Pinehurst No. 2

A look at the venue that will crown our 124th U.S. Open Champ

First off, what a logo.

Putter Boy looking great after a fun week of tough golf up in Ohio. While not terribly similar in design or agronomics (and despite our protests that a good tournament is being overshadowed by the upcoming major), the Memorial likely served as a nice bellwether for which golfers are up to the challenge that No. 2 will be offering up this week in North Carolina.

TRIVIA TO START THE DAY: Which state hosted the FIRST U.S. Open? (answer at the end.)

Sometimes it’s a challenge to sort out what will matter at a course we don’t see in regular rotation, and while I think some of us are fairly confident in accuracy off the tee being paramount, predicting a tough course can cut both ways.

What we love about tricky, tactical courses (golfers having to make decisions and play smart golf) can also become the enemy of prognostication, at least until the tournament starts and we get a grip on how it’s playing.

That said, I will NOT waver and strongly believe that Total Driving (a stat that combines distance and accuracy) is going to correlate heavily with the leaderboard this week.

I built out a blended total driving model using a few different samples and weighting them more heavily towards current form. Bryson and Brooks being at the top should be taken with a grain of salt considering their samples, but at the same time, a ton of those rounds are against major-level fields, so, maybe we just need to hand it to them.

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The only other split I looked at from a 10,000 foot view was short game and putting on Bermuda greens. They do go a little hand in hand as the greens here are terribly hard to find, around the green and chipping are difficult and the problems you can run into as you progress deeper into each hole get harder, not easier.

Used putting on fast, Bermuda greens, Around the Green Play on course with difficult GIR% and just overall Bogey Avoidance and got a very different list of characters.

Xander, Rory, and TYRRELL HATTON made both lists. Probably not enough reason to dismiss Scottie (he can likely win without playing all that well in the short game) but interesting nonetheless.

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A look at Pinehurst No. 2 from Ron’s Preview Piece:

Measuring 7,543 yards, the par 70 “Carolina Sandhills” course located 92 miles east of Charlotte is a beast of a track. With only two par5s, Pinehurst No. 2 ranks as the fifth-longest course (yards per par) on the PGA Tour since 2015. Scoring can be brutal. In the most recent U.S. Open hosted here in 2014, the average round played at +3.08. It is the fourth toughest course on Tour in that same period with only Shinnecock Hills, Winged Foot, and Oakmont playing more difficult.

Martin Kaymer was probably being honest when he predicted that the winning score in 2014 would be eight-over-par, a full 17 shots fewer than he managed as the runaway champion. “You don’t hear many roars at Pinehurst,” admits Tiger Woods. “But that’s the nature of the course. At Augusta, you hear eagle roars and you hear big putts being made. But who is going to hole out from off the side of one of these greens? Guys are just trying to make par.”

Looking on the bright side, it’s tough to lose a ball at Pinehurst with just one water hazard on the entire course and out-of-bounds rarely coming into play. The 2011 restoration also made it much more forgiving off-the-tee with wider fairways and the elimination of rough. That being said, there is still a huge “Missed Fairway Penalty” with the trouble contained inside the sandy native areas.

The changes made by Coore and Crenshaw have revitalized the layout by adding strategy and shot-making back to the course. The beauty of Pinehurst is that it doesn’t dictate any particular style of golf. It instead allows you to play your own game with multiple choices on almost every single hole. Golfers have the option to play an aerial game and bomb it down the fairway followed by a lofted iron into the treacherous greens. Likewise, shorter hitters can club down and play longer iron shots and use the firm fairways to run them up onto the greens.

The natural terrain combined with its design features accentuates the penalty for mediocre shots. Whether it’s the sandy waste areas that are chock-full of vegetation or the swales and slopes and tight lies of the diabolical green complexes, at Pinehurst, it truly is a game of inches. A fractional miss can result in a massive number on the scorecard. A lucky bounce can lead to a birdie chance. This randomness and increased range of outcomes on every hole only adds to the excitement of the tournament.

Famous for its crowned greens, to make birdies, players must take on difficult hole locations with distance control and precision. For those wanting to play more conservatively, keeping the ball on the ground (including using putter around the green like Kaymer did in 2014) and hitting toward the middle of each green is another strategy.


Tiger on the Around the Green play and how it’ll differ from other times he’s played here:

“TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's all different. I played it under bentgrass. So now having Bermuda, it's very different. It's grainy. We had the grain on the greens during those Open Championships, and they were softer than they are now.

