U.S. Open Championship Hole-By-Hole Preview
(Pinehurst Resort, No. 2)
By Phil Sokol, Director of Operations
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - HOLE ONE - Par 4 - 402 yards: With your caddie in tow, the first is a straightaway par-4 only 402 yards in length. A perfect start to get your juices flowing, the first, just like all the holes on No. 2, relies on placement and strategy. Your tee shot must be struck down the right side of the fairway to set up an easier approach to the green. A short iron is all that is needed to attack the putting surface, but beware, miss long, left or right and you'll have a near impossible task of getting up and down. Play below the hole regardless of the pin position, take par and move on. This is the longest green on the course, 40 yards in length, but it is quite narrow.
HOLE TWO - Par 4 - 507 yards: The second, now 32 yards longer than in 2005, will require a big tee ball down the left side of the fairway, avoiding the series of bunkers that guard the landing area. A long iron or fairway metal is left and becomes more difficult with a back-right pin placement, as sand guards the front-right of the putting surface. Once again, all shots slightly off target will roll down away from the flag. Along with the fifth, the second hole is one of the most difficult on the course. During the 2005 Open, it played as the second hardest hole, averaging 4.5 strokes.
HOLE THREE - Par 4 - 387 yards: One of the few opportunities for birdie on No. 2 is the short par-4 third, although it has been lengthened to 387 yards with a new tee box. A long iron or fairway metal down the left side is the play off the tee. A little wedge remains to this elevated green guarded left and right by sand. The green slopes severely from back to front, so below the hole will set up a realistic birdie try. Long or bunkered will result in bogey or worse.
HOLE FOUR - Par 4 - 529 yards: What was a solid birdie hole, the fourth is now a back-breaking par-4 over 500 yards in length that plays downhill to the fairway and then uphill to the green. The optimum drive is down the left side, as the fairway slope goes to the right. Missing the fairway off the tee will force the player to lay up, which brings sand around the 100-yard mark on the right into play. In addition, sand protects the left and right portions of the green. Any shot short of the putting surface will slide back down the fairway, so your approach needs to be spot on. One of the easier greens on the course, but that's little consolation on this brute.
HOLE FIVE - Par 5 - 576 yards: What was originally a par-4, the fifth is now a birdeable par five, stretching 576 yards in length. Let's start out with an uphill tee shot that needs to carry past the crest of a hill to have any shot at reaching the green in two. Next, you're left with a shot of 250-plus yards, off a sidehill lie with a long iron or fairway metal. Miss short and left and you'll find a deep bunker, long and right and you'll leave yourself with an impossibility for par. One of the most intimidating greens on the course. Consider yourself fortunate if you make bogey. During his winning trip around No. 2 in 1999, Payne Stewart made par all four days on the fifth. In contrast, Tiger Woods played the fifth in 2-over, as he finished two strokes back. It comes as no surprise that the fifth hole was the hardest during the 1999 U.S. Open, playing to a scoring average of 4.54 and the third-most difficult in 2005. It will now play with plenty of reward, but don't forget the risk.
HOLE SIX - Par 3 - 219 yards: The sixth, the first par-3 on the course, is also the longest. A long iron or fairway metal will be required to achieve success here. Not only does the hole play slightly uphill, but a gentle breeze in the face usually accompanies the sixth. One bunker on each side guards one of the longer greens on the course. A low approach will kick up toward the flag, due to the sloping, back to front surface. This hole proved to be the difference between Stewart and runner-up Phil Mickelson, as Stewart made four pars and Mickelson was 2-over, as he finished one back. For fun, a new tee has been added on this hole, which can now stretch the yardage to 250 yards. Good luck.
HOLE SEVEN - Par 4 - 424 yards: The seventh is a sharp dogleg to the right of 424 yards, as a new tee was added to toughen up the hole. The right corner of the fairway is guarded by a series of bunkers and native grasses. The safe approach to the left-center of the landing area will result in a short to medium iron to a fairly small putting surface guarded on both sides by sand. A back-right pin could cause problems, so play for the center of the green to give yourself the best shot at birdie.
HOLE EIGHT - Par 4 - 502 yards: Although a par-5 for most mortals, the eighth is played as a par-4 during championship week. Your tee shot, played downhill toward the fairway, must clear a pair of bunkers down the right side to have any chance of gaining access to the green. The right-to-left sloping fairway will move your teeball to the left. The second shot will play slightly uphill to a green that features steep slopes left and long, and a sharp pitch from back to front. Missing this surface behind the green will cause nightmares, as it slopes down toward the ninth tee, leaving an uphill approach of at least 10 feet. Play this one like the resort guests do, as a par-5.
