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Pinehurst, USGA tinkering with No. 2 ahead of 2014 U.S. Opens

Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr., a former Observer staff writer, will write golf columns occasionally for the newspaper.

PINEHURST Holding both the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens on consecutive weeks next June isn’t the only bold step being taken at Pinehurst No. 2.

At the suggestion of USGA executive director Mike Davis, the fourth and fifth holes at No. 2 will play to different pars when the national championships are staged.

The fourth, a relatively short par-5, will be converted into a par-4 that can stretch to 510 yards. The fifth – listed by many as one of the great par-4s in golf – will stretch to as much as 590 yards in its new configuration as a par-5.

It’s an aggressive move given No. 2’s reputation as perhaps architect Donald Ross’ finest design, but there’s some history on Davis’ side.

“They really tried to get back to playing Ross’ old angles,” Pinehurst Resort president Don Padgett II said. “The only way to do it (on No. 4) was to go back.

“The other thing that tipped the scale was Ross originally designed No. 5 as a five. … I think (designer) Bill (Coore) got more comfortable saying as long as we’re playing Ross’ angles.”

The fourth hole will have more right to left movement from the new tee, located between the right side of the sixth tee and the back of the third green. Bunkers left and right frame a fairway that cants noticeably from left to right. The putting surface is among the most receptive on the course known for its turtleback greens complexes.

The view from the new fifth tee is striking. Set back where the old World Golf Hall of Fame was located years ago, it’s raised enough to afford a view to the green. It also brings back into play a cross bunker approximately 300 yards from the tee.

Most players will lay up with their second shots and face a difficult approach to one of the most dangerous greens on the course protected by a deep bunker and a new waste area on the left.

“I put Curtis (Strange) on this (fifth) tee and he said this is enough to sell me right here,” Padgett said. “This arguably could be the best tee shot on this course.

“I think the whole idea for Mike is no matter how you play these two holes, it’s a par nine.”

The acres of natural area recreated by Coore and Ben Crenshaw in their renovation have aged as expected, with low-growing vegetation filling in the sandy areas between patches of wire grass.

There are two other noticeable changes to No. 2:

The trees behind the par-3 15th green have been removed, creating a more dramatic green setting, framed in the distance by a yawning fairway bunker on the 16th hole;

Also, construction is nearly complete on the clubhouse which now has white columns around the rear, enhancing the view toward the 18th green. Gone is the ’70s era look, replaced by a more classic design.

Swing Thoughts

• Gary Player has always been justifiably proud of his physique, and now the 77-year-old world traveling Hall of Famer is showing off his body like never before.

Player is among the athletes being featured – in the nude – in ESPN The Magazine’s upcoming “Body Issue.” Shows what a lifetime of sit-ups, push-ups and good eating can get a person.

No surprise, Player is the oldest athlete to be included in the photo spread that this year includes, among others, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, New York Mets pitcher and former North Carolina star Matt Harvey and Washington Wizards star John Wall.

• Two thoughts on Colin Montgomerie, who makes his Champions Tour debut this week:

It’s remarkable that he never won a PGA Tour event, considering the level of his talent, but he gave himself few opportunities, refusing to try a full season in the United States. His best chance was the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot where he, among others, kicked away the trophy on the final hole.

Also, Monty has been great for golf. Fuming or smiling or somewhere in between, Monty is a brilliant character.

• The passing of Frank Stranahan at age 90 this week brings to mind the glory days of amateur golf. A weightlifter and showman, Stranahan nearly won three major championships as an amateur and his name carried with it a touch of legend.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post (www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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