Previewing the 2024 U.S. Open: Players to Watch, Course Notes, and More

As the golf world turns to Pinehurst No. 2 for the 2024 U.S. Open, we have all the (width and) angles covered for you


Welcome to the 2024 U.S. Open preview blowout, with everything you need to know to be prepared to watch the action at Pinehurst No. 2 this weekend. (Or everything we could pack into one email newsletter.) Read on for players to watch, course observations to track, analysis of the USGA’s relationship with the players, and more.

The Basics 

Where: Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, NC

How to Watch: Coverage is spread across USA, Peacock, and NBC. Traditional Thursday coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA Network, switching to Peacock at 5:00 p.m. Find the rest of the week’s broadcast schedule here.

The Favorites: Scottie Scheffler (+300), Xander Schauffele (+1000), Rory McIlroy (+1100), Collin Morikawa (+1600), Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg/Bryson DeChambeau (+2000), Brooks Koepka (+2200)

The Course: Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted plenty of big events, and this will be its fourth U.S. Open. We’ve obviously put out a LOT of course-related content ahead of this week, and you can check out Andy’s Course Profile here.

Notable Thursday Tee Times (ET): 

Will Zalatoris/Matt Fitzpatrick/Tiger Woods 7:29 AM*
Justin Thomas/Collin Morikawa/Brooks Koepka 7:40 AM
Tony Finau/Ludvig Åberg/Dustin Johnson 7:51 AM*
Rory McIlroy/Xander Schauffele/Scottie Scheffler 1:14 PM
Bryson DeChambeau/Viktor Hovland/Max Homa 1:25 PM*

* denotes group starts on 10 tee

Scottie Scheffler at the 2023 Masters (Fried Egg Golf)

The Gold Standard

By Joseph LaMagna

We’re running out of adjectives to describe Scottie Scheffler.

For most of 2023, the narrative around Scottie Scheffler was imagining how dominant he could be if he could putt worth a lick. Since the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational, we’ve seen that potential realized. Scottie has five wins in his last eight starts dating back to Bay Hill, all coming against stacked fields and across a diverse array of golf course setups. Once his glaring weakness, Scottie has gained strokes putting in seven of his last eight starts.

When asked about winning five times in 2024 on Tuesday, Scottie said “I’m not thinking about my wins anymore.” It felt like a throwaway comment, and was part of a larger response about staying present and focused on preparing for the next tournament. However, it also reflected the mindset of someone who has ascended to the highest position in the sport. It was emblematic of a player who shies from conversations about expectations but tees it up each week disappointed with anything shy of a trophy.

Scheffler’s dominance is so in-your-face that none of his competitors hesitate when heaping praise upon what they, along with everyone else, are seeing. Asked about Scottie’s recent run of form, Viktor Hovland replied “Like, obviously we can play well and compete against him when we’re playing well, but he just seems to bring that game every single week…Just super impressive.” Bryson DeChambeau said of Scottie “…he is the gold standard right now, and we’re all looking up to him going, all right, how do we get to that level?”

The adjective that feels most appropriate for Scottie Scheffler is Tiger-esque, a testament to both the brilliance of his play and a reminder of who still remains the ultimate gold standard. One day out from the opening tee shot, Scottie is 3/1 to win at most sportsbooks, a price not seen in major championships in the modern era outside of Tiger Woods. Should Scottie go on to win this U.S. Open, his current season would immediately enter the conversation as one of the best seasons in the 21st century. He’d be the sixth player in the 2000s to win two or more majors in one calendar year, joining Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, and of course, Tiger Woods, who has done it four times.

The Tiger comparisons are reasonable and justified, and they’ll only grow louder if Scottie gets the job done this week.

Holes 4 and 5 at Pinehurst No. 2 (Fried Egg Golf)

A Proper Test

By Brendan Porath

We’ve obviously covered a LOT of Pinehurst No. 2’s architectural bonafides across a variety of pieces and posts. But with the tournament set to begin and the course conditioning coming more into view, it’s time to ask a question focused purely on the USGA’s setup choices:

Will Pinehurst be the antidote to the era of “pampered f**ks” empowerment?

Whether they intended to or not, the U.S. Open evolved into the major championship that satiated a certain fan bloodlust by putting the best in the world in their place. But this identity backed the USGA into a corner, with the organization left trying to mollify players agitated to their wit’s end while at the same time appeasing fans expecting a certain type of massacre.

In recent years, there’s been a détente of sorts, with relations between the USGA and the players approaching blissful status. There have been no major controversies, rulings, or dust-ups. The courses have generally been set up fair and proper, an appropriate priority over rabid fan chants (or tweets) demanding carnage. But Pinehurst presents a chance for a “proper” test to bridge the gap back to that prior era of player wailing.

By Monday, the defending champ had already called the greens “borderline.” Another recent champ suggested that everyone would shoot in the 80s if the course got any firmer and faster than what they were greeted with on the first day of practice. A caddie threw out a haphazard guess of a six-over winning score. On Tuesday, Tiger suggested that the greens are looking like the kind of Bermuda that will show a sheen by the end of the week, leaving putters slip-sliding like it’s glass. He added that whatever the leading score is after the first day may be as low as it gets with the potential for these inverted-saucer greens to get slicker with each passing day. Nothing has seemed especially out of the ordinary, by Pinehurst standards. There is more wiregrass than is necessary, and there’s been some trademark USGA narrowing in certain spots, but this may be the week where we thread the needle of bringing the people their blood without making the course more gimmicky than recognizable.

