U.S. Open: What Do Results Mean for Pinehurst 2014?
The scenery was beautiful, but the golf was ugly.
That’s Pebble Beach, of course, when it’s set up for a U.S. Open. The course is tough enough in February when they’re playing the pro-am. It’s downright brutal when the United States Golf Association sets it up for a national championship.
They say a true U.S Open course identifies the best player. In the case of Pebble Beach, it’s more like identifying the corpses. The Cliffs of Doom are appropriately named.
Show me someone who thinks the 14th green was a fair test of golf, and I’ll show you a masochist. Trying to hit an approach shot to that green was like trying to stop a ball on the hood of Volkswagen Beetle.
When the U.S. Open comes back to Pinehurst in 2014, there will be some greens that will test the golfers’ shotmaking abilities. There will be some hole placements that demand strategy sessions between players and caddies. There will be some cussing of Donald Ross.
The green complexes at Pinehurst are legendary. It’s the greens that make the layout one of the finest tests of golf in the world. It’s the greens that truly separate the men from the boys. But there won’t be anything nearly as downright aggravating and frustrating as that imbecilic 14th green, although you might get some argument about that from John Daly, who lost his mind and his chance to have a decent finish in the 1999 Open by playing criss-cross and back-to-you and a few other games.
Speaking of imbecilic, what’s going on with Michael Campbell, the man who put his name in the history books with that great victory in the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst? He had it all going for him that week, playing nearly perfect golf as he traversed the No. 2 course with patience and skill.
Apparently, he had little of either of those virtues during his two rounds at Pebble Beach. Newspapers across the country from Oakland to Boston vilified Campbell’s actions after his quick exit on Friday, where he shot an 83 that sent him packing early with a 19-over-par 161 total.
Naturally, Campbell didn’t make himself available for comment following the debacle, but that didn’t save him from some scathing editorial comment. “This from an Open champion?” asked the Oakland Tribune.
Campbell’s career has plummeted since his Pinehurst victory, and the frustration is obviously taking its toll. According to reports, Campbell couldn’t get away from the course soon enough after shooting the 83. He displayed a total disregard for golf etiquette on the final hole when playing companion Paul Goydos was forced to return to the tee to hit a second tee shot.
While Goydos was going back to the tee, Campbell reportedly played his ball to the green and two-putted for a par before either of the other players reached the green. He then declined requests for an interview and was last seen fleeing the parking lot in the backseat of a shuttle car.
The Campbell story is a sad one, and if things keep going the way they have for him since 2005, his career as a professional golfer may be pretty much over. He has missed the cut in four of the five Opens since his Pinehurst triumph, and in 11 of the 16 majors he’s entered.
One has to hope that the chaos that surrounded young Dustin Johnson during his self destruction over the final round at Pebble Beach won’t have a lasting effect. Johnson is a talented player who seems destined for a great career, but he had to go back to Myrtle Beach with a damaged psyche after the Sunday meltdown.
There are three more U.S. Opens to be played before the national championship returns to Pinehurst. By then, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els will be in their 40s. Tiger Woods will be pushing that magic number. And John Daly will be just another memory.
There will be some great storylines in 2014 as there always are. But even with all those changes that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are making on No. 2, there isn’t going to be anything like that crazy green on 14 at Pebble Beach. And I guarantee you that the Pinehurst greens are going to look better on television.
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