I am going to make my 2014 US Open predictions for the second major tournament of the year — and tell you a little about the challenges the world’s best will face at Pinehurst.
The tournament, which starts tomorrow, is unique in how tough it is and I enjoy watching these golfers struggle in the same way I struggle with the game.
Pinehurst will play like no US Open course in history.
“I’m not sure it will be tougher,” says Bill Coore the man charged with the redo of the course, “but there will be more mystery.
“With the sand and wiregrass, you’ll see some of the most spectacular approach shots, and the most bizarre.
“It will be the greatest variety of shots you’ve ever seen in a US Open.”
In previous US Opens, there was only one play—hit it straight.
With much wider fairways, it’ll be possible to cut corners on doglegs, but at the risk of running out of fairway.
It will also be easy to run into trouble spots while trying to hit to the proper side of the fairway to leave the best angle to the pin.
The net effect is that the play will be more exciting for the fans, who get to watch players strategize their way around a US Open course for a change. This may work for the more creative players like Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson.
Key shots that you will see include putts from off the green.
Most golfers will automatically take out a wedge of some kind when they are around the green.
However, you will see the pros use their putter if the grass is smooth and dry. In fact, a well-played putt will offer excellent results.
A wedge from that spot may not get closer even if played perfectly. Many club players struggle with chipping, so if your ball is off the putting green, ask yourself if you could putt it instead.
If you think you can putt it, for most of us it is a far more reliable shot. Trust yourself and hit the shot; remember, with longer putts controlling distance is the key. The way to control distance is the length of the swing NOT creating an aggressive hit.
Also, as with all golf shots, a centred contact is fundamental to controlling distance. The key to this is: imagine a circle around the hole that you are trying to get the ball in. When I am doing short-game clinics, I actually paint circles on the green to better visualize this.
What is the ground like around the green? The grass at Pinehurst will be cut very short around the green, making putting the preferred option. The key is to practise these shots so you know what it feels like to hit this type of shot.
Players that are used to these conditions will do the best.
I like the players with great short games so Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter are my picks for the days ahead.
Paul Adams is the director of golf at Tucker’s Point