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US Open: No-rough Pinehurst still tough
US Open Golf Heal
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits his tee shot on the 13th hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Wednesday, June 11, 2014. The tournament starts Thursday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) - photo by Associated Press

2014 U.S. Open
Today-Sunday
Pinehurst, N.C.
ESPN/NBC

Tee times

(a-amateur)
Thursday-Friday
First hole-10th hole
    6:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Daniel Berger, United States; Brett Stegmaier, United States, a-Cameron Wilson, United States.
    6:56 a.m.-12:41 p.m. — Marcel Siem, Germany; Brian Stuard, United States; Andrea Pavan, Italy.
    7:07 a.m.-12:52 p.m. — Matt Every, United States; Roberto Castro, United States; Matt Jones, Australia.
    7:18 a.m.-1:03 p.m. — Sergio Garcia, Spain; Jason Day, Australia; Brandt Snedeker, United States.
    7:29 a.m.-1:14 p.m. — Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Matt Kuchar, United States; Lee Westwood, England.
    7:40 a.m.-1:25 p.m. — Webb Simpson, United States; Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland; Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland.
    7:51 a.m.-1:36 p.m. — Ian Poulter, England; Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain; Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand.
    8:02 a.m.-1:47 p.m. — Nick Watney, United States; Jonas Blixt, Sweden; Joost Luiten, The Netherlands.
    8:13 a.m.-1:58 p.m. — Billy Horschel, United States; Billy Hurley III, United States; Robert Allenby, Australia.
    8:24 a.m.-2:09 p.m. — Aaron Baddeley, Australia; a-Oliver Goss, Australia; Aron Price, Australia.
    8:35 a.m.-2:20 p.m. — Tom Lewis, England; Craig Barlow, United States; Justin Thomas, United States.
    8:46 a.m.-2:31 p.m. — a-Robby Shelton, United States; Matthew Dobyns, United States; Brady Watt, Australia.
    8:57 a.m.-2:42 p.m. — Clayton Rask, United States; a-Brian Campbell, United States; Nicholas Mason, United States.
    12:30 p.m.-6:45 a.m. — Garth Mulroy, South Africa; Steven Alker, New Zealand; Bobby Gates, United States.
    12:41 p.m.-6:56 a.m. — Niclas Fasth, Sweden; Kiyoshi Miyazato, Japan; Hudson Swafford, United States.
    12:52 p.m.-7:07 a.m. — John Senden, Australia; Nicolas Colsaerts, Belgium; Brooks Koepka, United States.
    1:03 p.m.-7:18 a.m. — Dustin Johnson, United States; Jimmy Walker, United States; Victor Dubuisson, United States.
    1:14 p.m.-7:29 a.m. — Stewart Cink, United States; Justin Leonard, United States; Y.E. Yang, South Korea.
    1:25 p.m.-7:40 a.m. — Bubba Watson, United States; Adam Scott, Australia; Charl Schwartzel, South Africa.
    1:36 p.m.-7:51 a.m. — Ernie Els, South Africa; Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa.
    1:47 p.m.-8:02 a.m. — Jason Dufner, United States; Keegan Bradley, United States; Martin Kaymer, Germany.
    1:58 p.m.-8:13 a.m. — Hunter Mahan, United States; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Jamie Donaldson, Wales.
    2:09 p.m.-8:24 a.m. — Bo Van Pelt, United States; Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Spain; Seung-Yul Noh, South Korea.
    2:20 p.m.-8:35 a.m. — Danny Willett, England; a-Corey Whitsett, United States; Luke Guthrie, United States.
    2:31 p.m.-8:46 a.m. — Kevin Tway, United States; Jim Renner, United States; Chris Doak, Scotland.
    2:42 p.m.-8:57 a.m. — Cody Gribble, United States; Chris Thompson, United States; a-Andrew Dorn, United States.

10th hole-First hole
    6:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Henrik Norlander, Sweden; Lucas Bjerregaard, Denmark; Rob Oppenheim, United States.
    6:56 a.m.-12:41 p.m. — Chad Collins, United States; Lee Kyoung-Hoon, South Korea; Kevin Kisner, United States.
    7:07 a.m.-12:52 p.m. — Erik Compton, United States; Pablo Larrazabal, Spain; Scott Langley, United States.
    7:18 a.m.-1:03 p.m. — Patrick Reed, United States; Ryan Moore, United States; Kevin Na, United States.
    7:29 a.m.-1:14 p.m. — Boo Weekley, United States; D.A. Points, United States; Stephen Gallacher, Scotland.
    7:40 a.m.-1:25 p.m. — Zach Johnson, United States; Angel Cabrera, Argentina; David Toms, United States.
    7:51 a.m.-1:36 p.m. — Justin Rose, England; a-Matthew Fitzpatrick, England; Phil Mickelson, United States.
    8:02 a.m.-1:47 p.m. — Chris Kirk, United States; Russell Henley, United States; Brendon Todd, United States.
    8:13 a.m.-1:58 p.m. — Jordan Spieth, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Rickie Fowler, United States.
    8:24 a.m.-2:09 p.m. — Kenny Perry, United States; Jeff Maggert, United States; Kevin Sutherland, United States.
    8:35 a.m.-2:20 p.m. — Liang Wen-Chong, China; Maximillian Kieffer, Germany; Shiv Kapur, India.
    8:46 a.m.-2:31 p.m. — Smylie Kaufman, United States; a-Maverick McNealy, United States; a-Brandon McIver.
    8:57 a.m.-2:42 p.m. — Anthony Broussard, United States; a-Will Grimmer, United States; Nicholas Lindheim, United States.
    12:30 p.m.-6:45 a.m. — Alex Cejka, Germany; Graeme Storm, England; David Oh, United States.
    12:41 p.m.-6:56 a.m. — Oliver Fisher, England; Casey Wittenberg, United States; Andres Echavarria, Colombia.
    12:52 p.m.-7:07 a.m. — Joe Ogilvie, United States; Mark Wilson, United States; Ken Duke, United States.
    1:03 p.m.-7:18 a.m. — Jim Furyk, United States; Steve Stricker, United States; Bill Haas, United States.
    1:14 p.m.-7:29 a.m. — Brendon de Jonge, Zimbabwe; Kevin Stadler, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland.
    1:25 p.m.-7:40 a.m. — Luke Donald, England; Harris English, United States; Paul Casey, England.
    1:36 p.m.-7:51 a.m. — J.B. Holmes, United States; Gary Woodland, United States; Graham DeLaet, Canada.
    1:47 p.m.-8:02 a.m. — Retief Goosen, South Africa; Geoff Ogilvy, Australia; Lucas Glover, United States.
    1:58 p.m.-8:13 a.m. — Bernd Wiesberger, Austria; Kim Hyung-Sung, South Korea; Toru Taniguchi, Japan.
    2:09 p.m.-8:24 a.m. — Ryan Palmer, United States; Rod Pampling, Australia; Kevin Streelman, United States.
    2:20 p.m.-8:35 a.m. — Azuma Yano, Japan; Ryan Blaum, United States; David Gossett, United States.
    2:31 p.m.-8:46 a.m. — Simon Griffiths, England; Fran Quinn, United States; Donald Constable, United States.
    2:42 p.m.-8:57 a.m. — a-Hunter Stewart, United States; a-Sam Love, United States; Zac Blair, United States.

