The U.S. Open is known as the "toughest test in golf" because of the way the USGA sets up the venues to protect par. That usually means growing the rough out several inches and crushing players every time they miss the fairway. When the blowups happen or a hole plays exceedingly difficult, there are accusations that the USGA has tricked up an otherwise great course and made it unfair.
This week, however, there is no rough to obstruct the players at Pinehurst No. 2, a dramatic change from the last time a U.S. Open was held here in 2005. The restoration by Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw to the original Donald Ross conditions has one cut of grass, the fairway, running into either sand traps or browned out "native areas" (waste bunkers full of wire grass, sand, pine straw and whatever else is growing). For better or worse, it's these "native areas" that will be a constant topic and the term will probably be very annoying by the weekend. But as 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell discovered, these areas may not be all-natural or native.
"Props" and "fake rough" are terms the USGA, Pinehurst and Coore/Crenshaw probably don't want to hear. So is that a loose impediment then? We're already going to get rules officials called in all the time to determine whether a player is playing out of a bunker, where he can't ground his club, or a "native area." Here's hoping this was just one patch that was loosened from the North Carolina Sandhills.