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Notorious Pinehurst course to take centre stage at US Open

The 124th US Open gets underway on Thursday, with tournament officials keeping a watchful eye on a course with the potential to reinstate their unwanted reputation for significant mishaps.

Difficulties with Pinehurst’s “turtleback” greens have dominated the agenda since defending champion Wyndham Clark labelled them “borderline” on Monday.

Even Tiger Woods admits to putting off a lot of greens in practice.

Chief championships officer John Bodenhamer insisted the course would be “tough but fair”, but the USGA has often found it impossible to achieve that goal.

In 2015, the greens at Chambers Bay were compared to “putting on broccoli” on a course designed by “a man who had to have one leg shorter than the other.”

Twelve months later, a bizarre rules decision – or indecision – left the eventual winner Dustin Johnson, other players, officials and spectators unsure of his score with just seven holes to play.

In 2017, the sound of heavy rough being cut down on four holes during his pre-tournament press conference left former champion Rory McIlroy in disbelief.

In 2018, the USGA admitted it went “too far” with Shinnecock Hills’s set-up after only three players broke par in a third round, during which Phil Mickelson was penalised for running after and deliberately hitting a moving ball on the 13th green.

Since then, the USGA appears to have learned their lesson and fans will be hoping that remains the case as 155 of the world’s best players attempt to prevent massive favourite Scottie Scheffler from claiming his third major title.

The Masters champion could conceivably have been targeting the third leg of an unprecedented calendar-year grand slam if not for the surreal events of May 17, when he was arrested following an incident with a police officer as he tried to get into Valhalla ahead of his second round of the US PGA.

Scheffler, who still managed to finish eighth, was second in his next event and then won the Memorial Tournament on Sunday. He was due to get his first round underway at 1314 local time (1814 BST) alongside McIlroy and US PGA winner Xander Schauffele.

Is there anything new for 2024?

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hits from a bunker on the 17th hole during a practice round for the US Open (Matt York/AP)

The greens were changed to Bermuda grass immediately after the previous US Open in 2014, while the 13th fairway has been narrowed by around 10-12 yards, according to tournament officials. Otherwise, Pinehurst will again play to a par-70 of around 7,500 yards, although different tee positions may be used to tempt longer hitters to try to drive the green on the par four third and 13th.

Form players?

Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler speaks during a news conference at the US Open at Pinehurst (Matt York/AP)

World number one Scottie Scheffler arrives on the back of victory in the Memorial Tournament, which made him the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 to win five times before the US Open. Xander Schauffele finished eighth at Muirfield Village in his first start since winning the US PGA Championship. At the same time, Rory McIlroy’s turbulent personal life has not prevented him from recording form figures of 1-12-4-15 in his last four starts.

Critical tee times (all BST)

1229 – Matt Fitzpatrick, Tiger Woods, Will Zalatoris
1240 – Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka
1803 – Robert MacIntyre, Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes
1814 – Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy
1825 – Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Nick Dunlap

Weather forecast

Thursday has high clouds lingering in the morning, with potentially a little less afternoon lower clouds mixing in. Temperatures will hit 90 degrees in the afternoon with only a light breeze up to a maximum of 8-10mph.