. Hale Irwin survived best at, yikes, 7-over 287, and then added victories in the major in 1979 and 1990. The best golfer was identified and then validated.

    The U.S. Open this week is staging its 124th edition. Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s No. 2 Course hosts for the fourth time. While it’s highly unlikely that the winner will be over par at its conclusion, no doubt that he truly will feel like the best has been identified.

    Scroll or swipe past the projected contenders for what’s in store for the field of 156, what’s different at Pinehurst since it last hosted 2014 and more.

    As if you needed the resolution that the opening tease points directly at Scottie Scheffler. The five-time PGA TOUR winner in the last three months sits at No. 1 in the FedExCup and the Official World Golf Ranking. His lead of 2,171.417 points over Xander Schauffele in the former would rank third overall, while his margin of 7.6798 points (also) over Schauffele in the latter would slot fourth. In other words, half-a-Scheffler still is a world-beater.

    If that isn’t extreme enough, try Pinehurst No. 2 on for size. The stock par 70 can stretch to 7,548 yards, so there’s that. A cursory analysis of how it tested 10 years ago suggests that it’s entirely a second-shot track. After all, the field averaged 70.02 percent in splitting fairways. That’s 9.8 (of 14) per golfer per round, which is absurd execution. But how many will take a back seat to where? Read on.

    Pinehurst also checked in as third-most challenging in hitting greens in regulation throughout the 2013-14 season at just 56.51 percent (10.17 average per golfer per round). And off that, things really got tough.

    The course was hardest in converting GIR into par breakers (2.1 of the 10.17 GIR), putts per GIR (1.884) and scrambling (a click under 50 percent). It also was third-stingiest in avoiding three-putts no matter when the ball stuck on the perched greens. (Since the last time that Pinehurst hosted, ShotLink has been added to measure every stroke at every U.S. Open, so more granular data will be available this week.)

    What that means for the field is to embrace what the course gives. Merely finding the short grass will be considered a statistical push relative to others. Instead, positioning on approach and precision into targets that play smaller than their square footage because of runoffs in almost all directions are paramount. Course management, patience and grit are invaluable intangibles. The 36-hole cut is low 60 and ties.

    As of midday Monday, 29 golfers in this week’s field have scar tissue from 2014 when the course averaged 73.076; well, all but Martin Kaymer who prevailed by eight strokes at 9-under 271. He genuinely could be accused of absurd execution. After an opening 65 to lead by three, his margin grew to six at the midpoint. It shrunk to five after the third round but he was not challenged to convert the wire-to-wire title.

    Since then, the bentgrass greens have been replaced by Ultradwarf Bermudagrass. That alone is significant but it’s also historic because it’s the first time that the tournament will be played on this strain. Flanking the welcoming fairways is native area teeming with wiregrass, which up close is reminiscent of the hair on a troll pencil topper. Only one of those two things is fun. Bunkers also abound and add to the striking visuals of the property.

    The U.S. Amateur was held at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2019. Fifteen participants of that competition qualified this week, 10 of whom advanced to the match-play component, so they have a head start on how the new putting surfaces will test.

    As it was five years ago, the annual top-level event for amateurs in the United States is held in August. We’re not there yet but it will feel like it at times this week. Daytime highs are expected to touch 90 degrees every day. It’ll climb higher than that on Friday and Saturday. Despite a risk for it on the weekend, rain would be a surprise at any point and early indications suggest that the wind won’t be much of a nuisance. So, Pinehurst is poised to present its best self. (Wednesday’s Golfbet Insider will include a revisit of the weather.)

    In addition to forever being known as the winner of the 2024 U.S. Open, he will be exempt into the next 10 editions of the major and the next five years of the other three. He’ll also be eligible for a PGA TOUR membership exemption through 2029.


    MONDAY: Power Rankings
    TUESDAY*: Sleepers
    WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider
    FRIDAY: Medical Extensions
    SUNDAY: Points and Payouts; Qualifiers; Reshuffle

    * - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.

    Power Rankings: 124th U.S. Open - PGA TOUR (2024)


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