Cut Line: USGA's grand experiment at Pinehurst a success

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After a favorable fortnight in the Sandhills of North Carolina, the USGA’s gamble to play consecutive championships on the No. 2 course has proven to be a major success and leads off this edition of a Pinehurst Cut Line.

Made Cut

Let’s play two. There was no small amount of concern in the run up to the USGA’s grand experiment at Pinehurst the last two weeks.

The storied No. 2 course would be pronounced DOA following last week’s U.S. Open and the field for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open would be left with the wilted remains, is how the handwringing went.

But the USGA crowned a worthy champion last Sunday, a German on a mission it turns out, and didn’t kill all the grass along the way.

Response from the players at the Women’s Open through one round has been favorable, and the added exposure this week’s championship received is immeasurable.

“It's a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I can tell you that,” Stacy Lewis said earlier this week. “When I came here three weeks ago and played, and once I saw the golf course, I became more comfortable with this whole idea and knew that it wouldn't be bad.”

A favorable forecast the last two weeks allowed officials to keep the No. 2 course just this side of the living dead, but it’s the USGA that took the gamble and deserve the credit.

German engineering. When Martin Kaymer climbed to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking in 2011 he wasn’t sure if he had the complete game to stay there.

Even at the Ryder Cup in 2012, the German was not the most confident player in the European team’s locker room, although he would go on to hole the winning putt at Medinah.

Since then Kaymer has refined and expanded his game on his way to a pair of high-profile titles in his last four starts (the U.S. Open and The Players).

This time the climb to the top has been much more enjoyable for Kaymer, because he knows he has the game to stay there.


Tweet of the week: @ErikCompton3 “#Pinehurst fans I have never felt so much energy. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the support. It kept me going. #USOpen”

Think I can speak for the Twitter-verse here – thank you, Erik.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

So far, so good. The PGA Tour unveiled the fall portion of the 2014-15 schedule this week with few surprises.

The Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., which was last played in July opposite last year’s Open Championship, will move to early November and will now be played opposite the WGC-HSBC Champions.

The Tour, however, still has not addressed the 2015 portion of next season’s schedule, specifically where, or if, the WGC-Match Play Championship will be played.

Accenture dropped its sponsorship of the event this year and the talk on Tour is that the event is poised to move to a new venue. But an early draft of next year’s schedule shows that there are no open dates on the calendar until after The Players in May.

Tour events come and go with little concern, but losing a high-profile event like the Match Play would cause many players to sit up and take notice.

Age limits. Give Stacy Lewis credit for saying what many around the game were thinking, an 11-year-old playing the national championship may not be the best recipe for success.

Earlier this week Lewis was asked about Lucy Li, 11, who is the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. The normally outspoken veteran didn’t hold back.

“I'm not a big fan of it,” Lewis said. “She qualified, so we can't say anything about that. You qualify for an Open, it's a great thing. I just like to see kids be successful at every level before they come out here. I would like to maybe see her play some U.S. Ams, play the Pub Links and get into match play, where you have some experience. I just like to see kids learn how to win before they come get beat up out here.”

Lewis later went on to clarify her remarks and Li’s presence, if not her game, has been applauded by many, but that doesn’t make Lewis’ initial take on the issue, not the player, any less valid.

The Opens are the game’s most democratic championships, but as the game continues to trend younger USGA officials need to be aware that there will be a point of diminishing returns in the not-so-distant future.


Missed Cut

Trumped. Donald Trump wasn’t alone in his assessment of Pinehurst No. 2 last week, it’s just that whether we like it or not “The Don’s” voice carries a long distance in golf circles these days.

Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the appearance of the No. 2 course during last week’s U.S. Open.

“The only reason I am critical of the Pinehurst look is because I’m a lover of golf, and that look on TV hurts golf badly,” Trump tweeted on Monday, followed by a second tweet on Wednesday, “I was right. TV ratings for (the) U.S. Open are way down from last year. People don’t want to look at a burned out, ugly course.”

Never mind that the brown and scruffy look was exactly what the USGA and architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were going for with their minimalist redesign.

Officials are trying to sell the idea that “brown is the new green” in golf course design for a number of reasons – including water conservation and reduced maintenance costs – and it doesn’t help when Trump, who currently hosts a Tour event at his property in Doral and is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship at another one of his courses, weighs in with a wildly uneducated opinion.

Trump is a man of many talents and even more jobs, but when it comes to being golf’s unofficial spokesperson we have a simple message for him – you’re fired.