Payne Stewart made a remarkable personal metamorphosis over the 1990s. Always a graceful and talented performer on the course, Stewart as a young tour pro wasn’t universally embraced away from the course as his somewhat bratty, churlish ways rubbed many he encountered the wrong way.
A variety of circumstances and lessons conspired over the 1990s to soften and smooth the edges, and the 42-year-old Stewart who came to Pinehurst for the 1999 U.S. Open was significantly more humble and likeable than the one who won the 1991 Open at Hazeltine.
“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him. He was quite a man.” -Caddie Mike Hicks
Payne II, wrote John Garrity in Sports Illustrated, was “a quieter version of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.”
“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him,” adds caddie Mike Hicks, who worked for Stewart from 1988 through Stewart’s death in the fall of 1999. “He was quite a man.”
That evolution of Payne Stewart is perhaps best illustrated in the story of the divots of Olympic 1998 and Pinehurst 1999.
Already with five PGA Tour wins in his career, Hunter Mahan appears on the precipice of breaking through in a major way. Last year at Merion, Mahan made a serious run at capturing a U.S. Open championship, playing in the final pairing on Sunday with Phil Mickelson before finishing in a tie for fourth.
Mahan came to Pinehurst over the weekend to get an early look at Pinehurst No. 2, the site of unprecedented back-to-back U.S. Open championships in June. He came away impressed by the Coore and Crenshaw restoration of No. 2, and, as he said, is eager to think his way around the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Mahan told us in the video above. “You can get some really good breaks out of there and … it could be easier than a sand shot; you could have pretty easy access to the greens. And then you can be in real trouble and (have to) think your way around it… I think you’ll see a lot of great shots out of there and a lot of terrible shots.”
“The USGA is going to have a lot of fun with it,” Mahan added.
UPDATE: OK, now we know a little more.
Well, at least The Golf Channel does, which can be found here.
Looking like the target is The Open…
The British Open.
April 24, 2014:
That’s all we got.
Some 200 media members, USGA officials and Pinehurst staff members gathered in the St. Andrews Room at the Pinehurst Resort Clubhouse on Monday to look ahead seven weeks to the unprecedented running of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on consecutive weeks, the venue being the renowned No. 2 course.
The thread running throughout: There is going to be a different taste, feel and flavor of Open championships in June 2014.
- The prospects for the third Open to be held on No. 2 following Payne Stewart’s win in 1999 and Michael Campbell’s victory in 2005 were discussed. “I think one of the older players, a guy with some maturity who can let the bad breaks roll off his back might have a good chance,” said Bill Coore, who along with partner Ben Crenshaw restored the course in 2010-12. “Patience will be a very important quality to have the week of the Open.”
- The logistics of ending the men’s competition on Sunday June 15, perhaps staging an 18-hole playoff on Monday and then transitioning into the Women’s Open week were addressed. Ben Kimball, the USGA official in charge of the Women’s Open, said that a playoff in the men’s championship would begin at Noon local time on Monday and the course would be open for practice rounds for the ladies at 6:45 a.m. “A Monday playoff will set up the possibility of the men’s and women’s competitors hitting balls side by side, which will only add to the excitement of this event,” Kimball said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens come this June.”