Will players change Open strategy?

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Rory McIlroy puts his skills to the test with three specially designed challenges at the "Sport Science" lab. (3:06)

The 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst will surely be one for the ages. We've already had two players call penalties on themselves to lose potentially what would have been spots in the field before the week began. And don't forget, Round 2 comes on Friday the 13th.

So what's going to keep the world's best golfers around par in North Carolina? And how will a restored Pinehurst No. 2 shape up?

Our scribes dive in on those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. With no U.S. Open rough to speak of, how will that change the strategy of players at Pinehurst?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: It won't. Key No. 1 to a U.S. Open is getting your ball in the fairway. While no rough makes more recovery shots possible, to have the most control over your golf ball and the best chance at hitting the green, you have to be in the fairway.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: The turtle-back greens are the real defense of No. 2. That being said, players will get some inconsistent lies from the sandy wire grass areas that will make it hard for them to keep their approach shots on these severely undulating greens. The players recognize these factors and won't change their strategies too remarkably. They still know that hitting fairways is the best way to give them a chance to win.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: They might be more inclined to take chances off the tee because the fairways are wider and they don't have to worry about chip-out, thick rough as was the case at Merion last year. But missing fairways at Pinehurst won't be ideal. It might not be rough, but the conditions outside the fairway are far from easy.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: This setup might favor the bomb and gouge guys off the tee at the U.S. Open, but the main defenses of Pinehurst No. 2 will be the Donald Ross-designed turtle back greens. If your short game isn't sharp, you aren't making pars, which are always crucial at the year's second major.

2. What's the most important attribute for players to have this week to win?

Collins: Patience. The U.S. Open is the greatest test of patience in the game. You know you're going to make mistakes and you won't get chances for bounce-back birdies. Being able to accept that as the week goes on becomes even more difficult as the pressure mounts.

Evans: I don't care how great your ball striking is, you're going to have to play a lot of tricky little shots around the green to save pars. The guys that are able to save a few strokes a round with their short games are going to quickly climb the leaderboard.

Harig: Patience. It sounds cliche, but it always rings true at the U.S Open. Dealing with severe greens, difficult chip shots and the typically high scoring conditions that are present at a U.S. Open is always a test of a player's nerve. Shaking off the bad holes and accepting bogeys are part of the week.

Maguire: A short memory. This is always something top players hope to achieve whether they make eagle or double-bogey on a hole in any round of golf, but more so this week. They'll have to remember that most players are going to have a hard time playing a 7,500-yard par-70 to even par on the week ... not just them.

3. How many players finish under par?

Collins: Between 15-20. Remember, the USGA can't afford to let the course get out of control for the men because the U.S. Women's Open immediately follows the next week. That fact will allow more aggressiveness on the weekend than we've seen since Rory McIlroy won at Congressional in very soft conditions.

Evans: If the course plays fast and firm all four days, three players will finish under par. If it rains and the course goes soft, there might be five to seven players in the red.

Harig: None. In the two Opens played at Pinehurst, only Payne Stewart in 1999 was under par and it took an amazing finish of 1-putt greens on the final three holes to do it. Nobody broke par when Michael Campbell won in 2005. Anyone who can shoot four straight rounds of par ought to be holding the trophy.

Maguire: Zero. In the 1999 U.S. Open, only winner Payne Stewart finished in red numbers and he was 1-under. In the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, that number was zero with champion Michael Campbell at even par. Yes, there's no U.S. Open rough in the traditional sense, but don't expect bunches of birdies this week in the sand hills of North Carolina.

4. Give us an under-30 player who has a great shot to win this week.

Collins: Jordan Spieth. He owns maturity beyond his years and the confidence in his shot-making abilities around the greens to save pars when others would not. Spieth might struggle with the pressure of expectations others are putting on him at such an early stage of his career, but if he can get through those, he can win.

Evans: The obvious choice for me is Rory McIlroy, because in recent weeks he looks more confident in his overall game. Now, he has been inconsistent at times, but everyone is going to have a bad round this week at Pinehurst. McIlroy has the firepower to put himself in contention and stay there with his experience.

Harig: Rory McIlroy. The 2011 champion likes big ballparks and Pinehurst will play extremely long. And if there is rain, that suits him even better, as he has prospered on soft layouts -- Congressional, Kiawah and recently Wentworth. The early forecast calls for a chance of thunderstorms each day this week.

Maguire: If he had been healthy for the past few months, I'd pick Jason Day with his exquisite short game for these challenging greens. That being said, I'll go with Rory McIlroy, who will have a great shot chasing down his third major title -- and second U.S. Open -- on Father's Day.