By Greg Allen at Pinehurst
With a golf course set up uniquely in the modern history of the US Open, we’re in for a fun-looking four days.
The narrow fairways of Merion a year ago could not be further removed from the 40-50 yard wide targets off the tee here at Pinehurst in North Carolina.
And yet, most pundits and players are predicting something in the region of a level-par winning total by the end of the week. Why?
Well, every single green is designed to repel anything but the accurate approach shots, and it’s more severe in places than anything Augusta has to offer.
Bookmakers have made Rory McIlroy the favourite, but by his own admission he has never won on a firm, bouncy course like this.
But on the credit side for his challenge here, he could not be happier with his game.
“I’m really enjoying my golf at the minute,” McIlroy said this week. “I feel like my game is in a good place, and I want to prolong that as much as I can.”
No doubt, Phil Mickelson will be the sentimental favourite: no man in history has more runner-up finishes in the US Open without a win to his name.
And the five-time Major champion, who turns 44 on Monday, knows that this course, with its premium on short-game skills, offers him a great chance to complete the career Grand Slam.
Mickelson and McIlroy are out early, as is Graeme McDowell, who tees off with McIlroy.
Shane Lowry and Darren Clarke, meanwhile, are out later on Thursday.
Tee times for Irish players (Irish time):
Graeme McDowell 12.40pm
Rory McIlroy 12.40pm
Shane Lowry 6.14pm
Darren Clarke 6.36pm