No Michael Campbell, no Tiger Woods, no rough. Anyone expecting this year's US Open at Pinehurst to resemble the last in 2005 is in for a surprise.
In fact, anyone expecting it to resemble a typical US Open with narrow fairways surrounded by thick rough is in for a surprise as well given the restoration project undertaken by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Charged with restoring Pinehurst No. 2 to how it was after Donald Ross altered his original design in 1935, Coore admits he and Crenshaw were initially "reluctant warriors" as they contemplated changing such a famous layout.
But with assurances from USGA executive director Mike Davis that thick rough would not be added for the US Open and US Women's Open in June, Coore and Crenshaw have restored Ross's masterpiece to provide the world's best players with an intriguing test.
“The course had changed a lot, certainly over the last 40 years,” Coore said. “It had changed dramatically from one really quite natural looking course that looked like it lay very gently on that sandhills land with the native landscape as the rough.
“Over the course of time there was much more maintained turf grass. It’d basically become a parkland-type golf course.
“To his credit, Mike Davis was always more concerned with the long-term future of the course more than one week at the US Open. I remember someone saying to him, ‘What if someone shoots really low in the Open?’ His response was simply, ‘Then they have played well.‘
“It is going to be a fascinating week. The contrast will be enormous between what we will see at Pinehurst and what we saw at Merion last year. They will be complete opposites. Instead of long grass ‘protecting’ the course, Pinehurst’s difficulty will primarily be on and around the greens.”
Aided by aerial photographs of the course taken on Christmas Day in 1943 — supplied by a Pinehurst member who works for the US government and would not reveal how he obtained them — Coore and Crenshaw began work in February 2010 and completed their task in 2012.
“The best part is that I think we will see a huge variety of approach and/or recovery shots,” Coore added. “Guys will have opportunities to try the most spectacular shots.
“On the other hand, if the ball is lying on softer sand or pine needles, the shots could go anywhere. People watching on television are going to be sitting there saying, ‘What the heck was that?’
“I kidded Mike Davis that those spectators sitting in the grandstands behind greens better be issued with hard hats. My feeling is we will see a great mixture of spectacularly successful and spectacularly unsuccessful recoveries.”
A spectacularly successful recovery proved beyond Woods following back surgery on March 31, the 14-time major winner forced to miss his second major in succession after sitting out the Masters for the first time in his career.
The 38-year-old was one of the players who were unable to prevent New Zealander Campbell claiming his first major title in 2005, a closing round of 69 giving him a two-shot victory over Woods, who bogeyed the 16th and 17th in his 69.
Campbell went on to win the World Match Play Championship later that year but has not won since and sadly announced in May that he would not compete at Pinehurst after separating from his wife.
The 45-year-old will be missed at Pinehurst as Justin Rose attempts to retain the title he won in dramatic fashion at Merion last year, becoming the first English winner since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
Rose was hampered by a shoulder injury earlier this season but found his form with three successive top-10s on the PGA Tour before finishing 25th in the BMW PGA Championship.
It was at Wentworth that Rose revealed the US Open trophy holds five bottles of champagne and news of the course restoration has boosted the 33-year-old’s chances of doing so again.
“I’ve never played Pinehurst and I think guys who played in 2005 won’t have as much of an advantage because of the course re-design,” Rose said.
"There was a lot of rough in 2005, fairways were narrow, typical USGA-style fairways. But this year it's going to play I think more of a running game, almost a mix between a US Open and an Open Championship. "