US Open: Pinehurst Round One Notebook
Fashion Statement – Perhaps it is because Michael Campbell’s 2005 win at Pinehurst has become so non-descript, but local memory is all about Payne Stewart’s win in 1999 and the Phil Michelson embrace on the 72nd hole. So when Ricky Fowler showed up on the first tee Thursday morning resplendent in his blue knickers one could only speculate whether it was a Stewart tribute or good luck charm. Fowler has “Golf Boys” karma going for him this week. Bubba Watson and Ben Crane have wins on Tour this year. Fowler and Mahan round out the quartet.
Very Secure – Security this week at the US Open is very visible on and around the course but personal experience suggests it may not be as sensible as one might expect. On the ride from the parking lot to the course I watched as the shuttle driver watched the small TV he had propped over his steering wheel.
When I arrived at gate security my equipment bag and I cleared easily but I brought an umbrella along. The umbrella was fine but the nylon sleeve umbrella cover broke the rules. I asked if I could put in my pocket but was told I needed to check it with all the other “banned” items. The thousands on hand can rest easy knowing my umbrella cover is securely locked away.
Golf Toupee – Much is made about the new natural look of the redesigned Pinehurst #2. Count Ireland’s Graeme McDowell amongst the “natural” skeptics. The 2010 US Open champion tweeted video from a practice round. His ball is nestled up against a scrub plant as he gently slides his club under the plant and lifts it unattached from the soil. What’s the rule for relief from a “potted plant?”
Red Light/Green Light – Is a US Open course easier without rough than with it? According to St. Louisan Scott Langley, in his fourth US Open, the answer is “Yes.” A year ago at Merion, Langley said when you hit it in the rough you knew you had to take a lofted club and gouge it back to the short grass.
At roughless Pinehurst there are choices. Unless the lie is obviously awful, players know they can advance the ball but don’t know how it is coming out. The problem is even greater because according to the second year PGA Tour regular every situation is unique and you won’t know any better how the ball will react on Sunday afternoon than you did in your opening round.