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Home Look for some changes at this year's US Open

As spring finally arrives, it begins the thawing of a long, cold winter. The USGA is also coming out of hibernation, in terms of communication, as it begins its countdown to the US Open Championship. This year it will be held at Pinehurst #2 and the women’s edition will be played the week after the men’s. While that is unique, this year’s edition also has some other surprises in store for both fans and players.

“For the first time ever, we are not having long rough grass for a U.S. Open or for that matter for a Women's Open. That's a first. Considering the fact that we have been playing U.S. Opens for 120 years,” stated Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA. “So what they're going to encounter is sometimes they're going to be pinehurston sandy hard pan.  Sometimes they're going to be on soft, foot printed loose sand. Sometimes they're going to be up against or underneath wiregrass. Sometimes some of the vegetation, the natural vegetation that's just come up in these areas, sometimes it will be on pine needles or up against a pine cone. But it's going to give these players who miss a fairway just a different type of challenge. I think that all things being equal, will it be easier? Probably a little bit easier, but there is an element, I guess there's, I suppose, an element of luck involved, if you get on hard pan, which for a good player is kind of green light. Or do you get up against a clump of wiregrass. You could have two balls six inches apart and one can go for the green and one can't. That's kind of the nature of the game we play. It wasn't meant to be equal all the time or necessarily fair,” Davis continued.

“Another change from the last two Opens is this is absolutely a wider Open than we're used to. That's not a bad thing. One of the great things that moving these championships around is that you get different types of courses. We should celebrate that,” he said. “One of the things I suppose by having narrow U.S. Open fairways like they traditionally do, it's more of a test, can I hit the fairway. Well this time around there's going to be a fair amount of holes are the same, I think I can hit this fairway, and I actually want to hit it down the right side, it's a better angle,” Davis explained.

“Another thing that's different this year, we have, on more than half the holes, we have added new teeing grounds. We have done that not just to add extra distance, although we did add extra distance, if you compare scorecard this go round for the men's open to last go round, it's about 300 yards, 350 yards longer. But we won't play that whole length at any given time,” he promised. “We also built some forward tees. There's some days where we might try to play a hole say a drivable par-4 for the men. We want to do the exact same thing for the women.

“Then the last thing that's different from last go round is the fourth and fifth holes. We have essentially just flipped the pars on those. So 4 used to be a par-5. Now it's a par-4. 5 used to be a par-5 and it's now a par-4. Why did we do it? To be honest, in looking at it, it just felt like those holes, from an architectural standpoint, played better,” Davis said.

The USGA Executive Director said the scorecard for the men is going to read 7562 yards, roughly 900 yards longer than what the women will play. The USGA has expressed the desire to see these two weeks play exactly the same, given the slightly differing ability of the men versus the women. “If the women are hitting a 6-iron in and it's a bounce, bounce, stop. That's what we want for the men,” explained Davis. “So this all sounds wonderful on paper, I can assure you we have spent a lot of time thinking about this.  Will we get it perfect? I can guarantee we will not get this thing perfect. I can promise you,” he added. “But the idea is we're going to try to have them play the same golf course. And, again, we could have one week very dry and breezy, the next week still, humid, soft. They're going to play different. But the idea is same golf course, same setup.” Davis noted the women will play from tees that are closer to the greens. “If we want the women hitting roughly the same clubs into greens as the men, their drive zones are going to be a little closer to the greens to begin with.  So we really don't think, divots are going to be part of the story.”

For anyone wondering why the women will play second after the men, Davis explained the reasoning. “Simply put, the agronomists, the superintendents feel we have the best chance of getting the putting greens right having the men play first and the women play second. That's the reason,” he said.

Ben Kimball, executive director of the U.S. Women's Open, said the plan is to have the pins placed in roughly the same quadrants of the greens in each corresponding round of both tournaments. “Certainly the challenging thing for me and trying to pick out hole locations, I almost have to wait and see what we're going to decide and use for the U.S. Open and then we'll have to adjust accordingly. Keeping them in the same quadrants, absolutely. We want to give them the same look from Week 1 to Week 2," Kimball explained.