Pinehurst Opining: Top U.S. Open Storylines
The 114th US Open at Pinehurst No. 2 golf course begins this week. I’ll be with you all week with my daily column here. So, I thought this was as good a time as any to preview the top five biggest storylines and set the stage a bit heading into our national championship.
5) Amateur Acumen: One of the great allures of the US Open is its openness. Anybody that can play a lick of golf can tee it up in a local qualifier and find themselves playing for a national championship with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (well, maybe not Tiger this year…). It’s pretty cool. The hunt for the low amateur position is always intriguing. Will an amateur make the cut this year at Pinehurst? It’s a tough ask, but who knows?
4) Bombs Away, Bubba! This guy is good. The reigning Masters champion will attempt to snag the second major of the year at a track that could be right in his wheelhouse. Watson is the ultimate natural. He sees the shot and then hits it. His proclivity for the long ball and crazy imagination make him one of the best players in the world. He’ll be amped up for the US Open. And any time Bubba’s interest is piqued, you’re in for a good show!
3) Ryder Cup Revelry: It’s a Ryder Cup year. And that means there’s a little extra spice added to the US Open. It will be interesting to watch as Americans and Europeans battle for coveted spots on their respective squads. You can bet USA captain Tom Watson will be keeping a close eye on the developments at Pinehurst. Young guns like Jordan Spieth and wily veterans like the cigar-smoking Miguel Angel Jimenez will all be looking to lock up a trip across the pond to Scotland for this year’s Ryder Cup in the fall.
2) Phil The Thrill: At this point in his career, Phil Mickelson is playing for one purpose: peaking for the major championships. And the last remaining empty spot in his trophy case has long been reserved for his country’s national title. Somehow, the US Open has eluded Lefty. We all remember the disaster at Winged Foot. Phil has racked up more than his fair share of runner-up finishes, including most notably to Payne Stewart in 1999 at yep, you guessed it, Pinehurst. What a fitting venue for Phil to get his long-awaited maiden US Open victory.
1) The New No. 2 : When a US Open is staged at historic Pinehurst No. 2, the course is always showcased. But this year, more than ever, the dramatic restoration by course co-architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw will place the venue at center stage. This won’t look like your typical US Open with knee deep rough that forces even the strongest of players to hack the ball back out onto the fairway. No, sir. This one won’t be as aesthetically pleasing as the Pinehurst of 1999 and 2005. It’s back to nature now, with wire grass and sand everywhere. Coore and Crenshaw have restored the true character of the course. It will be fascinating to see how the world’s best golfers take it on.
That’s it, folks! Hope perusing these nuggets has whet your appetite as much as mine. I can’t wait to make the drive down to the heart of Carolina’s sandhills this Wednesday for what promises to be a memorable and historic event at one of the most iconic venues in golf.