Pinehurst Opining: Closing Ceremonies
Well, it’s all over with. But what a memorable week of US Open golf at Pinehurst No. 2 course. Technically, the world’s eyes will still be on the North Carolina sandhills this weekend as the women take on the restored course. But my US Open journey, along with many others, ended Sunday. With that in mind, here are my top 5 takeaways from the tournament:
5) Soak it all in. The US Open is a special event. When you’re fortunate enough to hold tickets to our national championship, please take advantage. From the moment the first ball is struck, in the early hours of the morning with the dew and fog still enveloping the course, the action is electric. And you never know when lightning is going to strike. Take, for instance, Saturday afternoon. I was following Phil Mickelson around the course. A couple of my friends, however, shot a few holes ahead to take in a bunch of groups as they came through on the back nine. They were immensely rewarded for their efforts. They witnessed Kenny Perry, the oldest player in the field, hole out for eagle from over 200 yards away from the green. It was the shot of the tournament. They couldn’t stop taking about it. I must admit, I was a bit perturbed I missed it. It’s a moment that those who witnessed it will never forget. And it’s those kind of indelible memories that make big events like these worth the price of admission. The snapshots we remember often come from the most unexpected places, too, so keep your eyes open and go off the beaten track. You don’t necessarily need to follow your two or three favorite golfers all day. You won’t get the full flavor of the US Open that way.
4) Patriotism is alive and well. This tournament wasn’t even close – not by a long shot. But it didn’t matter. The roaring chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” provided plenty of excitement Sunday as relative unknown Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler, both Americans, attempted to mount a charge at unflappable Martin Kaymer. At No. 8, Compton had closed to within four shots of the leading German. The crowds were insane. With the aid of beer, liquor, and good old-fashioned American bravado, the galleries voiced national pride with reckless abandon. If only Compton could have kept it going – it would have been a frenzy. But alas, his putter let him down.
3) Phil’s Last Shot. I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched Phil Mickelson three-putt for bogey on No. 12 – would he ever be back at Pinehurst, the place where he famously finished runner-up to Payne Stewart in 1999? The answer is probably no – at least to play for a US Open title. It was tough watching Phil seemingly come to grips with that reality himself as his shoulders slumped down and his normal galloping pace slowed considerably to a crawl. This was a man who wanted off the course and desired to spend the rest of Father’s Day with his wife and kids. And who can blame him? But still, a part of me and the rest of the gallery in attendance had to wonder: was this Lefty’s last go-around at No. 2? The answer, seeing as the US Open venues have already been scheduled through 2020, is most likely an unfortunate “yes.”
2) No. 2 blends the old with the new. It’s a little bit of a case of back to the future at Pinehurst No. 2 now. There were nothing but rave reviews on the restorations from the players all week long. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw – cheers to you! But it’s more than just a trip back in time to Donald Ross’ masterpiece of yesteryear. This layout is the way of the future. Water is the top threat to the game of golf. Cutting back on irrigation will be a necessity in the years ahead. Why not let the golf courses play in their natural environment and save valuable water in conservation efforts at the same time? If it’s good enough for Pinehurst, it’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for a heck of a lot more renowned courses nationwide. I think we’ll see a new trend in golf course management only further strengthened by Pinehurst’s shining example on the world stage this week.
1) Martin Massacre. This is the story of the tournament – no contest. The former No. 1 player in the world and PGA champion came into this year’s US Open under the radar. But that didn’t take long to change after his opening round 65. That was a headline in itself. But what did the methodical German do for an encore? He followed it up with another magical 65 to sit at 10-under par heading into the weekend – a US Open record through 36 holes. Two days later, Kaymer had polished off one of the most dominating performances in US Open history with a wire-to-wire victory by a whopping nine shots. Somehow, the machine-like German was able to split fairways and land greens with surgical precision while the rest of the field stumbled its way through, hitting it all over the track. Is Kaymer the new dominant player in the game? We’ll see soon enough. But regardless, he put in a performance for the ages at one of the grandest venues in golf. I won’t soon forget it.