The USGA comes back to North Carolina for the 2014 edition of our National Championship at the Legendary Pinehurst No 2 Golf Course. Pinehurst has produced two of the finest finishes in US Open history, and 2014 should be no different. Phil Mickelson comes into the state with no top 10 finishes in the 2013-2014 season looking for his first US Open title, and a completion of his Career Slam.
Everyone remembers the picture of Payne Stewart consoling a young Phil in 1999 after giving the aging super-star the first of his six runner-up finishes at the Open. The finale’ at the 99 event defined Stewart’s career, and was the last hurrah for one of the sweetest swings on any tour.
Michael Campbell from New Zealand won his one and only major title at the famed layout in 2005. Both winning scores were around level par, and after the re-design by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore in the last year, this year should render about the same scores.
Pinehurst Resort was commissioned in 1895 and currently has eight courses on the private club. Number two was designed by legendary designer, Donald Ross in 1907, and opened for play in 1908.
Crenshaw, and Coore took old aerial photos of the course, and put it back to its original design, adding just over 1000 yards to make up for equipment changes over the years. It now plays to a par of 70, and is 7565 yards. The course rating is a whopping 76, and the slope rating for us amateurs is 148.
Several players come to Pinehurst this week with a chance to win this event. To hoist the trophy on Sunday however, they will need to bring every aspect of their game and a ton of patience. The course is going to be brutal, and the greens will be impossible to hold any shot with the wrong trajectory.
Weather could also become a factor during the week and add to the frustration of golfers who become impatient.
The obvious missing component this week is Tiger Woods. I had thought earlier in the season, before we found out about Tiger’s back problems that he would be a solid favorite this week. With the world’s best player out, you almost have to give the nod to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and of course, Phil to win the season’s second major.
Rory has the best game for this venue due to the height he can put on most of his shots. He also scrambles well, and all he needs to do short of bringing a good attitude to the course, is getting his putter working, and working early.
It’s a known fact that you can’t win one of these things on Thursday or Friday, but you can definitely lose one in a hurry. To win on Sunday, the contenders will have to stay close to the leaders and save their challenges for Sunday afternoon.