PINEHURST, N.C. – This won’t look like your father’s U.S. Open.
But it might look like your great grandfather’s U.S. Open.
Pinehurst No. 2’s restoration by the architectural team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore will make this an entirely different test than what players faced playing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 when Payne Stewart won it in 1999 and Michael Campbell won it in ’05. In fact, there hasn’t been a U.S. Open like this will be in the modern era. And, of course, with the women playing the week after the men, there hasn’t been a U.S. Women’s Open like it, either.
Crenshaw and Coore set out to restore the look and intent Donald Ross had when he built Pinehurst No. 2. They removed the lush, wall-to-wall green grasses that carpeted this course and re-made it with wider fairways that spill into unmaintained edges with natural wiry grasses, sand and pine straw.
The fairways will be wider than typical U.S. Opens. There won’t be a fairway mowing cut and a rough mowing cut.
“There are only two mowing heights out there,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said during Monday’s media day. “There will be the height they cut the fairways and the height they cut the greens. We’ve never encountered something like that for a U.S. Open.”
Coore is relishing seeing a U.S. Open without the typical, chop-out rough.
“This is going to be the first U.S. Open played without a maintained rough,” Coore said during Monday’s media day. “Yes, the fairways will be bigger, but the uncertainty of shots that are going to be played from the natural rough, we think that is going to be one of the most interesting stories of the week.”
Of course, Coore said, the diabolical turtle-back greens will remain Pinehurst No. 2’s primary defense, but the shots into them will be more intriguing this year. Coore and Crenshaw began restoring the course in May of 2010 with the course re-opening in the spring of 2011.
The restoration means a player who misses a fairway this year may find his ball in a sandy waste area, in wiry grass or in pine straw, or in some combination of all of the above.
“We think you’re going to see some of the most spectacular recovery shots in U.S. Open history,” Coore said.
When the U.S. Open was played at Pinehurst in ’99 and ’05, the fairways were clearly defined, with uniform rough. Now it looks more like it did when Ross built it.
“I have seen a lot of restorations, but I honestly have never seen one as good as what’s happened here,” Davis said. “What Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore did was really take it back to the roots of Donald Ross, to take it back to the unique aspects of being here in sand hills of North Carolina.”