114th U.S. Open
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club
Course No. 2
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Pinehurst Course No. 2
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Penn G-2 Creeping Bentgrass; 6,388 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: whatever the USGA can crank it up to without being ridiculous
Rough: There isn’t any
Water Hazards: There is one pond that probably won’t come into play on No. 16
Course Architect: Donald Ross (1907); R.T. Jones (1974); Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw Redesign (2010)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Defending Champion: Justin Rose claimed his first major victory at Merion as he defeated Phil Mickelson and Jason Day by two shots
Dates: June 12-15
Notes: The top 60 and ties will advance to the weekend. It used to be the top 60 and any player within 10 shots of the lead. The latter no longer exists as of 2013. If there is a playoff, it will 18 holes of stroke play beginning Monday morning.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 22 of 30 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd and Ben Crane have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014. #onpace Troy Merritt gave it a go this week but came in solo second.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33) and now Crane, 38, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
Francis Ouimet, 1913, was the last player to win in his first U.S. Open.
The last amateur to win was John Goodman in 1933.
In the last four years, three winners have been foreign-born. There have been 28 international champions and eight in the last 15 years.
Justin Rose became the first Englishman in 33 years to win last year. Tony Jacklin in 1970 was the last Englishman to win.
John J. McDermott was 19 years, 10 moths and four days when he lifted the trophy in 1911. He’s the youngest champion.
Hale Irwin was 45 years and 15 days when he won in 1990. The oldest champion was entered into the field that year as a special exemption by the USGA. They were quite right.
There are 21 multiple champions. This week, two of them are in the field as Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, both South Africans, have both won twice. They look to join Tiger Woods and Hale Irwin on three titles. They’ll need two more to join Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson who all have four.
Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots. That’s the largest margin of victory in an major.
Rory McIlroy had it to 17-under-par in 2011 at Congressional. He finished on 16-under setting the record for the lowest tournament score.
The lowest round ever fired in U.S. Open play is 63. Johnny Miller might remind you of this during the telecast as his won him the 1973 edition at Oakmont. His 63 is the only one ever fired on Sunday.
Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Vijay Singh are the other three players to turn it that number as well.
The largest Sunday comeback is seven shots accomplished by Arnold Palmer in 1960 at Cherry Hills.
Curtis Strange is the last player of six to defend his title. He accomplished this feet in 1988 and 1989.
Only five players in the field this week played “old” Pinehurst in 1999 and 2005. Stewart Cink, Jeff Maggert, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson hold this distinction.
Phil Mickelson has six seconds. That’s the most all time.
The last player to win with a birdie on 72nd holes was Bobby Jones in 1926.
No player has won multiple majors in the same year since Padraig Harrington in 2008. Think about that for a minute.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14 season. All three players are in the field this week and are ready to go.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Robert Garrigus is one of only eight players to post all four rounds in a U.S. Open under par. The others are Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin, Lee Janzen, Curtis Strange and Rory McIlroy.
Only eight players have won on TOUR the week before a major and then went on to win the following week.
Byron Nelson: 1945 Chicago Open; PGA
Ben Hogan: 1946 Winnipeg Open; PGA
Sam Snead: 1949 GGO; Masters
Art Wall: 1959 Azalea Open; Masters
Lee Trevino: 1971 Canadian Open; The Open Championship
Sandy Lyle: 1988 GGO; Masters
Phil Mickelson: 2006 Bell South; Masters
Tiger Woods: 2007 WGC-BI; PGA
Phil Mickelson: 2013 Scottish Open; The Open Championship; Mickelson has won all five majors when he's played the week prior.
Please note none of these players went on to win the U.S. Open as their encore.
Past Champions Since 1999
1999 Payne Stewart
2000 Tiger Woods
2001 Retief Goosen
2002 Tiger Woods
2003 Jim Furyk
2004 Retief Goosen
2005 Michael Campbell
2006 Geoff Ogilvy
2007 Angel Cabrera
2008 Tiger Woods
2009 Lucas Glover
2010 Graeme McDowell
2011 Rory McIlroy
2012 Webb Simpson
2013 Justin Rose
Note: Payne Stewart (deceased), Tiger Woods (injured) and Michael Campbell (injured) are not participating this week.
Inside the Ropes
Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted just about everything there is to host in the world of golf. This North Carolina resort is anything but a traditional resort course as it has hosted the 1951 Ryder Cup, 1936 PGA Championship, two U.S. Amateurs, two TOUR Championships, 1989 Women’s Amateur, 1966 Western Amateur, 1994 Senior Open and the prestigious North & South Men’s Amateur since 1901. In its totality, Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted the most championships of any course in the U.S. A.
