The second major of the 2014 season is upon us and the world will be watching to see if Justin Rose can defend his title. Pinehurst Resort boasts eight courses (a deal should be sealing a nine son) but the world will be watching the centerpiece of the resort, No. 2. This course has been home to the most single golf championships in the United States. Pinehurst No. 2 will also be hosting the Ladies US Open the following week marking the first time any course has showcased both majors in the same year.
For those that do not remember, Pinehurst No. 2 was the site of the memorable Sunday duel between Phil Mickelson and the late Payne Stewart in 1999. You can see Payne Stewart’s winning pose immortalized in a statue adjacent to the 18th green. 58 of the world’s top-60 will be in attendance (Tiger Woods and Thomas Bjorn are injured).
The course was designed by the legendary Donald Ross in 1907. In 2010 Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw began the process of returning No. 2 to its original grace. No. 2 is complete, spectacular and ready for championship golf. The players can expect a par-70, 7,565 yard course with arguably the most challenging greens in the world. The greens undulate and showcase crowns that will challenge each players ability to not only place the ball on the proper level but hold the greens at all.
There are four par-4s that will play over 500 yards this week and one mammoth 600+ yard par-5. The theme this week will be the greens. Each green at Pinehurst No. 2 will challenge the players with crowns and slopes that will make the best in the world second case their choices for 72 holes. The par-4, 507 yard second hole played as the most challenging in 2005 and shows no signs of giving up its rank after the redesign. The reality is players will be required to favor the left side of the landing area to allow for a solid angle to a severely bunkered green.
The par-3, 219 yard sixth hole will continue to play as one of the toughest holes at Pinehurst No. 2. Long irons or hybrids can be expected from most of the professionals in the field. Players will attempt to avoid the strategically placed bunkers. If players miss the bunkers but land in the front portion of this back-to-front sloping green they can expect to see their balls leave the putting surface and raise their blood pressure.
While short in distance, the 13th hole can cause havoc if players make the slightest error. At 385 yards the par-4 requires an accurate tee shot avoiding the fairway bunkers. Arguably more important is club selection on the approach because if player leave it a bit short the ball will end up back in the fairway. The 16th hole was the ranking second in difficulty in 2005 and will play as a 528 yard par-4. The prevalent thought of the week will continue here attempting to avoid hardpan sand and wire-grass.
The 18th hole at Pinehurst No. 2 had its share of drama. We need not look any farther back than 1999 when Payne Stewart saved par and the US Open making a knee knocking 15 foot put to beat Phil Mickelson. The 18th will play as a par-4, 451 yard hole with a long fairway bunker down the right side that all players must avoid if they look to score here. If avoided, players will have mid to short irons into one of the most historic closing holes in major championship golf.
Thursday-Friday: ESPN 9 AM- 3 PM, NBC 3-5 PM, ESPN 5-7 PM
Saturday and Sunday: NBC NOON- 7:30 PM
$8 million total purse
Win Candidate: Webb Simpson
The winner of the 2012 US Open has a track record to show that he can handle the pressure and the grind that is the US Open, which alone makes him a contender at Pinehurst No. 2. Another benefit that Webb has over the field can affectionately be referred to as the home course advantage. He is a native of Raleigh and has logged many a round over the Pinehurst compound.
He started out his official 2014 campaign playing some great golf evident by three top-5s in his first four events including a win at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open. He had his struggles as of late but appears to have worked out the kinks with a tie for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic including a final round 66. His seventh in the all-around and ninth in strokes gained putting will only help his chances.
Win Pick: Phil Mickelson
Phil will be the first to tell you that 2014 has not exactly gone per the blueprint. He had to withdraw twice and it winless without a top-10 and it is already June. That being said, it he is coming off a tie for 11th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic which could have been better had he not had to finish with 27 holes on Sunday.
In his last five US Open starts, Mickelson has finished tied for second twice and tie for fourth including a second last year. He is attempting to win the career grand slam and is returning to a course where he lost on the 72nd hole to Payne Stewart in 1999. Yes the course has been changed and returned to its more natural beginning since then but he has some things going for him at Pinehurst No. 2.
To be specific, there are three keys that will help lefty this week. First, is his unapologetically aggressive tee strategy (yes I think driver will be in the bag at this US Open) which will prove a bonus instead of a hindrance this year with the different US Open conditions at Pinehurst. Second is his ability to get out of trouble. His imagination will only help on and around the challenging crowned greens of Pinehurst No. 2. Finally it is all about the short game. Phil has a great one and it will be the key to victory. While the rest of the course is different, the greens will play a lot like what is seen at Augusta for the Masters. We all know how Phil has played those greens.
Mickelson is confident and so am I. I like his chances in a stacked field that comes with US Open conditions. Expect Mickelson to play well and expect to be wowed at more than one moment this week as he turns bogey into birdie or double-bogey into par. Expect Mickelson to complete the career grand slam this week at the place where he was so close in 1999.
Who will win the 2014 US Open?
- Other (Please Leave a Comment) (60%, 6 Votes)
- Webb Simpson (20%, 2 Votes)
- Phil Mickelson (20%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 10