What may rein things in after those early-week alarmist comments from the pros? Some humidity, for one. The USGA getting gun-shy about delivering a knockout in the first round of a new era when this course is about to be seen every five years, for another. Or maybe even a logistical demand for a softer course in order to cycle 156 players through 36 holes in time. But a proper Pinehurst lives on the borderline, and we’re set up for it this week.

Xander Schauffele (Fried Egg Golf)

The Other Major Winner

By Joseph LaMagna

Xander Schauffele occupies an odd position within the professional golf landscape. With ten top 10s in the 13 individual events he’s played so far this season, including a win at the 2024 PGA Championship, Xander is pretty clearly the second-best golfer in the world right now. If he wins this tournament, he’d join the aforementioned illustrious contingent of players who have bagged two majors in a calendar year this century. Yet, despite his run of play, even a win this weekend wouldn’t cast any doubt on who the best player in the world is.

Respectfully, fellow players aren’t fielding questions about Xander Schauffele this week. In contrast to Scheffler and other higher-profile peers, Schauffele commands considerably less attention – a dynamic some may deem to be advantageous. A less abstract advantage Xander holds over his competitors, however, is his excellence from the sand. Though sand save percentage is a statistic rife with issues and influenced by factors like putting ability, bunker difficulty, and short-sidedness, Schauffele hasn’t been outside the top 40 in the stat since 2018. He finished second in sand-save percentage in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. There just aren’t many players I’d trust with a greenside sand shot over Xander Schauffele, a useful skill around the sand-laden Pinehurst No. 2.

Paired with Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy, Xander will enter Thursday’s round with plenty of confidence on a golf course that should play into Xander’s strengths. His steady climb to world No. 2 may have taken some golf fans by surprise, but a win this week shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Pinehurst No. 2's fairway movement, as modeled by the fifth hole (Fried Egg Golf)

What to Notice About Pinehurst No. 2

By Garrett Morrison

Sometimes TV viewers have a hard time seeing what’s great about Pinehurst No. 2, or even differentiating one hole from another. Unlike, say, Augusta National, No. 2 doesn’t have dramatic elevation changes and greenside water hazards that make each hole visually distinct. Its virtues are more subtle and better appreciated in person. However, if you know what to look for, you can pick up on at least a few of the course’s nuances from your living room.

Here are four things to notice about the design and presentation of Pinehurst No. 2 during this week’s U.S. Open:

The way the landing zones move. As I discuss in this short video, the fairways at No. 2 are always doing something: tilting, jogging, rolling, running on diagonals, etc. Watch players closely as they tee off on par 4s and 5s. What club are they hitting? Where are they aiming? Do they appear to be trying for a particular shot shape? Which misses do they seem afraid of? Because of the complexities of No. 2’s landing zones, players will have to be unusually specific with their tactics off the tee at this U.S. Open.

The variety of lies that players face off the fairway. Expect plenty of chatter on this week’s telecast about the flukiness of the native areas flanking Pinehurst No. 2’s fairways. Announcers will note the contrast between one ball ending up on bare hardpan and another getting buried in a tuft of wiregrass. What may go under-discussed, though, is that most lies on the margins of No. 2’s corridors fall somewhere in between. Frequently the ball itself will be sitting pretty, but some bit of vegetation will interfere with the player’s swing. These situations will demand creativity and allow the more adaptable golfers to separate from the pack.

The originality of the contouring around the greens. The way No. 2’s greens are commonly described—as “domes,” “turtlebacks,” “inverted saucers,” and so on—is not inaccurate, but it doesn’t fully capture the variety and inventiveness of the contouring around the putting surfaces. The short-grass swales guarding most of No. 2’s greens are not your typical catch basins; they come in a range of shapes, sizes, and severities. So pay attention to what exactly players are chipping (or, perhaps more likely, putting) over after a missed GIR. No two routes to the pin are alike.

The beautifully executed naturalization of the bunkers and native areas. I cringe slightly whenever I hear people say that ruggedness is just a fad in golf architecture. While frilly-edged bunkers do look out of place in certain landscapes, Pinehurst No. 2 shows how beautiful naturalized features can be when they are executed and maintained with precision. The gradual transition from the greenish centerlines of the fairways to the brownish edges, then to the sand and wiregrass, and finally to the pine straw and trees, creates a seamless and lived-in aesthetic. It sets a standard for the craft.

Tiger Woods, obviously (Fried Egg Golf)

Notes & Notables

Jon Rahm showed up, did a press conference, and then withdrew due to a lingering foot infection. As Joseph LaMagna wrote earlier this week, it’s a weirdly down stretch for Rahm right now, and this injury doesn’t help. He’s definitely happy though.

Rory McIlroy enters this U.S. Open still seeking to end a ten-year major drought. He’s also on an excellent run in this event; as Justin Ray notes, Rory is seeking to become the first player since Jack Nicklaus to record six consecutive top-ten U.S. Open finishes. (Off-course Rory note: he’s no longer getting divorced.)

Oh, right, Tiger Woods is here, too. Woods sounded fairly upbeat by his modern standards at his Tuesday presser, revealing that son Charlie is his de facto coach this week. It’s not hard to imagine Tiger hanging around even-par into the weekend via veteran guile, as long as his body holds up.

Brooks Koepka can never be discounted at a U.S. Open, even if it’s hard to gauge where he’s at these days. But if he’s healthy he’ll clearly be up for it, and if it comes down more to mental fortitude and an ability to grind out tough pars without falling apart on Sunday, he’s a threat.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more coverage of the U.S. Open, visit our U.S. Open hub here.