No. 2 Course should suit Bubba to a tee
Posted April 14, 2014
Pinehurst, N.C. — Brandel Chamblee, the Golf Channel analyst, once described Pinehurst No. 2 as “Augusta National on steroids.”
Those words have to be music to the ears of Bubba Watson, whose big-bang tee shots and innovative shot-making talents opened the door to Augusta’s Butler Cabin and his second Masters championship Sunday afternoon.
The Pinehurst No. 2 layout that Watson and his fellow qualifiers will face June 12-15 in the North Carolina sandhills will so closely resemble Augusta that he should have a better-than-even chance to pull off one of the sport’s rare doubles of winning the Masters and the US Open in the same year.
Ben Hogan did it twice (1951 and ’53). Jack Nicklaus did it in 1972, Arnold Palmer in 1960, Tiger Woods in 2002 and Craig Wood in 1941.
Watson is prone to inconsistent scoring numbers, but there’s good reason to believe No. 2 will be a near-perfect match for his skills.
Unlike most Open courses, No. 2 will not be unnecessarily tight. But at about 7,500 yards, it’ll be so long that some of the leading shorter, more accurate drivers are likely to face an ongoing game of catch-up off the tees.
Augusta played roughly 7,400 yards in dry, sometimes windy conditions last week.
But keep in mind that Augusta has a few rolling hills and water hazards on three back-9 holes. No. 2 is among the flattest championship courses in the world, is basically water free and unlikely to be windswept in mid-June. Watson should be able to play lock and load most of the time.
The fairway bunkers will create more trouble than when Payne Stewart won at 1-under in 1999 and Michael Campbell at even par in 2005. But Stewart won on a 7,175-yard course and Campbell won when the yardage was 7,220.
A recently completed restoration project, headed by Ben Crenshaw and Bil Coore, focused on bringing back some of the same shot lines introduced by Donald Ross in the early 1900s.
Compared to Merion last season, where Watson tied for 32nd and Olympic in 2012 (missed cut), he’ll be able to hit the big pink driver much more often.
After the Masters, Watson’s average driving distance of 315.4 yards increased by almost a full yard over close contenders Dustin Johnson (309.1), Scott Piercy (307) and Nicola Colsaerts.
The oldest adage in the sport is “drive for show and putt for dough.” That’s still true in large part, but length obviously is more important on a 7,500-yard course than the average PGA Tour stops.
“When he has wedge, he can go fire at some pins and be able to stop it,” Luke Donald said of Watson. “If he’s hitting wedge and other guys are hitting 8-irons or more, there’s an advantage.”
The early odds favor Rory McIlory, still injured Tiger Woods and Adam Scott at 10-to-1. Watson is in a group at 25-1 that includes Jason Day and Matt Kuchar.
But if Watson can hit the same tee shots at Pinehurst that he did at Augusta, 25-1 could be a deal.