Liberty National is one of the toughest golf courses you’ll find, but Pinehurst is even tougher – and it might not even be close.
“Pinehurst, without a doubt, is tougher than Liberty National, especially right now (after Thursday’s storm),” Golfweek senior writer David Dusek said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We had probably about three-quarters of an inch of rain that just got dumped on this golf course, which is going to be great for the guys that are playing in the morning. This golf course has the potential, especially this weekend, to get firmer and faster and be one of the most challenging golf courses that we’ve played a U.S. Open on in a long, long time.”
Rory McIlroy, who won the BMW Championship in May, shot a 71 on Sunday.
Dusek had an opportunity to visit with McIlroy last week at his home in West Palm Beach. McIlroy discussed the U.S. Open, his equipment changes last year and his tumultuous relationship with Caroline Wozniacki.
“It was a year of craziness, and obviously this year he’s broken things off,” Dusek said. “He realized he didn’t want to get married. He broke it off with (Wozniacki) and then (the following) week – his first tournament out there – he goes up and wins the biggest tournament on the PGA European Tour, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. (Wozniacki), unfortunately, loses in the first round of the French Open tennis championships. She took it a little harder than he did.”
“And right now, the kid (McIlroy) is hanging out in South Florida, he’s got his game going (and) he’s in contention here,” Dusek continued. “He, right now, looks like he’s rounding back into form, and that – for the rest of the guys on the tour – means a lot of trouble.”
McIlroy is six shots behind Martin Kaymer, who shot a 65 and leads all other players by at least three strokes.
“We will not see another 65 shot at this U.S. Open, I promise you,” Dusek said. “If you offered anybody even par or one-under par, you’re going to have a winning score. The scores are going to go up, and this (course) is going to get nastier and nastier.”
Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Brendon De Jonge and Fran Quinn are all tied for second at 68, while Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth all shot an opening-round 69.
But Kaymer, 29, is the player to watch.
“He’s got tons of confidence right now,” Dusek said. “He’s won a lot of big-time events, and right now his game is rounding into form. So, it’s an awful tall order to go 72 holes with the lead at a U.S. Open, but Kaymer’s a veteran. He’s played in a lot of big-time events. He’s a stud. So there’s no reason to think he’s going to back down.”
“I just got to think that (a 65) is a really low score,” Dusek continued, “and even if he backs up tomorrow and shoots 72 or 73, he’s still going to be in really good position going into the weekend.”