Reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark gives eye-popping report on Pinehurst’s greens

Wyndham Clark, the defending U.S. Open champion, arrived at Pinehurst No. 2 on Monday ready for his title defense.

After playing a practice round, he made a stunning characterization of the course’s greens.

“They are extremely fast. If the greens get any firmer and faster, they’d be borderline,” Clark said.

“They already are borderline.”

Over the past decade, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has drawn ire from numerous players for setting up golf courses unfairly. Shinnecock Hills in 2018 immediately comes to mind. Just ask Phil Mickelson about the course setup that year. Chambers Bay in 2015 also received a fair dose of criticism, as did Oakmont a year later.

So when Clark uses the word “borderline,” he means that the greens are “borderline unfair.”

Wyndham Clark, U.S. Open

Wyndham Clark chats with his caddie John Ellis ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Pinehurst No. 2’s greens are famous for their turtle-back shapes, which makes them much smaller than their actual size. Slight misfires will roll off the sides of these putting surfaces, leaving players scrambling from precarious positions around the greens.

Plus, no rain is in the forecast, meaning these greens will only get tougher as the week wears on. Temperatures in North Carolina will hover in the high 80s and low 90s, meaning the putting surfaces will only firm up.

Yet, Clark and the other 155 players in the field will have to deal with them for what they are.

“As far as practicing, the biggest thing is where you leave yourself on the greens,” Clark explained.

“Today, I went with my caddie [John Ellis] and we were really charting to certain pins, like we’d rather be here than there. Sometimes, that almost could mean not that you’re trying to miss a green, but you’re erring towards the easier up and down.”

An adage for playing No. 2 is not to fire at flagsticks but to play right into the heart of the greens. From there, you should try to two-putt and walk away with par.

U.S. Open, Pinehurst No. 2

The 6th green at Pinehurst No. 2.
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

But no two-putt par is guaranteed once you’re on these putting surfaces.

“You have to play a lot of break on these greens,” Clark said.

“When we’re hitting lag putts and short putts, you have a 10-footer downhill, down-grain. Normally, you’re not more than four or five inches outside the cup on most greens. Here, you’re maybe playing 10 to 12 inches, so you’re not getting below the hole and having it run away. It’s really a lot of practice. That’s what we’re going to focus on a lot.”

Clark did not compete in the 2014 U.S. Open, the last time Pinehurst No. 2 hosted this championship. He was still in college then.

But Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, did.

“They’re pretty similar to 2014 from what I remember,” Simpson said Monday.

“This is pretty typical U.S. Open in the sense that par is a great friend to you all week. It’s a brutally hard golf course. I think what Martin Kaymer did in 2014 was incredible. If you take out his winning score [of 9-under], second place that year, and the previous two winners, it was somewhere right around even, one over or one under. I don’t foresee anybody doing what [Kaymer] did then. But you never know ‘cause guys are so good.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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