Tiger Woods: Pinehurst No. 2 Will Test Game and Mental Discipline

“I love U.S. Opens. I love the tests of U.S. Opens,” Tiger Woods said at his US Open press conference.
Tiger Woods - 124th U.S. Open
Tiger Woods - 124th U.S. Open / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

The conditions for the 2024 US Open are set up for Tiger Woods to have a better chance at this championship than he has had in other majors over recent seasons. This is certainly the flattest course he has played at a major in quite some time. There’s only one hill, and it comes early in the round, on the 4th and 5th holes. The summer temperatures don't bother him.

“It's like home,” he noted. “Hot and humid is what we deal with every single day at home in Florida, so that's nothing new. I would rather play in hot, humid conditions any day than anything cold.”

Because there will be heat and humidity, fitness will be important for everyone, and Woods said he’s been focused on that in his routine at home. It’s important because the rounds may even be longer than usual because so many golfers will have trouble with the greens.

“The amount of little shots and the knobs and run-offs, and either using wedges or long irons or woods around the greens or even putter,” he suggested. “There's so many different shots that you really can't simulate unless you get on the property.”

Tiger Woods chipped and putted, but nothing really prepares anyone for the greens at Pinehurst No. 2.

That is the reason he visited the course last week, to get an idea of what his strategy would be for the course.

The greens, he explained, are significantly different than the last US Open he played at Pinehurst, which was in 2005.  In 2014, he was recovering from a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve and did not play the US Open. 

“I played it under bentgrass. So now having Bermuda, it's very different. It's grainy,” he said about the surfaces. “I know the surrounds were burnt out in '05, but the greens were not like what they are right now.”

Shot choices from around the green are numerous and range from putting to chipping to – as he said - woods.

“Six- or 7-irons. I've used long irons and woods around the greens, and I've seen a number of guys do the same thing,” he said about his practice sessions. “There's a lot of different shot selections, and the grain is going to play a big part of it.”

He admitted that he and golfers he’s played with in practice have all putted off greens.  

“It depends how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides,” he added. “I foresee, just like in '05, watching some of the guys play ping-pong back and forth. It could happen.”

This year, Tiger Woods has a second set of eyes in his son Charlie who walked with him in the practice rounds. Dad gave son a few things to watch for in his stroke, and Charlie proceeded to tell him when a thing or two was off.

“He gave me a couple little side bits today, which was great, because I get so entrenched in hitting certain putts to certain pins, I tend to forget some of the things I'm working on,” Woods admitted. “I just want to see the balls rolling. He reminds me every now and again, which is great.”

Woods said he really enjoys sharing these experiences with his son.  

After the practice, Tiger Woods had developed a preliminary strategy.

“There are a few areas in which I would putt. There are also a few areas in which I would use my 56 or 60,” he explained about his plans to attack the greens. “I have used up to a 4-iron bump-and-running it, and I've tried a few woods out there. I didn't like the way that reacted.”

He mentioned more grain in some locations than others and noted a problem with what he called “chatter.”

“I think that's one of the things, me in particular, I need to watch out for, is some of the chatter that you might get coming up the hills and how much speed you're going to have coming up and then over the next ridge,” he added.

While Woods thinks the renovation was well done, he doesn’t think Ross intended for his greens to be running at 13 or more on the stimpmeter. He thinks they were designed for a speed closer to putting on fairways than today’s greens.

In fairness to Tiger and everyone else, it’s important to remember the original greens had sand as a putting surface, not grass. Of the golfers on site this week, it’s possible only Hale Irwin can speak to that because he once remarked he played on sand greens growing up.

Next. 2024 US Open power rankings. 124th US Open power rankings. light

All of this, the heat, the humidity, the Bermuda grass, the wire grass, and the raised green surfaces, make for a challenge for the best players in the world. Still, if Woods is going to get to No. 16 in his major count, Pinehurst might be a place he could do it.

“It's going to be a great test and a great war of attrition this week. It's going to be a lot of fun for all of us,” Woods summed up.