Pinehurst No 2 is ultimate test of golf

By Brandon TuckerApril 28, 2010, 9:52 am
payne stewart pinehurst
Play Pinehurst No. 2 on a Sunday and the pin at 18 is right where it was for Payne Stewart in '99

PINEHURST, N.C. – It's probably no coincidence that two of the toughest greens at Pinehurst's No. 2 course sit closest to architect Donald Ross' back porch.

He lived just off the third green. Ross often sat in the afternoon sunshine, drinking bourbon. Footsteps below No. 3, the fifth hole, a brawny par 4, ranks among golf's toughest pars.
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'I witness maybe one par a week on the fifth, and I'm out all the time,' caddie Sean Duggan said. 'I've seen two birdies on the hole ever.'

Highlighted by No. 5, the greens, universally considered some of the game's most complex, steal the show at Pinehurst No. 2.

Ross receives credit for the design of 400 and 600 golf courses, but he set foot on only about 20 percent of them, spending far more time on No. 2 than the rest. He constantly monitored and tweaked his prized greens - if only because he lived right here.

The 472-yard fifth hole most accurately represents this golf course. The drive isn't horribly intimidating, as a lot of room exists to safely land between the Carolina pines. But within this frame, hug the right side of the fairway, because from the lower left side or the rough, it's virtually impossible to hit the elevated green. Trouble awaits to the left and leaves a heroic up-and-down attempt.

The long approach shot demands perfection, just what Ross intended.

'It should call for long and accurate tee shots, accurate iron play (and I consider the ability to play the longer irons as the supreme test of a great golfer),' Ross once said, 'precise handling of the short game and, finally, consistent putting.'

Where to score on Pinehurst No. 2

Like many classic designs in contrast to modern bravado golf courses filled with hazards and out of bounds, Pinehurst No. 2 won't force a score well worse than your handicap - even on a bad day.

Pars and birdies are the hard part here.

Before playing No. 2, visit one of Pinehurst's several practice greens for a test of your bump-and-run skills and your putter off the green. The golf course presents links characteristics - at least as much as possible with bermuda fairways. They run as fast as a 7 on the Stimpmeter in the peak season.

Want to make yourself look silly? Try a delicate, lofty wedge shot at Pinehurst No. 2, especially with the aprons shaved nice and tight. Unless you've got supreme confidence in your wedge play, consider shots on the ground when near the green. You might not end up with a gimme putt, but there's less chance of getting 'Rossed,' the practice of hitting two straight shots from the exact same spot.

Although the golf course offers the ultimate test of a short game, Pinehurst No. 2 doesn't appear too penal from the tee. Aside from the out of bounds down the left side on the opening three holes and a pond in front of the 16th tee, virtually no way exists to lose a ball. The rough stays short during the spring, so let it rip off the tee and attack the center of greens with mid and short irons. Just beware of flier lies if you're in the rough.

Take a stab at birdies on the four par 5s. The eighth and 16th are shortened to par 4s during the U.S. Open, and only No. 10 plays severely long during daily resort play - 569 yards from the blue tees. The fourth features a wide, bowled fairway, short enough that longer hitters can easily attack the green on the second shot.

Pinehurst No. 2: The verdict

It's not visually spectacular like other major-championship resort venues at Pebble Beach or Whistling Straits, but the reputation of No. 2, from Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods, remained strong as ever.

Woods likened the golf course in 2007 to links golf.

'Fun golf is Pinehurst,' he said. 'Fun golf is playing links golf. Fun golf is learning how to maneuver the ball on the ground and give yourself options.'

No. 2 is a players' golf course more than a resort golf course, so if you prefer elevated tee shots, spectacular bunkering and such, consider Pinehurst No. 4 or Pinehurst No. 8, showier Tom Fazio designs that also host tournaments. The new Pinehurst Perfecta package features a round on all three.

Caddies and forecaddies are available and encouraged at No. 2. They'll help navigate the greens, and most who've been here awhile offer good, historical tidbits.

Coore and Crenshaw project coming to Pinehurst No. 2

The 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open will arrive to a new look at Pinehurst No. 2, slated to go under the knife by the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Plans call for the team to turn back time, so to speak, favoring more natural transition areas over the modern, manicured look. The golf course will fit into the Sandhills landscape and include less mowed rough and wider playing areas.

'We're trying to take what Ross left and perhaps bring it back to the character and definition of what was once here,' Coore said. 'In short, we'll bring the strategy back and reinstate its character.'

The greens at No. 2, once described by Crenshaw as 'symphonic,' are expected stay untouched during the project. Coore and Crenshaw plan to add no significant length, with the exception of a new seventh tee box. It played 402 yards for the 2005 U.S. Open.

Work on the golf course is set to begin Nov. 15, 2010, and last into the first half of 2011.

Pinehurst No. 2: Fast fact

Play No. 2 on a Sunday, and you'll find the 18th hole positioned as it sat for Payne Stewart's 1999 U.S. Open win, a new tradition at Pinehurst.
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.