PINEHURST, N.C. -- Before this week, many golf fans were unfamiliar with the wiregrass that can be found in abundance around the sandhills of North Carolina. The restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 for the 2014 US Open left us all talking about wiregrass and native areas; both the stark differences to the way the course played in 2005 and how different the course looked from what many modern golf fans have come to expect.
Now that the championship has concluded with Martin Kaymer's eight-stroke victory, the folks at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club will conduct the US Women's Open next week and then begin looking to the future.
"Do they intend on coming back here, and are they going to be back here? One hundred percent," outgoing resort President Don Padgett II said via Raleigh News & Observer this week. “Do we know exactly which year? No. But they're coming back, and we'll probably host an Amateur before we host an Open."
The US Amateur sits are set through 2018, and the US Open has the schedule set through 2021. With the future of the US Open in mind, let's run down some of the ways Pinehurst No. 2 met (or exceeded) expectations and other things we would have liked to see differently:
A throwback feel that would impress Donald Ross himself. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw used old designs from the town's archives and photographs from the 1940's to create a course that would look and play like it did when Ross, the course designer, was running the show in the early 20th century. The course was so closely manicured in 2005, it hardly resembled the grainy photographs that hang around the clubhouse. Now Erik Compton, Rickie Fowler and, of course, Martin Kaymer have given added a modern era chapter on a throwback course.
The native area created a sense of suspense for every missed drive. In removing 35 acres of bermuda grass rough and planting 200,000 wiregrass plants amidst the sandy dry ground, Pinehurst No. 2 created a rough that could be playable with a lucky lie. Martin Kaymer's brilliant second shot on No. 5 on Saturday would have never been possible if the course was layed out with thick bermuda like it was in 2005.
The USGA wants to make sure courses aren't wasting water. The native areas are similarly placed and designed to match the layout from the early 20th century, but the brown grass elsewhere is a result of removing wall-to-wall irrigation. Coore and Crenshaw did not intend to make water conservation part of the redesign, but USGA executive director Mike Davis has pointed out several times -- perhaps hinting to other courses around the country -- that Pinehurst No. 2 has proven that you can create an exhilarating golf experience without wasting water. If the sport is going to thrive for another 100 years, establishing greener practices will be necessary. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new firmer, faster style of golf course that will be easier on our most precious natural resource.
The dust bowl. The flip side of water conservation and a historic look is a brown playing surface that kicked dust and dirt into the air; a condition that worsened as crowds continued to kick up the ground throughout the weekend. Patrons here on the grounds left covered in a solid coat of dirt and dust, and some fans would rather see lush green grass on the golf course for a major.
Inconsistency in the playability of the course. Pinehurst No. 2 threw a haymaker at the field on Saturday, as the pin placements presented very few birdie opportunities and only two players (Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton) finished under par. The USGA responded with favorable pin placements on Sunday, along with pushed up tees to make to help with scoring. The result was 10 players under par, though Kaymer's consistency prevented him from ever losing control of the lead.
Round 1: 7,360 yards; average score: 73.23.
Round 2: 7,428 yards; average score: 72.89
Round 3: 7,422 yards; average score: 73.82
Round 4: 7,349 yards; average score: 72.40
Lack of Sunday drama. This is not the fault of Pinehurst No. 2 or the USGA. The lack of drama is a credit to the way Kaymer scorched the field with back-to-back scores of 65 on Thursday and Friday.