PINEHURST, N.C. – Hi, Major Jim here.
Another major championship is about to start. For those who will not win the U.S. Open, there is always a Major Jim Award to recognize significant words of wisdom.
• Sure, I’ll Predict the Winner Award: Matt Kuchar gets this one, reflecting, “I expect even par to be very good this year.”
Looking at the winners of the two previous U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart finished at 1-under 279 in 1999 and Michael Campbell posted an even-par 280 in 2005.
• The Poopy Poppy Award belongs to Phil Mickelson, who related, “I saw (Dave) Stockton this morning and really the reason why I went to the claw (grip, this week) is that I just have been a little bit too poppy, if you will. I’ve been popping at it and not making a long kind of smooth brush stroke.”
Now there’s a lesson for golfers who don’t subscribe to a pop stroke: Concentrate on a smooth brush stroke.
• The Let’s Make It Clear Award belongs to Jason Day, who said decisively, “I’m 100 percent healthy. I just want to get that out there. There are no issues with the (previously injured) thumb. There are no issues with any other part of my body that have been an issue in the past.” Thumbs up to that.
• The Golf Anatomy Award also is earmarked for Day, who said, “Unfortunately as golfers we have to grip the golf club … we underestimate our hands and our fingers and obviously we need that stuff.” Glad your stuff has recovered, Jason.
• The Lay-Back Award belongs to two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson. “It’s a second-shot golf course,” Watson said. “The greens are so difficult. There’s a lot of time I’m going to be laying back. I’m going to have 200-plus yards into par 4s.” Another 7-iron, ho-hum.
• The Putter Is My Middle Name Award goes to first-time U.S. Open qualifier Brendon Todd, who analyzed his short game by saying, “I’m a good putter and chipper.” Dangerous words, especially for a U.S. Open rookie, when talking about some of the world’s toughest greens.
Spectators thought they heard the greens respond – “We eat guys named Todd for lunch” – but they weren’t sure.
• Back to Reality Award: “In the U.S. Open, you can go 10, 20, 30 holes without making a birdie and still maybe have a chance to win, because you hang in there with a lot of pars,” said Todd the homespun philosopher.
• Glad I Missed the Cut Award: Defending U.S. Open champ Justin Rose admitted, “I missed the cut at the Memorial, which, to be honest, could turn out to be a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to come here (Pinehurst) Saturday, Sunday and Monday and really look at the golf course.”
• I Can Count To Five Award: “(There are) five championships in the year I consider major championships,” said Jordan Spieth, explaining why he prepares for the Players Championship exactly as he does the four recognized majors.
• Sand Man Award: Spieth gets this one, too, with his comment on sandy off-the-fairway areas at Pinehurst. “Then you’re left hitting off hard-packed sand, which is as good as the fairway,” Spieth said. “But you can also be in between pieces of grass, where you can’t really get a club on the ball.”
• The Naked Man Award goes to back-to-back U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, who related this story from his college days at Wake Forest: “Jay Haas went off the first hole (at Pinehurst No. 2 during the Pinehurst Intercollegiate), and some naked guy ran across the fairway. Buck naked. And they caught him. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing for us.”
• Stating the Obvious Award: Golf course designer Bill Coore, who restored Pinehurst No. 2 along with partner Ben Crenshaw, explained the new irrigation system and why fairways tend to be green in the middle and brown on the edges. “The current system, for the most part, is just a center row system down the middle (of the fairway), much like it would have been here decades ago,” Coore said.
Is brown the new green? Absolutely, as long as Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters aren’t on television.