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Caulton Tudor

Bermuda rough might have given Open more drama

Posted June 16, 2014

There will be lots of time over the coming weeks and months for the USGA and Pinehurst Resort folks to bask in their historic venture during the June of 2014.

There’s also be lot of time for the two parties to reflect on what worked and what may not have worked so well during the back-to-back men’s and women’s U.S. Opens on the No. 2 Course.

One point the Pinehurst group will almost certainly address is the wisdom of making such a sweeping commitment to restoring the famed course to its look and playing conditions in the 1920s and ’30.

When the Resort management brought in Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore to “go back to the future”, the decision also was made to go the route of Texas Hold ‘Em – all in.

What the golf world got was one of the strangest courses in major golf history. A course without water hazards was stripped of the thick Bermuda grass rough that’s found on almost all courses in the South during warm weather.

The Bermuda rough was replaced by other native grasses and great expanses of sand. The thinking being that the clumps of wire grass and uneven sand stretches would serve as punitive measures for errant tee shots.

In the most general sense, that just didn’t happen. Most of the shots that missed fairways were quickly converted in successful recoveries.

It was the latest reminder of how much equipment and player conditioning have changed golf on the PGA Tour. It was a case of 1930s rough versus 2015 technology. En route to runaway victory, Martin Kaymer certainly outplayed everyone else and deserved everything he got on Sunday.

It was truly a remarkable performance but there was no drama whatsoever after Kaymer’s 65s on Thursday and Friday.

Without water and deep rough, No. 2 had only one defense – the putting greens that were essentially left as they were for the eventful 1999 and 2005 Opens.

The difficult pin placements on Saturday and Sunday made it all but impossible for anyone to mount a charge at Kaymer and since there was little chance for him to get into deep danger off the tees, the 114th Open was turned into a two-putt derby.

The tournament was memorable but not in the usual definition of the word. While No. 2 was visually stunning at times, I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that Merion, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Baltusrol, etc. will jump into the retro revival.

In retrospect, maybe the Pinehurst group should have given some thought to an abbreviated 1930s restoration venture by going “native” on the par-3s and par-5s but sticking with the Bermuda rough on most of the par-4s.

There will be ample time to sort out any fine-tuning options before 2022 and ‘23, when the Open could possibly return.

It’s for sure that Pinehurst deserves a fourth Open. The organization, traffic management and hospitality are and have always been exceptional.

It’s a special place that should be deemed sacred to the sport and its history forever. So long live No. 2 and its spot in the Open rotation. But maybe live long with a little more Bermuda rough.

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  • Objective Scientist Jun 17, 2014

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    Regarding your statement: "Spectator areas were mostly sand, dirt, and pine straw." With all due seriousness... what did you expect the spectator areas to be? Pinehurst #2 was initially "carved out" of a long-leaf pine forest in the sandhills region of NC. Sand mostly, perhaps a small bit of "dirt", and pine needles is part of the natural state of the land in that region. Again... what would you do to the spectator areas to make it more to your liking?

  • HotRoute Jun 17, 2014

    CT, you are talking out of your rear end on this one. What would've given this tourney more drama would have been an absence of Kaymer at the course this past week. I don't know how bermuda roughs would've provided more when the guy is hitting fairways and greens and sinking a bunch of putts. If he wasn't playing like a super hero, look at what could've been with everyone else on the leaderboard within a couple shots of one another.

    As for the nay sayers of the course, it's understandable when most are programmed to think of green and lush when they think golf. But the only things naturally green and lush are rain forests and the PNW. I personally think the course is visually stunning, and the holes are very different. Having played it many times, the greens are its main defense as many know. I've spent many a Saturday afternoon feeling sorry for myself after a morning round on no2.

  • Hammerhead Jun 17, 2014

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    Since you were there you know far more than those who weren't (not sarcasm). Retrofitting the course will take some time, but it's like trying to remodel an old house, not everything fits perfectly. I know this FAR too well! They are probably banking on those spectator areas to gradually become more friendly to the attendees. We shall see. It's a lot different than carving a course out of the land and leaving some of it in natural conditions. On the other hand, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about since I don't really know the history of Pinehurst.

  • markbrameyer Jun 17, 2014

    I attended the Open on Saturday/Sunday and was dissapointed in the layout and conditions of the course. I will list a few of the many issues I noticed:
    - Bermuda Turf Quality was poor. Cold winter left the bermuda turf several weeks behind in growth. Deliberate lack of watering did not help that situation either.
    - Since Pinehurst apparently does not believe in growing grass anymore, Spectator areas were mostly sand, dirt, and pine straw. With thousands of people tromping around and the constant cart traffic, this basically became a constant dust storm. By the end of the day, you felt like you had been walking in the desert for a week.
    - The course was just flat out un-appealing and boring. All holes looked the same with little variation or interesting features.

  • Hammerhead Jun 17, 2014

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    I've not played either one. I haven't picked up a golf club since 1975. Maybe when I get older. I like to trend towards more natural settings though. I did work as a greens keeper off and on for a few years in the 70s and 80s.

  • Objective Scientist Jun 17, 2014

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    How would you compare Whistling Straits and Erin Hills to Pinehurst #2?

  • Hammerhead Jun 17, 2014

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    The PGA is at Whistling Straits next year I believe. I grew up in that neck of the woods. Erin Hills is about an hour's drive from Straits.

  • Objective Scientist Jun 17, 2014

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    Just looked at Erin Hills... to those who dislike Pinehurst #2, I'm quite certain you will not like Erin Hills!

  • Hammerhead Jun 17, 2014

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    Indigenous flora. It will fill in where they allow it to.

  • Objective Scientist Jun 17, 2014

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    I was born in Pinehurst and played #2 often when I began playing golf. As I recall... each individual "clump" of the infamous wiregrass that I saw when I was actually on the course last Sat and Sun was somewhat smaller than what I recall when playing the course several decades ago. I readily admit that my observation is "subjective" with considerable time between observations... but I do believe that the various and sundry "native" grasses in the waste sand areas will mature, becoming larger and the density of such grasses will increase. ln the Pinehurst area... go to an uncultivated field and you will indeed see the same exact grasses. In crop fields they are known simply as "weeds"! Regarding the wiregrass... it is not as "stiff" as wire. The individual blades within a clump are quite thin and flexible. Nevertheless, if your ball is actually in or up against the clump... you have a true challenge!

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