When you think of the U.S. Open, you think of difficult roughs and winning scores that are often above par. But that is not the case this year at the restored Pinehurst No. 2 course as Martin Kaymer is taking advantage of the lack of rough and running away with the tournament in the second round.
Kaymer, who won the 2010 PGA Championship, is 9-under midway through the second round and has a commanding 6-stroke lead. In the last ten years, the winners of the U.S. Open have finished with an average score of 1-under and only one golfer (Rory McIlroy, 16-under in 2011) finished better than 4-under.
One big change to the course is the fairways are wider this year. In the first round, the golfers hit the fairways 71% of the time, compared to just 59% in 2005.
But the biggest change to the course is the rough, which is actually no longer rough. It has been replaced by native vegetation and course sand.
In the previous two U.S. Opens held at Pinehurst, the winning scores were 1-under (Payne Stewart in 1999) and even-par (Michael Campbell in 2005). During those tournaments, the rough looked more like typical U.S. Open rough where the grass could be ankle- or even knee-deep.
The changes have been dramatic. The 18th hole is nearly unrecognizable compared to 2005.
This hasn’t made the course easy. But the lack of rough has allowed players to be more aggressive, such as Kaymer using a driver on the par-4 third hole and driving the green. He 2-putted from here for a birdie.
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