    PINEHURST, N.C. — Pinehurst No. 2 is anything but perfect for the U.S. Open, at least in the traditional sense of major championships in America.
    USGA executive director Mike Davis, a former Georgia Southern golfer, could not be any more thrilled.
    "It's awesome," Davis said Monday as he gazed out at a golf course that looks like a yard that hasn't been watered in a month.
    Sandy areas have replaced thick rough off the fairways. They are partially covered with that Pinehurst Resort officials refer to as "natural vegetation," but what most anyone else would simply call weeds.
    The edges of the bunkers are ragged. The turf is uneven just off some of the greens, with patches of no grass.
    Instead of verdant fairways from tee-to-green, the fairways are a blend of green, yellow and brown.
    That was the plan all along.
    Shortly after this Donald Ross gem was awarded its third U.S. Open in 15 years, the fabled No. 2 course went through a gutsy project to restore it to its natural look from yesteryear, before this notion that the condition of a course had to be perfect.
    Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was amazed when he walked off the 18th green.
    "I wouldn't call this an inland links, but it's got that character," he said. "I was a bit nervous when I heard of the redo. But this looks like it's been here for a long time."
    Els has been playing the U.S. Open for two decades. He never imagined the "toughest test in golf" without any rough. Nor does he think that will make it easier.
    "You don't need it," he said. "When I played it in '99, I didn't like it. You hit it in the rough, you're just trying to get it out. It was one-dimensional. Now, you're going to have an unbelievable championship.
    "If you miss the fairway, you're not just going to wedge it out. You've got a chance to hit a miraculous shot. And then you could really be (in trouble). This is the way it used to be."
    Els said the look of Pinehurst No. 2 reminded him of Royal Melbourne, and a guy who actually grew up next to Royal Melbourne agreed.
    "These are Melbourne
fairways," Geoff Ogilvy said as he walked down the first fairway, where the grass was green for the first 200 yards before turning brown, and then going back to greener grass toward the green.
    "This is kind of the way grass is supposed to be. In the summer it browns up, and in the winter it's green. To my eye, this is what golf courses are supposed to look like."
    Ogilvy understand architecture better than most players. He was looking at photos as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw worked on the restoration. He had heard stories. And it still managed to exceed his expectations.
    As for the idea of a U.S. Open without rough? He pointed to clumps of grass in the sandy areas, and some of the wiregrass bushes. And yes, the weeds.
    "Look, the reality is there is rough there," he said. "It's probably what rough used to be like before we had crazy irrigation."
    The past two U.S. Open champions finished over par — Webb Simpson at Olympic Club, Justin Rose at Merion, both at 1-over. A third straight U.S. Open champion over par would be the longest streak in nearly 60 years.
    Not many were willing to bet against that.
    "I've never played anything like it," Jordan Spieth said.
    "And it's already — right now, with the pins in the middle of the greens — hard enough for even par to win. It's going to be extremely challenging. But at the same time, it's a great test."

More than a great test, Davis is hopeful it sends a great message.

The USGA has been preaching in recent years to get away from the idea that golf courses have to be perfectly manicured to be great.

Pinehurst No. 2, and perhaps Chambers Bay next year outside Seattle, allows a chance to show the golfing public what it means.

The restoration project involved removing some 35 acres of sod and keeping only 450 of the 1,150 sprinkler heads. Water use is down an estimated 40 percent.

"It's look back in the past, but it's really looking forward to the future," Davis said. "Owners, operators and superintendents won't give you this until the golfers think it's OK.

"At private clubs, unless the greens committee says, 'This is what we want,' the superintendent won't do it. It's people thinking, 'This looks fine.'"

Pinehurst No. 2 effectively presents the opposite perception of Augusta National. For years, superintendents have complained that too many courses wanted to be just like the home of the Masters in the quality — near perfection — of the conditions.

"Hopefully, this sets a precedent," Ogilvy said. "If Augusta has been the model everyone followed, hopefully this shows that it doesn't have to be that way to be great."