November News

Phil Mickelson recalls ’99 U.S. Open, previews 2014 in Pinehurst

Phorward

 

Phil Mickelson, no doubt a darling at Pinehurst and perhaps the most anticipated storyline entering the 2014 U.S. Open, appeared on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive on Friday, and among many other things in a show pretty much dedicated to all things Lefty, recalled the previous U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, including his fascinating duel with the iconic Payne Stewart in 1999.

 

 

Mickelson also elaborated about his much-discussed shortening of his 2014 schedule, how he plans to prepare for Pinehurst in an effort to finally capture the elusive U.S. Open Championship, and what it would mean to him to complete the career Grand Slam at Pinehurst.

First, a sampling of some Mickelson’s recollections of the 1999 U.S. Open, his first of six runner-up finishes in the national championship:

And, we find out, had there been a playoff, Mickelson would’ve been on an airplane:

“99 is a tournament I’ll always remember, and I’ll actually cherish, too. A lot of great things came from that event even though it was a heartbreaking loss. And one of the great things that happened was Payne Stewart winning that tournament. He played some great golf, but also having lost him four months later, it was very meaningful to have him win there. Also, the next day, at 11 o’clock in the morning, Amy’s water broke, and we would’ve been in a playoff, and I would’ve been flying back anyway. It just turned out the way it was supposed to. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back there next year and take some of that emotion and apply it to my game, play well and capture my first U.S. Open. That would be such an emotional venue and opportunity for me to finally get my first U.S. Open.”

Regarding Payne Stewart’s first magical putt – a wild double- or triple-breaker for par on 16:

… Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Tiger Woods upbeat about chances at Pinehurst in 2014

Tiger Woods makes birdie on Sunday at the 2005 U.S. Open as he makes a charge up the leaderboard.

Tiger Woods makes birdie on Sunday at the 2005 U.S. Open as he makes a charge up the leaderboard.

 

Tiger Woods hasn’t won a major championship since he beat Rocco Mediate – and the rest of the field – on one leg to win the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Might that 15th major come nearly exactly five years later at Pinehurst?

Tiger Woods thinks so.

“Pinehurst, I’ve had a third and a second, and hopefully it will keep improving like it has,” Woods said after finishing third at the Turkish Airlines Open.

2014 sets up well for Woods if he is going to continue his assault on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories. While he’s always a contender at The Masters, Woods has also won previously at Hoylake and Valhalla, the hosts of The Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

But Pinehurst is right there in the mix as well, and Woods feels pretty good about his game entering the 2014 season.

“A couple of years ago there were a lot of guys saying I could never win again,” Woods told the media. “I’ve got eight wins since then, so it’s been good and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made.”

 

“Pinehurst, I’ve had a third and a second, and hopefully it will keep improving like it has.” -Tiger Woods

 

Woods finished two shots back of Payne Stewart in 1999 after making a charge with birdies on 14 and 16, but failed to get up-and-down from a bunker to make bogey after missing a short putt on the par-3 17th, a hole Stewart birdied with a similar putt to take a 1-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, a lead that held up with Stewart’s heroics on 18.

In 2005, it seemed like Retief Goosen was on his way to a third U.S. Open title until his blew up on Sunday. Woods made a Sunday charge, but Kiwi Michael Campbell, with birdies on 10, 13 and 17, held off that charge to prevail, later telling us at Merion in 2013, “The heart of the week was holding off Tiger. I had the best player in the world chasing me down.”

Pinehurst No. 2 has proven to be a favorite of Woods’s.

“Fun golf is Pinehurst,” Woods said a few years ago. “Fun golf is playing links golf.  Fun golf is learning to how to maneuver the ball on the ground and give yourself options.  One of the hardest up-and-downs is when you have options.  You have so many different ways to play and you see a lot of pros really mess up easy shots because they have so many different options.”

Woods isn’t the only all-timer to set his focus on Pinehurst. Phil Mickelson has already gone on the record that he will shorten his 2014 playing schedule to focus on playing well on No. 2 in 2014.

Woods has won just once on Pinehurst grounds – the “Big I,”, or the 1992 Insurance Youth Golf Classic, which was played on Pinehurst No. 7 – and he was 17. During those rounds, his gallery swelled to 75 people. He was hounded for autographs even then, saying, “The price of fame, I guess,” with a smile.

Leave a comment

“There’s going to be a lot of heartache out there” – Ben Crenshaw, Mike Davis relish No. 2′s U.S. Open possibilities

Ben Crenshaw, right, and Bill Coore look over the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 early in the process.

Ben Crenshaw, right, and Bill Coore look over the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 early in the process. Photo by John Gessner

“Being a Scot, Ross interpreted the word ‘rough’ to mean ‘broken ground.’” – Charles Price

By Lee Pace

If there was one underlying guidepost that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw used in their 2010-12 restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, it’s this passage from author and historian Charles Price that appeared in GOLF Magazine in 1979. Crenshaw, an avid student of golf history, knew that Price had lived in Pinehurst at two separate times in his life and also had lived in St. Andrews, thus Price’s opinions carried plenty of weight on the subjects of architect Donald Ross and traditional golf design.

