The restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 has been the primary topic of conversation all week leading up to Thursday's opening round. It's not that surprising considering the marked difference between the brown and sandy layout of 2014 and the wall-to-wall Bermuda we saw from the course in 2005.
Donald Ross' historic course was shut down while Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw dug into the history of the town to find photographs and sketches that would provide clues for restoring the course to its most natural state.
The first thing you will notice on television are the native areas; filled with sand, wiregrass, pinecones and other unkept sprout-like plants. In total, more than 35 acres of turf were removed to reintroduce these natural areas and more than 200,000 wiregrass plants were added.
But you'll hear plenty about this on the broadcast through the weekend, now let's look at how these altered holes will challenge the golfers and likely affect the results in the 2014 US Open.
HOLE 2 -- Par 4, 507 yards
The green on 2 will be one of the toughest throughout the weekend, so it may be missed that the restoration nearly doubled the width of the drive zone. Even a good drive leaves each player a nightmare approach shot, trying to fire into a green that won't hold with heavy bunkers on the right side.
"It's a sucker play when the pin is on the right," Jack Nicklaus said of the 2nd hole in Lee Pace's 2012 book, The Golden Age of Pinehurst. "You just want to hit the middle of the green and move on."
HOLE 4 -- Par 4, 529 yards; HOLE 5 -- Par 5, 576 yards
Suriving the 4th and 5th will be a challenge for those in need of length. The 5th hole played as a Par 4 in previous U.S. Opens but has now been changed to a Par 5. The shift initially gave players hope for a chance to score, but Phil Mickelson, among other players, have been thinking differently with the tee box moved waaaaay back.
"I will say one thing, I can't-- because I've been raving about how great this place is, I will say the one knock that I have, when they made No.5 a par-5, I thought it was the greatest decision because that green is the most difficult green out here and I thought it sure would be exciting to see us hitting long iron shots in par-5 trying to make birdies and eagles," Mickelson said Tuesday. "But when the tee boxes were moved so far back to where it's not reachable, now the shot we're hitting into that green is a 50-yard pitch shot. That's just not exciting, challenging, and won't have the same type of drama that it would have if those back tees were removed and the green was reachable in two."
HOLE 10 -- Par 5, 617 yards
One of the sneaky aspects of this Par 5, which will play more than 600 yards in the U.S. Open, is the movement in the fairway leading up to the green. A good shot can take a bad bounce and change your birdie try into saving par. The right side of the fairway is the favorable play off the tee, avoiding the bunkers on the left but trying to steer clear of the native areas on the right.
"I think the main differences are off the tee," 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said Wednesday. "With the old Bermuda rough, you'd hit driver on almost every hole. But 10 is a 620 par-5. I'm probably going to hit a 4-iron or hybrid off that tee. A lot of tee shots have changed."
HOLE 13 -- Par 4, 382 yards
Compared to the rest of this long U.S. Open course setup, this short Par 4 may appear like a chance to take your breath. If you miss your drive right you bring fairway bunkers into play, miss left and land in wire grass.
The hole will tempt many to take a chance, but a good lie will be important for the second shot into an elevated green nestled behind a trio of bunkers on the right and an even tougher bunker on the right.
HOLE 18 -- Par 4, 451 yards
The uphill 18th hole will promise to provide some theater on the final day of the tournament, particularly with native areas replacing the rough. I would not be surprised to see a back right hole location on Sunday, just as it was when Payne Stewart saved par to win the U.S. Open in 1999.