1. The restored, sandy-area Pinehurst looked great
Coore and Crenshaw crushed it! I really want to go play Pinehurst now, and that's not something I said before the restoration.
Before, more than a few referred to Pinehurst as somewhat “overrated” considering its major championship pedigree, Donald Ross name-stamp, and steep price tag. My brother played it in 2010 before the restoration and told me afterward, “the green complexes are interesting and fun to play, but the rest of the layout is far less than extraordinary.
After? A highly unique, contrasting look and feel. A significantly altered course type that, along with Sand Hills, Prairie Dunes and others, is among the few elite US inland "links" courses. I'm not sure a comparison to Pine Valley is justified, but what a great move to take advantage of a rare commodity: naturally sandy turf.
This opinion is in stark contrast to the ego known as Donald Trump, who is desperately obsessed with hosting a major.
2. New Pinehurst played easier
What our eyes were telling us as we watched was that it had to be playing easier. There was no rough for God's sake. The sandy areas yielded uncompromised lies up to 85% of the time. Kaymer made eagle on number 5 on Saturday from the sandy area on the left. Kenny Perry holed a hybrid from the sandy area on 14 on Saturday. Bottom line: those things don't happen in a normal U.S. Open, including in 1999 or 2005 at Pinehurst.
Did the scoring back up what our eyes were telling us? Yes.
Pinehurst definitely played easier than when it had real rough.
Note: Pinehurst should play harder next time around because the density of plant life in the sandy areas (“stuff”) should continue to increase naturally.
3. Let’s have more "alternative" courses (and Coore/Crenshaw courses) host the U.S. Open!
We're in the midst of back-to-back "alternative" host sites as Chambers Bay in Washington state prepares to host the 2015 event. Visually, it looks fantastic. Erin Hills appears to be another modern era gem that is hosting in 2017 edition.
It will be interesting to see to what extent the Chambers Bay U.S. Open resembles a British Open. Not only is the design links-like with its jagged edges and rugged bunkers à la Whistling Straits, it is highly exposed to significant wind off the Puget Sound.
Pinehurst, Chambers Bay, and Erin Hills make one wonder what other modern era courses could be next. Why not go back to the Coore/Crenshaw well? Their portfolio is filled with gems. Logistically, I have no idea if they're feasible, but it would be great to see the USGA put Friar’s Head, Sand Hills, Old Sandwich, and Streamsong on the table for consideration for 2022 and beyond.
4. Johnny Miller (and NBC) has lost a step from an 'interesting' standpoint
Who else is ready for Fox to take over the U.S. Open broadcast in 2015? I know I am. I am a Johnny Miller fan, but my feeling is that he's gone stale. He's just lost a step. I don’t know if the issue originates with Johnny or with a Network mandate, but it feels like the risk-taking in his commentary has dried up.
I'm excited for Joe Buck and Greg Norman to take the reigns in 2015. Buck is known to be a highly avid and skilled golfer, and The Shark has experience and personality that I believe will translate into stimulating insights.
The ratings got crushed this weekend because of no-Tiger, no-Mickelson, a blowout win, and World Cup TV competition in that order, but NBC's broadcast didn't help anything.
5. Revenge of the skinny kids
Watch out for these guys moving forward...
Matt Fitzpatrick. Is anybody else dumbfounded how Matt Fitzpatrick’s swing works?? It looks to me like he’s going to chop-slice it every time and then it comes out low-penetrating on a rope toward the flag. Never seen anything like it. He played well Thursday-Friday to make the cut, and is turning pro this week.
Cody Gribble. He was a stud junior golfer. Then he was a national champion at Texas. Now he's made the cut in his first U.S. Open and second pro start. He's got more rounds in the 60's than Popeye has spinach cans. He’s going to be a regular on the PGA Tour.
Will Grimmer. The quote of the week came from Scott Van Pelt during Thursday's telecast: "No CHANCE Grimmer ways 125 pounds. Grimmer doesn't weigh 125 if he had $20 worth of quarters in his pocket." The 17-year old from Cincinnati shot 59 at the North-South Junior at Pinehurst last summer, then backed that up by qualifying for the Pinehurst U.S. Open, shooting 70-65 in qualifying at Springfield CC. He shot 77-80 to miss the cut, but he'll be back.
As always, you can download the Hole19 GPS iPhone app for free to get all your distances and track stats like a pro.
-- Robert Stewart