Will U.S. Open enable course-setup revolution?
PINEHURST, N.C. – I’ve been coming to Pinehurst since 1977. Back then I was caddying on the PGA Tour, had taken an overnight train from Northampton, Mass., and arrived in time for the end-of-summer Colgate Hall-of-Fame Classic to loop for Lon Hinkle. Total purse was $250,000. About a dozen of us caddies stayed in some flophouse in nearby Southern Pines for $35 for the week.
Now, 37 years later, I’ve just finished watching and covering the 2014 U.S. Open. In those intervening years I’ve been here many times, including 100 or so days researching the biography I wrote, “Discovering Donald Ross.” Every time I come here, I marvel at the place and how it’s evolved. And now, after Martin Kaymer’s runaway win in this championship, I’m amazed once again at how raw and bony and scruffy and baked out the place looks and plays.
And I hope that folks watching don’t dismiss it as some fad. I hope that they embrace the revolution of this firm, fast, linksland in the pines.
Johnny Miller apparently opined that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who did the restoration of the Pinehurst No. 2 course four years ago, should next take on the task of rebuilding these greens, as they’ve become too severe. Miller is one of the most interesting voices in golf these days. I’ve never heard anyone who comes close to being alternatively brilliant and completely idiotic within a matter of minutes. So I’ve come to expect stuff like that from him.
Sure, these greens are severe. Too severe. That’s their point. They are a little more pronounced than Ross designed them in 1935 when he converted these putting surfaces from sand to turfgrass.
There’s now a certain charm – and a mixture of sado-masochism – in watching world-class players struggle with surfaces that drive us normal golfers crazy. I am curious to watch the ladies (and girls, including an 11-year-old) try their hand, starting Monday morning during practice sessions for the U.S. Women’s Open. My bet is they will struggle mightily and curse the place. But they will also know they’re on the closest thing to sacred golf ground that America has to offer. And if they are like me, they will keep coming back.