Pinehurst Unveils New No. 2
Three photos of the 7th hole at Pinehurst No. 2: 1940, 2005 and 2011 (Pinehurst Media)
PINEHURST, N.C. – Last week, under Carolina blue skies and a slight breeze that made the famed turtleback greens all the more menacing, Pinehurst unveiled a renovated No. 2.
The purpose of the three-year project, which was led by the design team of Bill Coore and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, was to resurrect the strategic and aesthetic elements Donald Ross intended when he built the course in 1907. All of the Bermuda rough was replaced by natural sandy areas and 100,000 wiregrass plants.
As for the trademark Donald Ross greens, they were re-sodded, but the devilish contours remain unchanged.
Pinehurst No. 2 reopened to its members and the public in March and will be showcased to the world in 2014 when it hosts the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open during back-to-back weeks.
The new/old Pinehurst
As the above photo illustrates, Pinehurst No. 2 used to look rugged, with wide fairways spilling into natural sandy areas where pine straw fell and wire grass grew. It’s the way Ross, the pioneer of minimalist golf course architecture in the U.S., intended the course to be.
At the 2005 U.S. Open, No. 2 was made lush and green, with sharp bunker lines and thick rough – pretty to look at, but not how the course was designed.
Fast forward to today and Ross’ masterpiece looks more like it did a century ago.
The 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst is remembered as Payne Stewart’s final victory before his untimely death, but it also marked the end of Pinehurst No. 2 as golf enthusiasts knew it.
With the introduction of the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball in 2000, pros suddenly gained 30-40 yards off the tee, diminishing many of the shot values that had made No. 2 a highly regarded U.S. Open venue. Knowing the 1999 setup would not hold up when the U.S. Open returned to Pinehurst in 2005, the U.S. Golf Association added five-inch rough and 400 sprinkler heads. With the course set up in defense of par, its character changed dramatically.
After the 2005 U.S. Open, Pinehurst’s owner/CEO, Bob Dedman, began wrestling with the idea of a reconstruction. Three years later, soon after No. 2 hosted the 2008 U.S. Amateur, the renovation began.
“It’s like messing with the Mona Lisa,” admitted Dedman. “There were trepidations initially about what should be done, and if we should undertake this. We all realized it will probably be the smartest thing we've ever done, or the dumbest thing we've ever done.”
Coore and Crenshaw’s sandy expertise
Crenshaw’s passion for golf course architecture began when he traveled outside Texas for the first time to play the 1968 U.S. Junior Amateur at Brookline in Boston.
“My head just spun off about golf history and architecture and playing on a national stage all in one week,” Crenshaw said. “My head's been in the book ever since.”
More than forty years later, at a time when most golf course architects are struggling to find business in the U.S., he and Bill Coore have carved a niche as one of the preeminent minimalist design firms.
Of the 40-plus Coore-Crenshaw original designs or renovations, several of the highly regarded layouts are sand-based, like Pinehurst. The list includes nearby Dormie Club, Bandon Trails in Oregon, Sand Hills in Nebraska and Old Sandwich in Massachusetts.
“We love sand,” Crenshaw said. “It’s economical.” (Economical. Now there’s a word you didn’t hear many golf course architects uttering in the 1990s and early 2000s.)
As part of their minimalist emphasis, the irrigation was reduced from 1,150 sprinkler heads to 450. Water lines were reconfigured so that a single pipe runs down the middle of each fairway, with the greens and everything within a 40-yard radius receiving water. Everything outside that boundary is left to grow naturally.
With no rough, and wiregrass that isn’t yet mature, the new No. 2 is less daunting off the tee than before. The green contours, however, remain the same, which is to say they’re very difficult.
On normal golf courses, approach shots that land on the green have a good chance of staying there, but at Pinehurst No. 2 most do not. The greens here are so severe, in fact, that Pinehurst caddies coined the term, “Greens Visited in Regulation” because “Greens in Regulation” are too tough to come by. If your approach shot touches the green at any point – even if it ends up rolling off – give yourself a pat on the back and a dot on your scorecard.
The aesthetics are much improved. You’ll feel like your money was spent on a fantastic golf course, not just one that has hosted a bunch of championships – which is certainly true, but is only worth so much.
Pinehurst No. 2 is worth a look whether or not you played it before the renovation. Though the course yardage and par is unchanged, you’ll hit different shots on the new No. 2. It’s wild and untamed, just the way Donald Ross drew it up more than a century ago.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.