[PHOTO: Gregory Shamus]

Good news for US Open traditionalists: an old-school, biblical championship may be on its way.

It’s been some time since golf has enjoyed a mean US Open. For years the USGA battled controversy that other majors did not, that its devotion to the integrity of par came at the cost of the integrity of its set-ups, a stigma that spilled over at the 2018 championship at Shinnecock Hills. That was the infamous Saturday that featured approach shots that were good until they weren’t, putts rolling off greens (with Phil Mickelson forcibly and incredibly stopping his ball from doing so) and Zach Johnson declaring, “They’ve lost the course.”

In the US Opens since the USGA has been doing its best to avoid similar slip-ups, and while this championship can still be tough, there have also been some rounds where it hasn’t been tough enough, including a day last year at Los Angeles Country Club that featured two record 62s. We say that to say this: those wondering what happened to their US Open can take solace in the defending champion’s worry. That would be Wyndham Clark, who earned his career breakthrough at LACC last June. Clark has proved last year’s triumph was no aberration, winning at Pebble Beach and logging back-to-back runner-ups at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass (the latter coming in heartbreaking fashion). Given part of Clark’s dexterity is his short-game prowess – a skill that is a prerequisite to surviving Pinehurst No.2’s turtleback greens – his chances at a repeat are seemingly good.

But when asked how he’s focusing on taming those greens in his press conference with the media, Clark nodded at the test that awaits the players is already toeing the lines of fairness.

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

Keep in mind, it’s still only Monday in North Carolina, and Clark’s comments came after the Pinehurst area was hit with heavy rain on Sunday night. With the forecast for the rest of the week looking dry and hot, it stands to reason the grounds could get toasty, should the USGA choose to do so.

“Choose” is the operative word, because the USGA could easily make this a non-issue by watering the greens throughout the week. Judging by Clark’s later remarks about grain, that might be necessary

“The grain, I don’t know if it affects maybe the break of the putts as much on these greens because they are cut so tight that the green is not grabbing it. It’s more the speed,” Clark said. “When it looks really shiny and it’s down grain, let’s say the greens are a 13, I think down grain they’re 15 or 16. They’re significantly faster. And then into the grain, it’s not affecting it that much. It goes from a 13 on the stimp to maybe only a 12, in my mind.

“So every putt is fast. I find myself hitting uphill putts six feet by, six, seven feet by. Common theme in our group. I mean, multiple guys putted off the green. Multiple guys hit putts, they’re like, Oh, my gosh. It’s definitely the defence right now is the greens.”

So for those hoping for one of those US Opens where the world’s best suddenly look like the rest of us, where “good bogey” is said in seriousness and the scoreboard is painted in black… congrats, Pinehurst is promising carnage.