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US Open Golf Tournament Returns to Pinehurst

The top golfers in the world tee off Thursday in Pinehurst, North Carolina at the U.S. Open. VOA's Jim Stevenson has this preview of the second major PGA tournament of the year.

The 105th U.S. Open is being played on the Pinehurst number two course, the same course where American Payne Stewart captured the grand slam title six years ago. Just four months after his win, Stewart was killed in a freak plane accident.

Fellow American Phil Mickelson finished just one shot behind Stewart. Vijay Singh of Fiji and American Tiger Woods tied for third place. Woods says the domed greens, tight fairways and thick rough will challenge every player.

"This golf course is so unique (and) so different than anything we ever play. It is hard to prepare for," Mr. Woods says. "The only preparation there is getting out here and playing practice rounds and get some hard work in and make sure you stay focused because it so different and so unique."

Since 1999, Singh rose to number one in the world with a razor thin margin over Woods. The left-handed Mickelson is currently ranked fourth behind South African Ernie Els. All are in the field this week with defending champion Retief Goosen of South Africa. He says the player with the best mental discipline will set himself apart from the field.

"I think it is pretty much key for any of these top players," Mr. Goosen says. "Tiger Woods is in that league too. And I think that is really the big part of the game these days. Everybody is playing so well. But it is the guy that just gets around mentally that can pull it off [win]."

But for most of the players and spectators, the breeze whistling through the massive pine trees will, at some point, remind them of the cheers in 1999 when Payne Stewart sank his winning putt and thrust his fist into the air. That image has become a bronze statue in his memory at the Pinehurst course.