This year, the U.S. Open will take place at Pinehurst #2, the same location of the dramatic 1999 U.S. Open where Payne Stewart emerged victorious over Phil Mickelson. While the course appears open and forgiving, it proved to be a worthy U.S. Open venue.Pinehurst #2 is a deceptively long 7,200+ yard par 70 track characterized by dome-shaped greens designed to reject golf balls much like the scalp of Golf World's Tim Rosaforte rejects hair (but the chicks dig it Rosie!). Scott Verplank called the setup of the greens "borderline sadistic." They drove John Daly so mental that he actually hit his moving ball in frustration after twice failing to putt his ball onto the 8th green. He ended up scoring an 11 for the hole, wrecking his chances after contending for 36 holes. It even got to mild-mannered Jose Maria Olazabal. After an especially maddening round, he pulled a Russell Crowe and broke his hand trying to poke holes in his hotel room walls with his fist.
But the USGA still doesn't think that Pinehurst #2 is tough enough. For the 2005 U.S. Open, the USGA plans to lengthen the course and increase the speed of the greens from ridiculously fast to regodamndiculously fast. All of this adds up to a golf course that only the Devil could conceive.
So who will tame this golf beast from hell? Whoever can do the following are good bets:
- Drive the ball a mile - There are many par 4s that approach 500 yards. Relatively speaking, there won't be much of a penalty hitting out of the rough. With the crazy greens, the closer you can get, the better.
- "Flight" approach shots to the green - To have any chance at holding the greens, towering approach shots that drop from the heavens are a must.
- Exhibit short game mastery - Missing greens will be the norm. Short game wizards will have a huge advantage.
- Read the greens and putt accurately - There are no easy putts at a U.S. Open, and Pinehurst #2 is no exception. Can you say 11.5 on the Stimpmeter? That speed, combined with the shape of the greens, will provide a stern test.
- Be mentally prepared for psychological warfare- The setup of the course will drive golfers crazy. Odds are good for another Daly-like blowup. So count out Daly.
Labels: U.S. Open