Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 U.S. Open Golf Championship

I enjoy watching golf on television, especially the major championships. This past week, I immersed myself in the 2014 U.S. Open, held at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

It's always enjoyable for me to watch the best golfers in the world compete against one another. There is always a lot of drama in these championship tournaments; the personal struggles of these golfers as they strive for golf's greatest wins is always fun to watch. And as usual, there were several great stories this year. There was the story of Martin Kaymer, the German who led the tournament the entire 4 days, eventually winning by 8 strokes. His game was almost machine-like, and he made few errors on this challenging course. He ended at -9, and only 2 other golfers were able to score below par for the tournament.

One of these other golfers was Erik Compton, and his strong finish was another major story of the tournament. Compton, who tied with Ricky Fowler for second at -1, is on his third heart. Diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy at age 9, Compton had his first heart transplant at age 12 and the second 16 years later. Talk about overcoming odds in your life.

But this year, the real story for me was the course itself. The Pinehurst course today does not look like the same course of a few years ago. It has recently been redesigned to return it to a more natural setting. Gone are the roughs most people are familiar with at U.S. Opens; the second and third cut roughs have been replaced by hardpan, natural bunker edges, and native wire grasses. From my perspective, this makes the roughs today true roughs.

And many of the greens are like upside-down saucers or, as one announcer stated, turtle shells. If you do not hit to safe green locations, your ball can easily roll off the green, even if you hit only a few feet from the hole. In fact, there were many instances of a golfer on the green putting and then watching as the putt actually rolled off the green.

But what I have really enjoyed seeing is the reduction in the watered portions of the course. 650 sprinklers were removed by the design firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in their attempt to revert Pinehurst to the way the course looked back in the 1930s. Today, sprinklers run only down the middle of the fairways, leaving the edges of the fairway brown. In fact, the course has been described in terms of brown being the new green. Water use has been reduced by up to 70%.

This is great news, and I can only hope that other courses around the nation will wake up and learn from this redesign. Golf courses have long been heavy users of water resources, and its time water use on courses is reevaluated.

I like the new design of Pinehurst. It gives the course the appearance of the "links" style course on many courses in the British Open rotation. For me, it is sort of a return to the roots of golf, and I think it makes the game more interesting.

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