By Alex Podlogar

The clock is ticking. It’s been ticking a while. Some might even say it’s been ticking since 1895.

Let’s try something. Starting a timer at 10 minutes and will see what comes next. What follows is what comes to mind in the time it takes to walk from The Carolina Hotel to the first tee of Pinehurst No. 2:

Ten, after all, is a good number. Especially in 2024. Ask Tom Doak.

There was a time when there were 10 years between U.S. Opens at Pinehurst.

That time is not now.

We’re hardly even 10 hours from our next U.S. Open. Tomorrow may as well be today. Championship rounds aren’t until Thursday, but that’s no matter. The merch tent has been filled by the public since last Thursday. That’s what this town – this Village – does.

You’d think we’d get used to this. It’s four Opens in 25 years. Should be old hat by now, right?

Wrong. How could this ever feel less special than it is? Why would we ever want it to feel less special than it is? Triumphs have been happening at Pinehurst since the days of Oiumet, Hagen and Hogan, since Snead and Palmer, Nicklaus and Watson, Miller and Crenshaw and Strange.

Since Payne.

The remarkable happens here. Here in Pinehurst. The unthinkable, too, like a journeyman holding off the best player in the world, the full-throated roars reckoning behind him. But the Kiwi created his own roars, his own legend. Michael Campbell might be forgotten by some, but he is celebrated in Pinehurst. Because that’s what Pinehurst does. Pinehurst sees past the what-might-have-beens and relishes the artistry of the moment, of 9-under and eight shots clear. Because the moment is what matters.

And the moment is back.

It is back tomorrow. And the next day. And all this week.

Galleries will form. They will march along the sandy paths and over the pinestraw and amidst the wiregrass. Rope lines are closer this time. Grandstands are larger, and they are steeper. The U.S. Open has been here, yes, but not like this. This will be different. This will be grand. Big. Epic.

And a shot hasn’t even been struck yet.

The turtlebacks will repel less-than-great shots. They will reward perfect ones, and a champion will emerge.

But that’s a week from now. The journey is only beginning. Don’t rush it. Embrace it. Four in 25 years is a lot, historic even, but what else is new in Pinehurst? Actually, a lot is new. Ask any resident. Ask any employee of Pinehurst. The Cradle. The Brewery. No. 10. The Carolina’s reborn. The Village sparkles.

There will be four more of these in the next 23 years. But this one is now. This one is tomorrow. This one is where the world of golf will live and breathe the next seven days, just like we get to do every. single. day.

Time is running short on that 10-minute clock we started at the top of this. The alarm will soon sound, and those precious minutes will have expired and brought us here, that much closer.

To tomorrow. To the U.S. Open. To Pinehurst No. 2.

Rest a moment before the clock strikes again. Breathe in that pine-scented air James Walker Tufts so rightly believed had spiritual powers. And be ready.

The U.S. Open is back in Pinehurst.

At our home.

Where it belongs.