ARTICLE OF THE DAY
Pinehurst # 2
by Coach Gary Overton
With all eyes of the
golfing world on North Carolina this week, Pinehurst is again ready to
host “the truest test of golf”. It has 51 fairway bunkers, 56 greenside
bunkers, one water hazard and a thousand ways to drive a player crazy.
Pinehurst No. 2 initially seems simple and it’s the type of course one
plays with anticipation of having a better score next time out. What
can’t be seen is the hidden secrets and difficulties of #2 that seem to
rise up and catch a golfer in an unsuspecting moment.
This Donald Ross masterpiece which he coined as his favorite work and
is compared in some ways to The Old Course of St. Andrews, gives one
the feeling of playing on hallowed ground. Having played #2 on a few
occasions, I can attest this through firsthand experience.
It's what 156 players are going up against this week when the U.S. Open
returns to Pinehurst. Only six years have passed (a short turn around
time by USGA standards) since Payne Stewart knew enough to solve its
taxing problems over the last three holes and win in 1999 by one shot
over Phil Mickelson. Such an unusual quick return only speaks well for
the Resort and particularly for the fabled #2.
Pinehurst dates to 1907 when the course was much shorter but for this
Open, Pinehurst will play at 7,214 yards — 92 yards longer than in
1999. Stewart, with a clutch putting performance on the final holes,
was the only player to break par as he won his second Open title on
famous greens, the most rigorous tests of Pinehurst.
First, though, you have to get to the greens. To make that more
difficult, the USGA has narrowed the fairways from Pinehurst's normal
average of 30 to 35 yards across to 24 to 26 yards. As usual, the USGA
has made two par-five holes into par fours — the 467-yard eighth and
the 492-yard 16th, probably the toughest hole on the course.
The key holes at Pinehurst are no different than they were in 1999, and
the USGA has indicated it probably will keep the same pin positions,
although nothing is guaranteed except problems once a golfer passes the
fourth hole. No. 4 is a 565-yard par five, which is reachable in two.
It was here I was once fortunate to witness a brilliant drive, stellar
3 wood and masterful 25-foot putt for eagle by Brian Bailey. For a
brief moment Brian more resembled Craig Stadler than the WNCT sports
reporter eastern North Carolinians love and admire. But that hole is
followed by the 483-yard par-four fifth, another one of the toughest
holes on the course, and it's big trouble.
The eighth doesn't give up a lot of even lies in the fairway and
there's a chance to pick up a shot at the 175-yard ninth, easiest of
the four par-three holes. The 607-yard 10th probably isn't reachable in
two, and is followed by the 476-yard 11th, which has a new tee that
makes the hole play as a slight dogleg left. The 13th is only 378 yards
but has a narrow fairway.
The finishing holes are no bargain. The 16th was the hardest hole in
the last Open, and it's likely that nothing will damage that
reputation. Approach shots are probably going to be about 180 to 200
yards, and the first 20 feet of green should be considered a "false
front". Professionals will be happy to take par at the 187 yard 17th as
the hole is completely surrounded by sand.
The 18th is 445 yards, uphill and usually into the wind. This is where
Stewart made the uphill 15-footer, after driving into the rough, to
save par and finish his round of 70 one shot ahead of Mickelson.
It’s long been said The U.S. Open doesn’t start until the back nine on
Sunday and such was the case six years ago in one of the best Opens
anyone can remember. Can Pinehurst duplicate the drama of 1999 all over
again, only time will tell.
Here’s to all Dads, enjoy the weekend, and have a Happy Fathers Day.
Coach Gary Overton