The 114th U.S. Open gets underway this Thursday, June 12, and lasts through Sunday, June 15, in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Hot and humid weather will set the stage for storms that may cause disruptions on a daily basis throughout the tournament.
The first scheduled tee time for this year's tournament set for 6:45 a.m. EDT Thursday, at the Pinehurst No. 2 course. While most of Thursday's morning rounds should be rain-free, a storm system moving through the area could jeopardize afternoon play.
"There will be a fairly strong storm system coming through the area [on Thursday] with quite a bit of moisture around," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards.
Edwards added the wet weather will be most widespread during the afternoon and evening, and thunderstorms could cause problems all four days of the tournament.
In 2013, rain interrupted play at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
George Forster Jr., assistant golf professional at Merion, said preparations for last year's tournament were made years in advance so that they could properly test the drainage systems on the course to make sure that if it rained, the water would soak right through.
After the rain, the greens at Merion became a bit more receptive and the conditions weren't as firm as the United States Golf Association (USGA) tries to institute.
Forster said the Pinehurst No. 2 course has very minimal rough and while it is dependent on the weather, after the ball hits the playing surface, he expects it "to run a ton."
"We can pretty much guarantee that it's going to play firm and fast down there," Forster said.
Greg Nye, the head men's golf coach at Penn State University, said he doesn't anticipate drainage problems at Pinehurst.
The course is located in the North Carolina Sandhills region, and while all U.S. Open courses are set up to have proper drainage, Nye said the Pinehurst course has a sandy soil which handles water very easily.
In the event of a weather delay, it could be a good or bad thing for a player depending on how their particular round is going.
A player on a bogey streak would likely welcome to opportunity to come off the course to reevaluate their round unlike a player who's in a good rhythm of play.
"It's a part of their world, they grow used to it, [but] you never like it," Nye said.
For the golfers, getting their bodies physically and mentally ready to resume play can be a difficult thing, especially when it comes to replicating their playing rhythm, Nye said.
"They try to build that back up through a warmup, but that's a very hard thing to do, because it's not only a physical thing, but it's getting your mind back in that competitive place that it was at," Nye said.
Nye had access to the player's area at Merion and he said players tried to keep themselves in a playing zone by stretching in the clubhouse and by talking to their fellow competitors because they were all in the same boat.
For the second round on Friday, Edwards said the storms might be less active, but the threat will remain for afternoon rounds.
"It looks like moisture hangs around into Friday. It's probably a fairly similar day, more clouds than sun and highs in the upper 80s to near 90, but again, they'll have to deal with pop-up thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening," Edwards said.
"It's kind of a typical summertime pattern, where you get some heating and showers and thunderstorms bubble up, so it's fairly normal for down there," he said.
Nye said he doesn't expect much of a change in the way the greens will play if they are dry versus recently saturated.
"I don't think you're gonna see a big difference," Nye said. "I think that they're firm greens and they drain well; the water rolls off the edges of those greens."
Nye said even though it can be easier when greens soften up, he doesn't expect that to happen at Pinehurst because they have a sand base and are perched upwards.
"You might have a half hour to an hour of softer conditions where it's easier, but they'll firm right back up," he said.
Moving into the weekend, conditions on Saturday should improve with partly sunny skies and highs in the low 90s.
"There could be a pop-up thunderstorm, but I think it's a pretty small bet on Saturday," Edwards said. "A better chance is probably off to the south."
The chance for an afternoon or evening thunderstorm will remain for Sunday's final round.