The biggest PGA event of the year on American soil is underway with the start of the 2014 U.S. Open from Pinehurst. This is the one major on the calendar where professional golfers look like you and me trying to play a standard course in the neighborhood.
Pinehurst has been set up to humble the best players in the world, starting with the fact that it's 7,562 yards. The greens, according to Phil Mickelson, via Golf.com, are "so repellent" that it should be very interesting to see what happens when players try to approach the hole.
Whatever is in store for the second major of 2014, we will be here to break it all down. We have live updates from the course in North Carolina, as well as some early storylines to watch as the tournament continues.
Top Storylines to Watch
Pinehurst Playing More Favorable Than Expected
Before the U.S. Open started, there were horror stories being written about how brutal Pinehurst No. 2 was going to play this weekend. Bubba Watson, the 2014 Masters champion, told ESPN.com's Bob Harig that the course is going to test the mettle of everyone playing.
It's a tough test of golf. For me personally it's going to be all about the tee shots. I'm going to try to lay farther back than normal. It's still iffy -- I don't know what they call it, rough, dirt, sand -- but you don't know what kind of lies you're going to get [off the fairway]. So I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes.
While there is still time for the tide to turn, things have been pleasant early on Day 1. Brandt Snedeker, who has finished in the top 10 twice at the U.S. Open, started off on fire at four under par through nine holes and finished at one under. There are 14 players at even par or better in the early going.
The key to success at the U.S. Open isn't starting fast, since the early morning tee times on Thursday are often beneficial with dew on the ground, but maintaining consistency on Friday and Saturday to be in position for a victory on Sunday.
Jordan Spieth Proving to Be More Than One-Hit Wonder
Not that there was any immediate concern about 20-year-old Jordan Spieth—who became the story of the Masters even as Watson was winning the green jacket—falling off the map, but Pinehurst doesn't stand out as a course that fits with his strengths.
Given the length of the course and accuracy required to avoid the one big mistake, Spieth appeared to be in trouble. He is tied for 96th in driving distance (288.5 yards) and 126th in driving accuracy (58.4 percent).
It didn't seem to be a problem at the Masters, at least until the final round, and hasn't been an issue in the early part of the U.S. Open. The young American is off to a solid start, shooting two under par through his first 16 holes at the time of this post.
Spieth's problems so far haven't come early in tournaments but in trying to finish on Sunday. He shot a 74 and 75 in the final rounds during two of his previous four events (The Players Championship and Memorial Tournament) leading up to the U.S. Open, knocking him out of serious contention.
Players Taking Advantage of Select Holes
In any tournament, there are going to be holes that play more favorably than others. These are the spots where you can see players try to make their move. So far, according to ESPN.com's Tournament Hole Stats, the three holes that have been playing under par are five, nine and 13.
Looking at the other holes, with the exception of hole Nos. 7 and 14, everything else is playing at least one-tenth of a shot over par. The fifth hole, which is a par five and 576 yards, used to be a par four the last two times the U.S. Open was played here.
The fifth hole already is a favorite among the players, playing at 0.227 shots under par early in the first round. They need to take advantage of it, since the sixth hole is giving that shot back at a higher rate (0.391 over par).
Stats courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise noted.
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