Pinehurst No 2 is ultimate test of golf

By Brandon TuckerApril 28, 2010, 9:52 am
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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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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”