Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
• It’s clear who will win this week’s U.S. Open. Guaranteed. Write it down.
Here it is:
Someone who chips well and makes putts in the range of 5-10 feet. That is non-negotiable. If you don’t do those two things well on and around the turtle-back greens of Pinehurst No. 2, you won’t be hoisting any trophies.
The winner also will be good with iron shots and attitude. Asked in the late 1990s why he was so good at U.S. Opens (in the final group four years in a row), Tom Lehman told me, “The most important thing is having a good attitude because a lot of things can go wrong.”
Interestingly, the winners of the first two Opens at Pinehurst – Payne Stewart in 1999 and Michael Campbell in ’05 – each hit 41 greens in regulation, or 56.9 percent. That means their short games were sharp and led to victory.
Stewart ranked eighth in GIR when he won, Campbell 16th.
Bubba Watson called No. 2 a “second-shot” course. But it’s just as much of a third-shot course. The par-70 layout measures 7,562 yards, but there’s a sense among some players that it doesn’t play that long because of firmness and doesn’t rule out medium-length hitters.
What’s more, David Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, says the fairways are wider than usual for an Open. Because of that and the fact there is no rough, Toms said, “long hitters won’t freak out on the tee knowing they won’t have to wedge out of high rough.”
Toms then went into a humorous take about seeing marshals at past Opens waving an orange flag to indicate a ball in the rough.
“Nobody likes those little orange flags,” he said, smiling.
One person to watch this week is Sergio Garcia. He’s a strong ball-striker and chipper who has improved his putting dramatically, not to mention his outlook on life, thanks in large part to a happy relationship.
What’s more, Garcia is the only player who finished in the top 10 in 2005 (T-3) who is in this week’s field. The absent others are Campbell, Tiger Woods, Mark Hensby, Davis Love III, Rocco Mediate, Vijay Singh, Nick Price and Arron Oberholser.
This time, one man’s opinion is the winner will come from the 19-man group of Garcia and (alphabetically) Jason Day, Jim Furyk, Dustin and Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood.
But then no one saw Campbell coming nine years ago.
• What will be the winning score? Maybe over par.
One Open caddie/instructor said he saw seven players make no birdies – combined – over 27 holes of practice.
• Here’s an interesting conversation that took place on the practice area here:
Bomber J.B. Holmes to an equipment rep: “I played with a club pro today that outdrove me by 25-30 yards every hole.”
Rep: “I know who he is. Matt Dobyns.”
The secret is out on Matt Dobyns, the 36-year-old former Texas golfer who now serves as head pro at Fresh Meadow Golf Club on Long Island, N.Y. Dobyns won the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship.
• Trivia question: What eventual major champion finished second at the 1987 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic, aka the Mississippi Masters, held the same week as the real Masters? (Answer below.)
• Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington didn’t make it to the U.S. Open, for he missed in qualifying at Walton Heath. But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking of a major championship.
Harrington spent Monday and Tuesday playing Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, in preparation for next month’s Open Championship there.
• Security at the sporting likes of NFL games and PGA Tour events has been increased during the last year after the Boston Marathon bombings. It follows that there has been noticeably tighter security at this U.S. Open in the form of car searches and armed federal agents.
“The world we live in,” said USGA president Tom O’Toole Jr., adding that Open security this week features a “long list of protocols.”
At Lot B, for instance, drivers are asked to pop the hood and trunk, and cars are filmed underneath. That hasn’t sat well with everyone.
One equipment rep said he told a security officer after all that, “That’s what Hitler did.” He also said he cited the Fourth Amendment to a guard, citing “unlawful search and seizure.”
“It’s just stupid,” the person said. “I have a credential and a green tag on my bag. It’s a waste of time.”
• Trivia answer: Nick Faldo finished second to David Ogrin.
Then their careers went in different directions.