Pinehursts US Open Impact
PINEHURST, NC -- Aside from a couple of dog days of summer, Pinehurst is as it always seems to be; a near perfect setting for some of the worlds best golf. A living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting, Pinehurst is a place where, for all practical purposes, time has stood still to call back a simpler era of gentle Southern hospitality and everlasting charm. Except, of course, when you consider that approximately 400,000 people just blew through here six short weeks ago for the U.S. Open.
I can honestly say, there were no negatives this year, said Steven Smith, Mayor of Pinehurst. In 1999, people didnt know what to expect. Was the event going to be too big for the Village of Pinehurst to handle? But, Pinehurst Resort did such a great job on traffic logistics and the infrastructureit went off almost flawlessly. This year, it was a repeat of 1999 from a logistical standpoint visa vi the village. In fact, I have not heard a single discouraging word. And thats odd from a town full of retirees.
Pinehursts Village Manager, Andy Wilkison, concurs. It was noticeably more intense this time than in ninety-nine. There were way more people in town. The first two days of the Open in 1999 had maybe twelve to fifteen thousand out there on Monday and Tuesday. On the first day this year, we had some 35,000 people. We knew 2005 was going to be different than 1999 from that respect.
In fact, for tournament days, there were some 55,000 people on the course at any given time. This number includes everyone: spectators, volunteers, media, USGA officials and groundskeepers. As Mayor Smith looks back in retrospect, it couldnt have gone better. I think the U.S. Open is one of the key sporting events anywhere in the world. You think of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Indy 500. Its certainly in the upper echelon of sport. And each year I think the U.S. Open is going to get bigger. When it comes back here again ' and I do think it will return here in 2013 or 2014 ' its going to be even that much bigger. The great thing about Pinehurst Resort, because of the abundance of space and the Resorts relationship with the Village of Pinehurst, it can handle attendance growth extremely well.
Attendance growth naturally relates to the economic impact the U.S. Open can have on a community. Caleb Miles is the President and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau ' Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area; the official destination marketing organization for Moore County. They use an economic impact model called IM-Plan to estimate two primary revenue indicator numbers. First, the direct spending number - in the 12 counties surrounding Moore County where Pinehurst is located, estimated at $70.8 million. Second, new dollars, which takes into account payroll dollars to include the people that work in the community and not just visitors. This figure is approximately $124 million.
We use an intercept form of collecting the data. We track the number of people who attend the event, the number of days they spend in the community broken down even more specifically to day visitors and overnight visitors, and, how much money visitors spend while they are here, said Miles. Moore County has just over 2,600 hotel rooms. The U.S. Open required 10,000 rooms on peak days. We used a regional housing system that includes the twelve counties around Pinehurst to accommodate all the people. With major access points to Pinehurst like Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro being in relative close proximity to Pinehurst, people were able to find places to stay away from the tournament site while still having a convenient drive to get here.
According to Beth Kocher, Executive VP, Pinehurst Resort and Chairman 2005 U.S. Open, We are so pleased the USGA says the Open will return to Pinehurst. No specific date has been locked down but we have been told to anticipate 2013 or 2014. She went on to say, The USGA was extremely complimentary of the course, our tournament presentation, the crowds we got, they just could not have been happier.
As we all know, 9/11 changed the way everyone thinks about security. Major sporting events are no exception. Pinehurst Police Chief Ernest Hooker was handling security at the 1999 U.S. Open. It was mostly about traffic flow and pedestrian management. The 2005 U.S. Open meant real security issues. Chief Hooker was pleased with the results. The Chief says, We were concerned because of the events of 9/11. But, we had the advantage of having the Open here in 1999. We learned a lot from that experience.
Security preparation for the 2005 U.S. Open started about a year-and-a-half before the tournament. We met with not only the people putting on the tournament, but also the North Carolina State Police and the Sheriffs Departmentand from the beginning we were working towards a common goal. We were all trying to achieve the same thing ' optimum security and safety. I think we accomplished that quite well.
I think the sense of pride of hosting the U.S. Open, of being able to go the Open, of saying I live in Pinehurst and look, were on the world stagewell, in a way, this intangible package almost overrides the economic package locally, Mayor Smith said when asked if hosting a U.S. Open was worth the effort. Sure, the hotels and restaurants are packed. The business people, the retail shops, they had a significant up-tick in their business. But, its not just about economics. To see the community come together to put on this event is the real payoff.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”
Rory looking for that carefree inner-child
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.
“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.
The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.
“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”
But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.
“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”
And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.
It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.
That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.
“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”
It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.
McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.
“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”
It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.
“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”
A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”
Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.
Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction
Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.
The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.
Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.
Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.