Pinehurst, N.C. _
My Minnesota bias is going to show through heavily in this post.
Met two Minnesota-born qualifiers who attended the University of Minnesota today. Donald Constable and Clayton Rask played a practice round together, with Rask heading to the practice grounds after 13 holes. Both are interesting, engaging guys. I'll have pieces on both in tomorrow's Star Tribune and on startribune.com.
Also, maybe I'm biased, but legendary Pinehurst No. 2 didn't grab me on first examination.
I have no doubt it will be a fine championship test. It will be difficult, and the removal of rough in favor of natural sand and vegetation will make it much more interesting than the old-school hack-and-hope out of knee-length rough. I'm in favor of the changes.
But as someone who expects to see ponds if not lakes on and around every golf course I visit, it's really strange to see a legendary course with only hints of water.
The pine trees are beautiful, and Pinehurst should be congratulated for going for the more-natural looking grass and rough. Course officials are estimating they've cut 70 percent off their previous water usage.
But with no significant bodies of water on the course, it just looks like a long, brutal test of golf. I know all of the traditionalists will hate me for mentioning this, but I have trouble ranking Pinehurst with the great courses.
Pebble Beach offers spectacular views. Augusta National dares you to hit it over water, creating some of the most dramatic risk-reward shots in the game. Our great Minnesota courses either incorporate lakes or are built entirely around them.
There are a dozen Minnesota courses I'd rather play than Pinehurst. That shouldn't be shocking, though: We are blessed with remarkably good courses.
I'll be covering the U.S. Open all week for the Star Tribune. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15 or so from Pinehurst. I'll also co-host Sunday Sports Talk from Pinehurst, 10-noon on 1500ESPN.