Granted, I know the surrounds were burnt out in '05, but the greens were not like what they are right now. That's very different.

The shot selections around the greens I think are more plentiful this year from either putting it to wedging it. As you said, 6- or 7-irons. I've used long irons and woods around the greens, and I've seen a number of guys do the same thing.

There's a lot of different shot selections, and the grain is going to play a big part of it. The last few days playing practice rounds - I'm guilty as well as the rest of the guys I've played with - we've putted off a lot of greens. It depends how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides.

But I foresee just like in '05 watching some of the guys play ping-pong back and forth. It could happen.”

Scottie, on the Bermuda:

“SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER: Well, I mean, a lot of the areas around the greens here are quite different, and a lot of it depends on the lies that you get. It's grainy Bermuda, so if you get a good lie, you can be a little more creative with what you want to do. If you have an iffy into-the-grain lie, you're a bit limited in what you can do around the green.

It really depends on the lie and then it depends how big of a slope there is that you're trying to get it back up onto the green. A lot of that is going to be missing in the right spots. But there are certain holes out here that there isn't a ^ great miss, you've just got to step up there and hit a great shot.”

Already had some good quotes from Wyndham Clark on the state of the greens, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the transcripts from the rest of the lineup later tonight..

Xander, on what he expects off the tee:

XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I think if you look off the tee, there is no rough, but you have these sort of bushels and dirt all around every fairway. You can try and -- you can elect to hit a long iron and run it down or if you try and take driver you can be a little bit more aggressive.

The spots get really tight when you hit driver, just knowing that the ball will bounce, will roll, and then you sort of pick and choose your spots, do I want to be 3-iron, 7-iron to the middle of the fairway or 8-iron versus driver, maybe hit the fairway or sort of have to hack out, maybe catch a good lie in sort of that -- I don't even know what you'd call it, that terrain around the fairways, Andy, bushelly, I'm not sure what it is. Native area.”

and if he’ll bust out the Texas Wedge:

“XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, I typically default to putting just as a comfort thing. I grew up in San Diego, but the Texas wedge is definitely my friend. Just need to get comfortable there.

There's a lot of spots where people are chipping, so there's times where if you are trying to putt and you have some divots in your way, that makes putting difficult so you will have to chip or 5-wood or get some loft on it.

I'd say most times I'd probably putt unless you really need some sort of spin.”


Weather Report graphic from the USGA is massive compared to the usual fare from the PGA, but for the most part, it appears as if any rain chances are later in the day, and if they choose to let the greens dry out, the temps and winds should let them do just that.

As for wave advantages or issues, I really don’t think we’ll see much of either. The winds won’t be spiking, the rain looks minimal, and it’s not bentgrass that changes in the afternoon heat.

The Nasty Stuff

We talked about this a bit on the podcast, but hitting bad shots off the tee may be a bit of a crapshoot as far as how much trouble you end up in. You can see that the areas outside of the fairway are very non-uniform and there will be times where golfers are simply hitting a shot out of pinestraw.


I don’t blacklist players/teams, but Keegan has me wondering if I should change that policy. Good news: matchups did well last week. Bad news: the one I put in the newsletter was the only one that lost. Back at it!

Just barely hanging on here, YTD: 11-10-1, +0.06u

Matchup: Russell Henley > Dustin Johnson -130 (FanDuel)

Hard to go off of LIV stats, but from what I’ve found DJ’s middle of the pack there and we’ve clearly seen that his prep isn’t what it used to be for the majors. Trusting the strong ball striking of Henley to win this one by attrittion.

Other Bets

Brooks +2850
Brooks Top 10 +245

Bryson +2450
Bryson Top 10 +215

Morikawa Top 10 +165

Hovland top 20 -110

Hatton Top 20 +225

Dustin Johnson - miss cut +145

Jordan Spieth - miss cut +130

Good luck, have fun, enjoy the tournament, make sure you have your Peacock subscription up to date (you’re gonna need it) and we’ll see you next week in New England.

Trivia Answer:

“On Oct. 4, 1895, the first U.S. Open Championship was conducted by the United States Golf Association on the nine-hole course of Newport (RHODE ISLAND) Golf and Country Club. The first U.S. Open was considered something of a sideshow to the first U.S. Amateur, which was played on the same course and during the same week. Both championships had been scheduled for September but were postponed due to a conflict with a more established Newport sports spectacle, the America’s Cup yacht races.”