HOLE NINE - Par 3 - 191 yards: The outward nine closes with the shortest hole on the course, but certainly, not the easiest. A mid iron is needed to negotiate this diabolical par-3 of 191 yards. Sand, slope and swirling winds make this hole quite challenging. Bunkers guard the severely slick putting surface that slopes back to front and left to right. Any shot toward the front of the green will roll back down the fairway, while long will catch sand. In addition, shots just off to the right, will find a steep chipping area that will chase your ball 15 feet below the green. Club selection will be key on this hole, as the green is quite wide, but very shallow. Stewart made only 11 bogeys during his four rounds at No. 2, four of which came on the eighth and ninth holes.
HOLE TEN - Par 5 - 617 yards: The longest hole on the course, the first hole on the back nine is a brute over 600 yards in length. With new technology, the 10th can be reached in two, but accuracy is key. A bomb down the right side will open up the hole, if not, then lay up down the same side, leaving a short pitch to a very receptive green. Stay clear of the left side sand at the 120-yard mark. Wedge it close, as birdie opportunities are dwindling.
HOLE ELEVEN - Par 4 - 483 yards: The first of back-to-back monster par-4s, the 11th bends ever-so gently to the right and is fairly flat. Sandy scrub and trees guard the entire right side of the fairway from tee to green, so play left-center off the tee to the meatier part of the landing area. After your tee shot, a long iron or fairway metal will be needed to reach the green, which is guarded left by sand and right by slope and small trap. When in doubt, play short and right of the green to leave yourself with an uphill pitch to the pin. Birdie on the 11th will be fortunate, as only one player in the top seven at the 1999 U.S. Open made three.
HOLE TWELVE - Par 4 - 484 yards: The 12th is certainly no weak sister to the 11th, reaching to a length of 484 yards and angling to the right. The tee shot is key here, as it must be placed down the left side of the fairway. Again, a sandy scrub will welcome any shot off-line to the right and missing the short grass will make it next to impossible to hold the putting surface. Your approach shot is played uphill to a slightly elevated green guarded by several bunkers. A false front will play havoc with any short shot, while a back slope will bound your shot well away from the green.
HOLE THIRTEEN - Par 4 - 382 yards: Although the 13th is the shortest par-4 on the course, it would seem that it plays as a definite birdie hole. Au contraire. On the card, the 13th is rated the sixth-most difficult hole on No. 2. There are reasons, as this slight dogleg right plays into a breeze and displays fairway bunkers down the right and sandy scrub everywhere else. The challenge really begins with your approach, as the green is elevated, some 15 to 20 feet, requiring at least one extra club. The green is small, just 26 paces deep and quite undulating, especially in front, as short shots will roll back down the fairway. Sand, left and right of the green will leave a small opening to the putting surface, so now you know why this hole plays so hard.
HOLE FOURTEEN - Par 4 - 473 yards: Another big par-4, the 14th plays downhill off the tee to a well-bunkered fairway, one of the many holes that puts a premium on the driver. A mid- to long iron is left to a very narrow and undulating green. The putting surface is quite deep and is bunkered on both sides. There are a pair of bunkers short of the green that provide quite a deceiving target. Missing long is not an option, either, so choose wisely with your approach. Of all the greens on No. 2, this one might be the most difficult.
HOLE FIFTEEN - Par 3 - 202 yards: If you thought the last green was hard, wait to you reach the 15th's putting surface. This par-3 exemplifies where the term "upside-down saucer" originated to describe the greens at No. 2. The hole plays over 200 yards and requires a high, soft mid- to long iron to hold the green. Of the sand traps on the hole, only the bunkers guarding the right portion of the green will come into play. This is a perfect example of a hole in which you go for the center of the surface, or just in front and try to make par. If you reach the back portion of the green with a front left pin, you'll have a difficult time keeping your first putt on the green.
HOLE SIXTEEN - Par 4 - 528 yards: Another hole that the Pinehurst guests play as a par-5, the 16th is converted for the U.S. Open to a 528-yard par-4. The only hole on the course with a water hazard (which does not come into play, unless you're a golf writer), requires a big draw off the tee, avoiding the pair of fairway bunkers on the right. A long iron for the professionals or fairway metal (for the resort guests), remains to a fairly accessible green with sand, left, back and right. While Stewart made par all four days, Mickelson made three bogeys in four tries in 1999. It comes as no surprise that the 16th was the second-hardest hole during that Open, with a scoring average of 4.5. The players in 2005 didn't fare much better, as the hole again was the second-most difficult with a 4.4-stroke average.
