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Executive Sport Co. Offers Insight on New Twist with 2014 US Open Golf Course
A U.S. Open with no rough is like coffee without cream, says Kyle Gaspari, founder and owner of Executive Sports Co. in Burlington, ON and Toronto, ON.
Gaspari, a former golf professional himself and co-owner of the course record at Burlington Golf & Country Club in Burlington, Ontario, believes that the course will play more similar to that of a British Open with unexpected lies and recovery shots becoming the norm. For this reason Gaspari suggests that we should expect a leaderboard dominated by European players and long-hitters alike.
It’s hard to imagine one without the other. “But that’s what awaits the field for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst 2, which was been restored to what the legendary designer Donald Ross originally envisioned,” says Gaspari.
There will be none of the full-grown or graduated rough that has been present in recent U.S. Opens. Instead, the firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw used photographs from the 1920s-40s to begin a $2.5 million renovation in 2010 that removed an estimated 35 acres of turf. Over-seeded grass was replaced with sand, natural hardpan, wire grass, pine straw and natural bunkering.
When fairways are missed this year, balls won’t be landing in fescue, but the scruffy elements of nature as Ross intended.
“There’s never been anything like it, I don’t think, in U.S. Open memory that really has no rough,” says Gaspari. “Basically, there’s fairway and then there’s the hardened fairway bunkers with the wire grass.”
The signature Donald Ross crowned greens remain and will present the familiar challenge seen in previous U.S. Opens. But for those who miss fairways, this won’t be your father’s Pinehurst 2.
More like your grandfather’s.
And more are having a say with this year’s changes.
“Sometimes they’re going to be on sandy hardpan. Sometimes they’re going to be on loose sand,” says Mike Davis, the USGA executive director. “Sometimes they’re going to be up against or underneath wire grass. Sometimes against some of the natural vegetation. Sometimes it will be on pine needles or up against a pine cone. It’s going to give these players who miss a fairway just a different types of challenge.”
There are other changes from the U.S. Opens won by the late Payne Stewart in 1999, when he outdueled Phil Mickelson, and Mike Campbell in 2005, when he beat Tiger Woods by two strokes. The par-70 layout includes 13 new tees and will stretch the course from 7,214 yards to as much as 7,562, depending on the daily setup. The width of the fairway at the par-4 second hole has been doubled.
The fourth hole, played as a par-5 in the two previous U.S. Opens, will be a 529-yard par-4. The fifth hole, played as a par-4 previously, will be a 576-yard par-5 that will give players a chance to go for the green in two, though it remains the toughest green to hit and the toughest to putt at Pinehurst. The par-3 15th features one of the few greens renovated, but plays small as approach shots that land below the hole likely will roll off the green.
“It’s always been a wonderful iconic golf course,” Davis said. “It’s always certainly been a wonderful championship test. But what it is right now is it’s all those things plus more. It’s hard to believe you could make Pinehurst No.2 better, but it’s made it a good bit better.”
Though there won’t be any rough at Pinehurst, the U.S. Open will retain its premium on driving accuracy. Landing not only in the fairway, but on the correct side of the fairway will be the key to reaching as many greens in regulation as possible.
“The golf course is so well-designed from a position standpoint, you have to be in the fairway,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said. “You have to have the right angle to have any chance to hit these greens. But even the best of them are going to miss upwards of seven, eight, nine greens a day.”
That’s why a creative short-game will again be needed at Pinehurst. “Obviously, the greens are very tricky at Pinehurst, a lot of run-offs and slopes,” 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy said.
“I think you’re going to have to have everything there. You’re obviously going to have to be pretty long off the tee, but most of the guys are these days. So it will just be about second shots.
When you miss greens, I think you’ll have to be very imaginative around the greens. You’ll have to bump it into the hills and run it up, and some guys might try and fly it up on top of the greens.”
That’s the kind of golf Donald Ross envisioned.