US OPEN ’24: Americans on flight they haven’t seen in 40 years heading to Pinehurst No. 2

The list starts with Brooks Koepka winning his fifth major in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. The most recent addition is Xander Schauffele winning his first major in the PGA in Valhalla.

The streak hasn’t been the main talking point in a golf world full of endless drama, from conflicts between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, private equity and rising wealth. But there is so much to note as we head into the US Open:

The Americans are doing well in the Majors, and not just any of the players.

It is the longest streak in forty years, when the five of Americans consisted of Larry Nelson (US Open 1983), Tom Watson (British Open 1983), Hal Sutton (PGA Championship 1983), Ben Crenshaw (Masters 1984) and Fuzzy Zoeller ( 1984). US Open).

A revolving door of Americans winning majors seems to indicate great talent, which is increasingly the case in golf, and perhaps also parity.

The latter requires a break for two reasons. Three of the most recent American winners were major champions for the first time. Second, any talk about equality at the top would turn a blind eye to what Scheffler is doing.

Scheffler has been ranked No. 1 in the world rankings for thirteen months and is confident of staying at the top of the rankings for the longest time since Tiger Woods reigned from 2005 to 2010.

He is a clear favorite to add another major when the 124th US Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 in the sandhills of North Carolina.

This has already been an unforgettable year for Scheffler in many ways.

He hasn’t been out of the top 10 since the third week of January. About the only thing that slowed him down was being arrested and briefly jailed — it’s still hard to erase the memory of the No. 1 golfer in handcuffs — before the second round of the PGA Championship. He got out of jail in time to meet his starting time and still managed to finish in eighth place at the end of the week. And authorities in Louisville, Kentucky, ultimately dismissed all charges.

So that’s all behind him. Or is it?

“That’s something that, I think, will always stay with me,” Scheffler said. “I’m sure that mugshot (from the jail) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

Scheffler was clean-shaven at the Memorial the week before the US Open.

He has never seen Pinehurst No. 2, except for the flyover video of the Donald Ross gem a week before his arrival. Most of the major championship courses, except Augusta National, are relatively new to him in only his fifth year on the PGA Tour.

And he’s not the only one. Just over 20 players were at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, the last time the U.S. Open was there. Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar are the only players in the 156-man field to play in all four US Opens at Pinehurst No. 2 participated.

The course has been around for more than a century. Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the 1936 PGA Championship and the 1951 Ryder Cup, when the matches were still such an exhibition that players were given Saturdays off to attend a college football game.

And then it took 48 years later for it to break into the US Open landscape in a big way. Not only is this the fourth U.S. Open in the last 25 years, four U.S. Opens have already been booked for Pinehurst No. 2 through 2047.

“I’ve always liked No. 2. It’s a tree-lined course without a tree in play,” Jack Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus played the first US Open at Pinehurst at the age of 59, although he had plenty of experience, having won the famous North & South Amateur in 1959 and a PGA Tour event (Hall of Fame Classic) in 1975.

“Donald Ross loved to fend off golf — that’s obvious — because everything there, if you miss it, it goes away,” Nicklaus said, a reference mainly to the Turtleback Greens, a Ross signature.

It can be frustrating, and John Daly would be one of the first to be called as an expert witness. It was in 1999 when Daly became so frustrated with putts rolling off the edges or coming back to him off the green that he hit a ball still rolling on No. 8 and made an 11.

The big change was the restoration of No. 2 with its sand dunes and native plants – ‘sandscapes’ is the term at Pinehurst. Rough has been replaced by extensive dunes with wire grass shrubs, and these have grown since 2014. What hasn’t changed is the test, which remains among the toughest in golf.

“It’s tough, it takes a long time,” said Ludvig Aberg, who is making his U.S. Open debut and played the course before heading to the Memorial. ‘You have turtle vegetables where everything runs away from you. And I would expect it to be quite sturdy and fast.

Aberg, second at the Masters in his Major Championship debut, will be among those looking to end America’s run in the Majors.

Rory McIlroy gets another chance to end his decade-long drought in the majors. Jon Rahm will also get a lot of attention for other reasons.

It should be clear by now that players from the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, who compete over 54 holes without a shot start, are no less capable in the majors. Koepka won the PGA Championship last year and Bryson DeChambeau finished second at Valhalla this year.

However, Rahm comes into this US Open having not won a tournament since the 2023 Masters, a 14-month drought that is the longest since he first won as a professional. He never participated in his title defense at the Masters. And then he missed the cut in a major for the first time in five years at the PGA Championship.

Maybe a piece of history is on his side. That great American streak from forty years ago started right after Seve Ballesteros won the 1983 Masters and ended when Ballesteros won the 1984 British Open.

AP Golf:

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