Is the USGA Planning to Toughen Up Pinehurst Due to Low Scores in Recent Majors?

The 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot was famously known as “The Massacre at Winged Foot,” where the setup was described as brutal by many competitors. With high rough and concrete-like greens, the winning score of seven over par by champion Hale Irwin was the highest in 40 years. This extreme setup led to the event earning its nickname as players struggled to navigate the challenging conditions.

Fast forward fifty years to the upcoming U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where a different approach is being taken. Instead of focusing on making the course punishingly hard in response to low scores in recent majors, the goal is to present Pinehurst No. 2 as the fairest, most authentic version of itself. By allowing a variety of playing styles to have a chance at winning, the USGA aims to showcase the skills of the world’s greatest players.

Recent champions in major events have seen relatively low scores, with only one champion over par since the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. The winning scores have averaged eight under par, indicating a shift towards more player-friendly conditions. Instead of emphasizing extreme difficulty, the focus is on creating a challenging yet fair playing field that stays true to the original design by Donald Ross.

The USGA’s philosophy now involves letting the greatest venues shine and allowing players to showcase their skills across a range of shot-making requirements. Pinehurst No. 2, ranked No. 29 on America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, is being prepared meticulously with advanced technology and attention to detail to ensure a seamless and controlled environment for the tournament.

With weather conditions being a wildcard, thorough contingency planning is in place to adapt to any unforeseen changes. The goal remains to identify the best player through fair and competitive conditions, rather than aiming to humiliate the world’s best players. As the U.S. Open at Pinehurst approaches, the focus is on creating an environment that challenges players both mentally and physically while providing a platform for exceptional golf to shine.