HOLE SEVENTEEN - Par 3 - 205 yards: The last of the par-3s, the 17th has been extended to 21 yards and features a gaping bunker in the front-right portion of the green. When coupled with a back-right pin position, this hole make even the best of players shake in their spikes. The green is deep and slopes from back to front with no bail-out areas, unless you consider just short and left of the green. Swirling wind and bunkers surrounding the hole make club selection key. Stewart made birdie on the final day to take a one-shot lead into the last hole, while Mickelson missed from short range. Six years later, Michael Campbell sealed his win with a birdie.
HOLE EIGHTEEN - Par 4 - 451 yards: Although only 451 yards in length, the final hole plays uphill all the way to the green and bends slightly to the right. The tee shot must attempt to cut across the corner to set up the best angle to the green. One note of caution: A large, deep bunker, some 30 yards in length, not to mention a sandy waste area along the entire right side, must be avoided as well. A mid- to long iron is required in order to reach the putting surface. That's another story, as the raised green is protected in front by sand and a small pot bunker in the right, rear portion of the green. Back-right is the traditional Sunday pin, so play middle of the green to set up the winning stroke, just like Payne Stewart in '99.
19TH HOLE - Ten new tees have been added to the course and with a new box just completed on the sixth, No. 2 can be stretched to 7,500 yards. With its glorious history, having hosted two previous U.S. Opens, a Senior Open, U.S. Amateur's, a Ryder Cup, a PGA Championship and an upcoming U.S. Women's Open, Pinehurst No. 2 will continue to add to its indelible footprint on the game of golf.
Tradition, beauty, style and grace. Just a few of the words that come to mind when talking about Pinehurst, and more specifically, No. 2.
Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time and one of the leading architects in the world said of No. 2, "My favorite golf course in the country from a design standpoint."
The course has 111 sand traps, 53 fairway bunkers and 58 greenside bunkers and just one water hazard (on hole 16). The average size of the greens is 6,388 square feet, although all have sloped edges making landing areas even smaller.
Position off the tee and through the green is of utmost importance. Although the fairways are somewhat generous, the new or should we say, restored rough, with its sandy waste areas and native grasses, gives No. 2 that rustic and classic feel. And that is what makes No. 2 so difficult. No doubt a thinking man's golf course.
But what makes No. 2 so unique?
That's simple, the greens.
This is a course that requires a deft touch around the greens. With the fairways slightly enlarged due to the revamping of the rough, you can be slightly erratic off the tee. However, approach shots must be true, otherwise your short game will be tested to its highest level.
But, let's set the stage for your stay at Pinehurst Resort.
When you first check in across the street at the Carolina Hotel or even better, the Holly Inn, you feel like you're back in time, as you're greeted by employees with knickers and horse-drawn carriages. The grounds are immaculate and the staff quite accommodating. There is nothing like southern hospitality. The walls of the hotel are draped with photos and memorabilia from yesteryear. One could spend hours gazing at the hallways of this beautiful landmark. The photo opportunities are endless.
Now it's off to the course, as you take a ride down Pinehurst's version of Magnolia Lane. Of the eight courses at Pinehurst, five are located within shouting distance of the club house.
The practice facility is quite extensive, along with the putting greens and chipping areas. The clubhouse is enormous with many banquet and meeting rooms, not to mention a full-stocked pro shop. How can you not buy logoed balls, towels, shirts and other trinkets.
As you stride to the first tee, you're joined by one of the many knowledgeable caddies at Pinehurst. Here's an important tip: listen to your caddie. He will know every nuance to the course and will help you shave a couple of shots off your round.
Finally, the course, well, greens as slick as glass, conditions, now as good as any private club in the country, and the challenge, awesome.
"It's the type of golf course I could play every day," Greg Norman said.
Upon completion of your experience, you'll get a glimpse of the historic and fitting statue of Payne Stewart, "One Moment in Time," overlooking the 18th green. In addition, you'll see the sculptures of Donald Ross and Richard S. Tufts, the driving forces of Pinehurst, seemingly at ease as they survey their creation.
The work Coore and Crenshaw did to restore No. 2 to its original heritage and design was nothing short of remarkable. A tribute to the sure genius of Ross.
"What was done here with the restoration," added Davis, in some ways was a byproduct of them wanting to get back to Donald Ross and its origins, but what this has done is they're using less resources to maintain Pinehurst No. 2 than they used to use."
"When you see and feel Pinehurst, you know it's something different," Crenshaw said. "It remains a masterpiece, a course so beautifully balanced and testing."
Ross certainly designed some gems in his time, Aronimink, Inverness, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills and Seminole to name a few, but Pinehurst No. 2 is no doubt his finest ever.
06/05 14:18:52 ET