North Carolina - A total of 156 of the world's best golfers are set to tee off on Thursday at the 114th US Open on Pinehurst Resort and Country Club's No 2 course, the second major golf championship of the year.
Among those competing are reigning 2013 champion Justin Rose of England, current Masters champion Bubba Watson of the US and world number one Adam Scott of Australia.
Missing from the US Open lineup for the second time in four years is three-time winner Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008), due to a back injury.
"Unfortunately, I won't be there because I'm not yet physically able to play competitive golf," Woods, currently ranked number 4 in the world, said on his website.
He also missed this year's Masters for the first time in his career. The US Open saw a record number of entries this year - 10,127 - and those numbers were whittled down through qualifying rounds over the last few months.
The starting number of 156 will be cut to 60 after the first 36 holes. Fifty-four golfers will be making their first US Open appearance. Pinehurst No 2, a par 70-course that first opened in 1907, will measure 7,562 yards this week.
It has hosted the US Open on two previous occasions: in 2005, when Michael Campbell was victorious; and in 1999, when the late Payne Stewart prevailed over perennial Open runner-up Phil Mickelson.
This week Mickelson will lead the veterans with his 24th appearance at the US Open.
Two-time winner Ernie Els is making his 22nd appearance, and 2003-winner Jim Furyk his 20th.
Mickelson, currently ranked 11 in the world, is still seeking his first US Open victory after a heartbreaking record sixth runner-up finish in 2013.
This year marks a notable return to Pinehurst for Mickelson, having come so close to winning the same tournament on the same course in 1999.
The US Open remains the only major championship to elude Lefty so far, keeping him from a career Grand Slam of the Masters, the US Open, the PGA and the Open Championship (British Open). Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won all four majors.
As per tradition, in which current defenders of the British and US Opens play together along with the US Amateur champion, Mickelson will tee off Thursday with Justin Rose, the man he almost beat at last year's US Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
Rose was the first Englishman to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
Asked about the possibility of repeating as US Open champion this year, Rose told Pinehurst.com, "We've been channeling some Curtis Strange, 88-89 (when Strange won back-to-back), so hopefully we can be the next guy to do it."
Another favorite is world number 6 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who won the BMW championship last month in England.
The Pinehurst No 2 course underwent a major overhaul for this year's tournament, adding nearly 350 yards to its length.
It was 7,214-yards long when US Open took place there in 2005, and 7,175 yards in 1999.
The first US Open was played in 1895, and has taken place every year since then except for two years during World War I, and four years during World War Two.