Pinehurst to pull Open double duty
U.S. Open week will get off to a blockbuster start Monday. The U.S. Golf Association will schedule the 2014 U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open on back-to-back weeks at the same course, Pinehurst No. 2.
Never before have parallel men’s and women’s professional majors been held on the same course in consecutive weeks. This will be the third time the men have come to the famed Donald Ross-designed course (previously 1999 and 2005) and the first time for the women – though they have played the U.S. Women’s Open three times down the road at Pine Needles Resort (1996, 2001, ’07).
The folks at Golf House are remaining zip-locked until Monday about details, logistics and reasoning for the bold move. There are surely some savings to be achieved in holding its national championships back-to-back like this. Historically, the U.S. Open is the big cash cow that feeds all of the other USGA championships, whereas the U.S. Women’s Open tends to be a money loser. Holding the event together like this will save costs in setups and rental of tents and cars, as well as travel expenses for championship staff.
But perhaps just as big a factor in the USGA’s decision simply was the chance to put the world’s best players on the same stage, thereby creating an aura and mystique that will have invaluable publicity value and probably boost public attention and ratings.
In previous years, the brutality of U.S. Open course setups, with dense rough lining every fairway, would not have adjusted well to the marginally slacker conditions that prevail at U.S. Women’s Opens. Just cutting the rough down would have been agronomically disastrous from one week to the next because it would have stressed out the plant too much. But the more-graduated roughs now mandated by the USGA for U.S. Opens allows for an easier, less-abrupt transition to the conditions prevailing at U.S. Women’s Opens. At Pinehurst No. 2, expect the greens to be putting at the same speed (11-12 on the Stimpmeter) but maintained a little softer, with not as much firmness and a little more receptive.
It helps that mid-June is a slow period for the Pinehurst Resort and for the entire Sandhills, N.C., area. And there’s no competition with area rush-hour traffic, something that plagues major events in the North and Midwest. The staging of back-to-back championships already has involved negotiations with local and state police, as well as those who control parking areas.
It also will require some deft handling of supplies to the merchandise tents and the corporate areas during the hectic tournament days between championships – presuming there is much time. The one potential snag in the equation could be a Monday 18-hole playoff. Last year’s playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate provided a ratings bonanza and the perfect cap to an extraordinary U.S. Open. But a Monday playoff in 2014 could prove to be a logistical nightmare for incoming female contestants seeking to play the course for the first time.
Unless, that is, by 2014 the USGA were to relax its historic commitment to a full playoff.