In 2010 Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to bring No. 2 back to the design that made Donald Ross, the original architect declare, “the fairest test of golf I have ever designed”. Over the years Bermudagrass had spread all over the track and hid the original routing. It didn’t help that deep rough and green everything was the style at the time. The grass covered the original sand swept areas that made this course one of the best Ross ever designed. Coore and Crenshaw were tasked with restoring it to what it looked like back in the heydays of the 1930’s and 1940’s when Ross lived just off the third hole. They used aerial photos from that time period to bring the course back to its original style and design.
All 18 holes received attention during the restoration and some received more than others. Fairways were expanded and tees were added. All the rough on the course was REMOVED. Gone. See ya. I bet the players who teed it up here in 1999 and 2005 wish that would have happened sooner! Removing the rough and reintroducing the native sandy areas and wire grass matched what the original No. 2 looked like. The removal of the rough was not just for the U.S. Open as the design team eliminated over half of the irrigation that served to keep the course green. Native areas would grow and develop based on what Mother Nature would provide.
If that wasn’t enough, they planted over 200,000 wiregrass plants, eliminated overseeding protocols in the winter and making bunkers look like they did 70 years ago. The “rough” is now considered the plants that are growing in the sandy areas off the fairways that are no longer watered. It’s natural selection at its best.
Gamers, the good news is that they only fiddled with two greens, No. 15 and No. 17 were flattened and smoothed in spots to add extra pin placements. Guys who have played here in the past will still have their experience on how to handle the toughest part of the course, the green complexes. But, from the tee box, it looks and feels like a very different track. Instead of staring out at lush greenery, tall wiregrasses and sandy mounds have taken over causing the players to adjust their bearings off the tee. The course, as of Monday, was a lovely combination of brown-green-brown from tee-to-green. Mother Nature has cooperated and No. 2 should be playing firm and fast in the fairways and it could resemble an inland links course.
The better news is that the fairways have been widened up to 50% so getting the ball in play won’t be as challenging as most traditional U.S. Open setups. But, and there’s always BUT, the players who choose to hit fat part of the fairway will be left with longer irons into the diabolical, upside-down bowls that Pinehurst No. 2 is famous for. Those who choose to bomb it will find those fairways neck at about 300 yards in most places. On either side of those necks will be wiregrass and sand. Hit the target and a shorter iron can be used to stick the ball on the minimal landing areas on these greens. It’s classic risk-reward.
A U.S. Open should make players think and this again will be the case this week. Multiple players have commented that playing in gnarly rough only gives one option moving forward: pitching out. With the wiregrass and sandy areas, players now have to decide how good the lie is, how far they can advance it or just take the medicine and pitch it out. This decision is vitally important because of the green complexes. The wrong lie can lead to the wrong side of the green and crooked numbers will start popping up. Hitting GIR is important this week but with the false-fronts, run-offs and small landing areas, MISSING GIR on the proper side is just as important. Missing in the correct place will give players a better chance to save par and get out.
The decisions made this week from these areas will be just as crucial as having an excellent short game so I’m looking for experienced, big-time players that are mentally and physically tough enough to handle this test over four days. Patience will be just as much of a factor as finding fairways and GIR. I’ve read from multiple players that there is absolutely no reason to go flag hunting this week as the reward does NOT outweigh the risk. A birdie saves you a shot; a double-bogey adds two.
This is why I enjoy the U.S. Open. It’s a completely different test than Augusta where the attacking, scoring player is rewarded. It’s completely different than The Open where the subtlety of links golf must be mastered all while fighting the British winds. The PGA is probably the dullest major for me. I’d love to see it return to stroke-play into match-play but I’ll save that argument for a different day.
The days of balls buried in the Bermudagrass and pitching out sideways are over and a “new” day dawns this week at Pinehurst No. 2. New tee boxes have been installed on 13 holes, including one on No. 6 that makes an already difficult par three stretch to 250 yards. Those extra tees added over 300 yards to make it 7,562 yards from the tips. It will be the second-longest open after 2008 Torrey Pines (7,643). It will have the two longest par fours in history, Nos. 4 (529 yards) and 16 (528 yards). Brown is the new green. I’m not sure Donald Ross would have envisioned the length but from the reactions of the players and media who have been on it recently, it’s going to be an excellent setting for our national championship.