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Trump Blasts Pinehurst No. 2; Players Disagree
Donald Trump may have to wait a bit longer than he expected to host a U.S. Open at one of the golf courses in his growing portfolio. The New York City developer and golf impresario sent out a number of tweets over the weekend complaining about the look of Pinehurst No. 2, site of this year's U.S. Open.
The famed Donald Ross-designed layout underwent a restoration overseen by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw that removed 40 acres of irrigated turf and brought back Ross's original sandy waste bunkers and wire grass.
As a result, No. 2 is not nearly as lush and green as in years past as it now plays more like an inland links, a characteristic fine-tuned by the USGA to get the course to play hard and fast for America's national golf championship.
The organization was successful in having No. 2 serve as a supreme test; only three players broke par in 72 holes, with Martin Kaymer running away with the championship and winning by eight strokes over Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
Trump's tweeted complaints stemmed from his disdain for the irregular green-and-brown look of No. 2 on television, and - in typical "The Donald" fashion - as a way to promote the courses owned by Trump Golf.
In his tweets, Trump called two of his courses - including the newly acquired Turnberry in Scotland and Trump National Doral in Miami - "far superior" to the revered Pinehurst property, which has hosted three U.S. Opens in the past 15 years. On Twitter, Trump wrote:
"Turnberry in Scotland is a far superior golf course to Pinehurst - and it isn't even close! Likewise the Blue Monster at Doral."
"Have you ever seen Trump National/Bedminster or Trump International Golf links in Scotland? Both far better than Pinehurst!"
"Built for golf. Not built for TV. That is true because it looks horrible on T.V. SAD!"
"I'd bet the horrible look of Pinehurst translates into poor television ratings. This is not what golf is about!"
In addition to bringing back Ross's design tenets for No. 2, the USGA requested the changes to eliminate irrigated areas and minimize water usage, using it as a showcase for how golf courses used to look before computerized irrigation systems helped make courses wall-to-wall green. The organization is on the vanguard of environmental and conservation initiatives in the golf industry.
The players praised the new look. Despite not accomplishing his goal of a career Grand Slam, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson enjoyed the revamped No. 2. "It was a fun week. It was - I just loved the golf course, the setup, how it played, how fair it was," said Mickelson, who finished at 7-over 287 on the par-70 layout.
"What surprised me is how pure and perfect the greens were. I thought with this heat, bentgrass, I just didn't think they would be as perfect as they are. They're just amazing. You get the ball on line and they go in every time just like Augusta, you know the last four or five feet if they're going in. They were just pristine."
No. 1-ranked Adam Scott said on Sunday that the opening of the fairways created a whole new alternative to traditional tree-lined, high-rough U.S. Open venues. "I said it last night at - I mean, it tests some skill level of the players and creativity of how much are you going to bite off out of that rough if you've got a bit of an ordinary lie, whereas when it's halfway up your leg and most of us can just chip it out sideways, I don't think that's a great test of skill."
The newly-crowned U.S. Open champion liked the various shot options around the Ross-created greens, which were not altered during the Coore-Crenshaw remodel. "I said to my caddie when we played the practice rounds, I like that you have a lot of options here," said Kaymer. "You can take a 3-wood or a rescue (club). You can chip with a lob wedge, gap wedge or you can putt it. Through any experience from the British Open, I've always done fairly well to putt off the green.
"And I think a bad putt like this is still better than a bad chip, especially with the runoffs. When you hit one fat, you are pretty much in the same spot again."
Kaymer added that variety in U.S. Open venues is important, and that it's up to the USGA to do its best to assure the players have a different arena each year. "We should go with how the golf course is supposed to play. Other U.S. Opens that I have played, it was pretty much the same," noted the 29-year-old, who won the PGA Championship in 2010.
"Your long holes, thick rough, very tight fairways. I think it depends on the golf course. Wherever you play, you should go with how the golf course is supposed to be played. And this week, when I said earlier in the week, reminded me a little bit of playing in Australia on links golf courses, or the British Open with good weather, great weather. I enjoyed the way it played, because that's the way it was supposed to be played."
If Trump has issues with Pinehurst No. 2, wait until the billionaire takes a gander at next year's U.S. Open venue. Chambers Bay near Tacoma, Wash., is a tawny-colored, all-fescue links course along the banks of Puget Sound. Its greens are massive, and the sand in its many green- and fairway-side bunkers is not pristine-white, but gray.
Scott expects Chambers Bay to provide a similar test to Pinehurst No. 2 in 2015. "Next year seems like it might be similar as well. It looks like quite natural landscape in the outer areas of that Chambers Bay from the photos," said the Aussie, who also lauded the USGA's work in North Carolina. "I think it was a great week. I think they prepared (Pinehurst No. 2) beautifully for us and it was a good, fair test. You had to play some pretty good golf to shoot a good score around here."