The 69th USGA – U.S. Women’s Open – 2014
The Ladies play Course Number 2 at Pinehurst Resort, NC.
Starting Thursday June 19th, 2014, most of the world’s top women golf professionals will tee it up on what’s said to be one of the toughest courses in the world to play. This just after their fellow men professionals completed their 114th playing of the USGA’s Men’s U.S. Open Championship.
The fact that two major championships are being played back-to-back on the same course is mind boggling. The amount of planning that goes into the playing of one championship is colossal. That the organizers, staff and ground-crew have to turn around and do it all over a second time is beyond challenging.
It will be very interesting to see how the ladies tackle this very difficult and iconic course. The winner of the Men’s Open just completed, Martin Kaymer of Germany finished 9 shots under par. This was an amazing score when you consider the next two professionals were only 1 under par. That speaks to how hard this course is to play. Consider that week in, week out on the PGA Men’s Tour, tournaments are won with scores of 10 -15 and even 20 under par.
Pinehurst #2 was designed in the 1920’s by the renowned golf course architect Donald Ross, said to be the father of American golf course design. Over the years the natural shape of the North Carolina sand hills with its native areas and wire grass was lost under a blanket o`f Bermuda grass rough. The course became “green” and meticulously manicured, its natural beauty hidden. When the golf course design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw was asked by the owners of The Pinehurst Resort to redesign Course #2 they were at first reluctant to even think about changing such an historic course. However after meticulously studying photos in the period between 1920 and the 1040s they saw Donald Ross’s vision. How the sparse sand-hill areas so beautifully defined the features of the fairways. How “natural” and beautiful the course once looked. All this lost and hidden under the growth of long Bermuda grass rough. To return the course to its natural beauty, the look the original designer Donald Ross created, Coore and Crenshaw decided to removed 40 acres of grass rough, exposing the contours of the sand hills. There planning also included planting 200,000 native wire grass shrubs in these natural areas. The back to nature results are spectacular. Now even the bunkers have uneven and natural edges, as opposed to the modern-day sharp edge bunker lips. Although golfers used to the totally green and park-like look of courses such as Augusta National might be shocked, thinking Pinehurst’s management has let maintenance decline, nothing could be further from the truth. In my humble opinion the finished results are nothing short of brilliant.
Another interesting fact is, the off-fairways land that’s been converted back to its natural state has reduced water consumption by 70%. Defiantly something golf course owners in water staved California should take serious note of.
The men played their championship at 7,562 yards. At this time I can’t find the yardage the ladies will play but I suspect it will be between 800 and 1,000 yards shorter. They will certainly find the greens as difficult as the men did, especially if they become dry because of wind.. The contours of most of Course #2 greens are severe. Imagine an inverted saucer, a central (reasonably) flat area with the outer areas sloping down and away. A ball missing the flat area on a green (even by a few inches) can roll away and end up 20 yards from the green. This is brutal soul searching golf. Which lady will hold the winner’s “Cup” on Sunday evening after 72 holes of tough golf? What will the winning score be? My “guess” is a score of 4 under par. My short list of possible winners, not necessarily in order of preference or ability is:
- Stacy Lewis. The world’s #1 Lady Golfer. Tough and focused. She won the British Women’s Open last year. If she can win on the “Old Course” at St. Andrews, she can win on the type of course Pinehurst #2 is.
- Michelle Wei. She certainly is back in form and with her formidable length off the tees; her shortened shots into the greens will give her an advantage over most of the field. She will need to get hot with her putter.
- Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda. Both are tournament winners this year and both could be described with the same words that cover Michelle Wei.
- Christie Kerr. She is so experienced; defiantly she has a great shot at winning this weekend. Focused, tough and straight off the tees. Her putting is certainly good enough to win it all.
- Lydia Ko. My personal favorite. Because she comes from New Zealand. Remember at age 17 she has already won six professional tournaments. At present she holds the Canadian Women’s Open Championship title for the second time (2012-2013). Focused, steady and a very good putter. “KO Kiwi Girl”.