“Being a Scot, Ross interpreted the word ‘rough’ to mean ‘broken ground,’” Price wrote. “In other words, it was never tended in any other way. The ‘fairway’ meant the same to him as the word does to a ship’s pilot, a navigable channel through rocks, sand banks and other obstructions that is the safest way for a vessel to leave or enter a harbor—to leave the tee and enter the green. Consequently, he didn’t create rough to border a fairway. He ‘dredged’ a channel—a fairway—through the rough and left it as he found it.”

Crenshaw harkened back to those words one recent evening in Pinehurst when he and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis joined Pinehurst officials to inspect the golf course and tweak their preparation and maintenance plans just seven months away from the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

“One sentence kept going over in my mind, something Charlie Price wrote a long time ago,” Crenshaw said. “Fairways were meant to be an oasis encased in sand, pine straw, pine needles and wire grass. That statement never left our mind.”

Pinehurst No. 2 The 13th Hole - Then and Now

Pinehurst No. 2 The 13th Hole – Then and Now

 

First approached in the summer of 2009 with the idea to restore the course to its original width and character native to the Sandhills of North Carolina, Crenshaw admits that he and his design partner of some three decades tiptoed into the project with some reservations.

“We always thought the course was there, that the bones were intact,” Crenshaw said, referencing No. 2’s evolved look into a svelte presentation of smooth, grassy playing surface. “But we thought it could be depicted in a different manner. We said, ‘We need to tackle this, we need to give it a shot.’

… Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Playing Pinehurst No. 2 – at 100 years old

M.O. Owens, at 100 years old, lines up a putt on Pinehurst No. 2.

BY ALEX PODLOGAR

When M.O. Owens Jr. picked up the game of golf, he used two clubs – a 7 iron and a putter.

“On that course, a 7-iron was all you needed,” he says now.

It was a short, dusty 9-hole course near Greenville, S.C., opened right around the time Owens picked up that fateful 7 iron. But at the time, that course had something in common with Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst No. 2.

“Sand greens,” Owens recalls. “Just a little 9-hole sand-green course.”

That was in 1932.

On Thursday, over 80 years later, No. 2 had something else in common with that long-forgotten track.

M.O. Owens Jr., now nearly two months after his 100th birthday, had played both.

****

“It was delightful. I can now say I’ve played No. 2. That’s great.” – M.O. Owens

Owens shuffles off the back of the 18th green, moments after sliding his 30-footer from the front of the green just past the right lip of the cup. He makes the 2-foot comebacker to close out the round.

“Amazing,” says Adam Ludlum, Owens’s caddie. “Just amazing.”

His last day at 99, Owens shot his age. Well, he shot an even 100, but at that point, a little rounding up is OK.

“Three-to-four weeks before that, I shot 92,” Owens says, a brief glint in his eye, before he pauses a second, “but that was way back.”

It isn’t Owens’s first trip to Pinehurst – he played No. 8 not long after it opened in late 1990s – and the Gastonia pastor was in the gallery for the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens. But this, his first time playing No. 2, is different.

M.O. Owens points out a picture lining the hallowed hall of Pinehurst’s Resort Clubhouse on Oct. 31.

“At the Open, you can really only see one hole at a time. I saw all 18 today.”

Owens, who founded Parkwood Baptist Church 50 years ago, didn’t shoot his age on No. 2. He says he didn’t play well on this day, and he wasn’t pressed to provide a score.

The score didn’t matter anyway.

“It was delightful,” Owens says, his voice rising. “I can now say I’ve played No. 2. That’s great.”

All it took was 81 years.

****

In those eight decades of golf, M.O. Owens Jr. has never broken 80.

Never.

Oh, he’s been close. He’s gotten to 80 before. And over the years, golfing regularly with members of his congregation and other friends, he’s hit that magic number and signed a few low-80s cards.

“I’ve been around there a number of times across the years,” Owens says.

That number is out of reach these days. Of course Owens knows that. And he’s going to have days when the course is too much for him. Seven months from hosting back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014, No. 2 is one of those courses, and it wears Owens down.

“I didn’t play very well,” says Owens, waiting a beat again as a tone soaked with equal parts resignation and truth surfaces, “but when you get to my age, you don’t expect to.”

Yet Owens keeps coming out. Keeps swinging the club. He plays like we all do. Warm up on the range. Roll a few on the practice green. Head to the tee.

And at times, there is frustration. Golf is hard. We all know that. But at 100 and on a U.S. Open-ready course?

That’s tough. Real tough.

But, you play to 100, you learn a few things about the game along the way.

“Sure, you get frustrated sometimes, but I learned a long time ago that it’s not worth getting upset about things,” Owens says. “There’s always another day…”

That pause again. You hang on what’s coming next. You know something is coming, and it’s gonna be good.

Apparently, among the other things you can learn over a century, is perfect timing.

“There’s always another day…

“Hopefully.”

Leave a comment