Rickie is simply going to be Rickie at Pinehurst
PINEHURST, N.C. – Like Chuck Norris, Pinehurst No. 2, Donald Ross' masterpiece that has been restored by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, demands respect.
Get too cute around the infamous greens and your chip shot will get a roundkick right off the putting surface and into a bunker or collection area. Get too aggressive with your tee shot and the uneven fairways might tag your golf ball with a left hook and send it bounding into a native area where any number comes into play.
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open (Wednesday)
Here are some images from Wednesday's practice round for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C.
After their first practice round on Pinehurst No. 2 this week, several players came off the 18th green with their eyes spinning like pinwheel, but Rickie Fowler wasn't one of them. The swing changes that he has been working on with Butch Harmon are coming along and he feels good about his game and his plan for the week.
When I spoke with Rory McIlroy last week after he played two practice rounds, he told me he was going to take a very conservative tact during the U.S. Open. Lots of irons off the tee, forget the flags and aim for the middle of the green. Be happy to face 30- and 40-foot birdie putts all week.
"I'm actually going to hit quite a few drivers," Fowler said, "but there are a few holes where I'll go with an iron and just get it out there."
He rattled off several before saying, matter-of-factly, "I'm just going to try to drive it on a string."
Fowler played in the 2008 U.S. Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2. From what he remembers, the green complexes are about the same and he knows, like everyone else in the field, that he is going to miss some greens.
A lot of players have said that the infamous greens at Pinehurst No. 2 demand that golfers use creativity, and scores of men who hope to hoist the hardware on Sunday evening have practiced bump-and-run shots, chipping with hybrid clubs, and putting from the runoff areas with fairway woods.
"I'm not going to do any of that stuff," he said. "For the most part I'm going to chip and use the knuckle of the green because, unless you miss into a really bad spot, every green has a knuckle that faces you, so you can use that as a backstop. I'm not really going to bump it into the fridge because it's so grainy and spongy. So, if you can just use the green, the upslope, to kill it, then I think the course is going to favor good chippers."
Fowler knows what he does well and he understands that if he tries to play a game that he's not comfortable with, he's got no shot to win his first major title this week.
Sure, Fowler respects Pinehurst No. 2, but he's looking forward to battling it.