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US Open Golf Primer

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A quality field of 156 golfers will tee it up Thursday in pursuit of the 114th US Open golf championship. They’ll play for the title of National Champion, the prestige of one of golf’s Major Championships and a total purse of $8 million, with a winner’s share of $1.44 million. Amongst the competitors are defending champion Justin Rose and 9 other past champions, 28 of the top 30 in the current Fed Ex standings, nine of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings and 22 players with a PGA Tour win this season. There are also 12 amateurs vying for the title, as the event is an open competition that holds qualifying nation-wide in the months prior. Missing from the field is 3-time champion Tiger Woods, who is on indefinite leave from the game as he recovers from back surgery.

This year’s Open will be played at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Course No. 2, in Pinehurst, NC. Pinehurst No. 2 is no stranger to championships, as it’s hosted more than any course in the United States. The list includes the 1951 Ryder Cup, the 1936 PGA Championship and the 1991 and 2005 US Opens. In 2010 the course was worked over by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in order to resemble more closely the original Donald Ross design. Bermudagrass had spread all over the property and grown over the sand swept areas that gave the course it’s distinct character. That grass is gone now and so is all of the rough. Some of the fairways have been widened as much as 50% and over half the irrigation was removed in favor of letting mother nature restore the native areas. But don’t be fooled, it’ll be tough. Pinehurst may be best known for it’s crowned, undulating greens that will no doubt be running as fast as the USGA can make them run.

It’s nearly impossible to pick winners in golf but if that’s your thing, former US Open champ and current NBC announcer Johnny Miller thinks a player with short game magic will get it done because of the difficult green complexes. Players are going to miss greens and scrambling to make pars when they do will make the difference. Not a know-it-all Johnny Miller fan? Here are the betting odds per

Rory McIlroy 10/1
Adam Scott 12/1
Phil Mickelson 14/1
Bubba Watson 18/1
Henrik Stenson 25/1
Jordan Spieth 25/1
Justin Rose 25/1
Matt Kuchar 25/1
Jason Day 28/1
Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia all at 33/1.

Phil Mickelson is a nice story this week. He’s been chasing a US Open for his entire career in order to complete the so called “career slam” in which he’d have won each of the four major championships in golf. Mickelson lost the Open to Payne Stewart after leading by 1 with 3 to play here at Pinehurst 15 year ago. He 3-putted from 5 feet on the 17th hole at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 to lose by 1. And he needed only a par to win at Winged Foot in 2006 but famously called himself an “idiot” after making a double bogey mess of the 18th hole. Phil’s got the magic short game Johnny Miller is looking for and he’ll need it to fight the demons.

Tune in Thursday as ESPN and NBC bring you more golf than you can possibly watch starting at 6am Pacific. It won’t look like a typical US Open with its restored rustic feel but it’ll play like one. If you’re hanging around even par on Sunday, you’re a contender.

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