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US Open 2014: Domination, Evolution and a Bigger Banana

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martin_kaymer_champion_usatsiPhoto Credit: cbssports.com

The US Open was already rewriting the history books after Friday’s play. No one had ever posted a 65-65 on the first two days. This record was set by Martin Kaymer, who held the lead from start-to-finish, yet another feat, which only seven players had accomplished in US Open history. The win was doubly memorable for Kaymer, who also won the Players Championship to complete the bout of winning on both Mother’s and Father’s day. When asked how he felt about winning during the holidays, Kaymer noted,

“It was nice to win on Mother’s Day and our Father’s Day [in Germany] was a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t get him anything,” said Kaymer after a gargantuan eight-shot victory at Pinehurst on Sunday. “Maybe this works today.”

Yet another milestone to note, this time for the course, was Pinehurst’s first US Open back in its old form. Originally designed by famed architect Donald Ross in 1907, Pinehurst had seen a forward evolution through the years. As seen in the 2005 US Open, the fairways had become tight, the Kentucky bluegrass roughs were among the most formidable of any tour stop, and the bunkers were clean cut-outs, but quite scary, even for the most regarded professionals.

Back in 2010, the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were brought in to bring #2 back to its original lore. Their goal for the renovation was to bring the course back to Donald Ross’ original intent for his home course, epitomizing the philosophy of providing golfers “strategic choices” on every hole. They increased fairway widths, removed that bluegrass rough (approximately 35 acres, leaving native areas made up of sane, pine needs and wiry grass), simplified turf maintenance leading to firmer, faster fairways, and what was probably the most noticeable, reformed bunkers to make them more natural. All work was done following aerial images from the 1940s.

The “strategic choice” philosophy that Donald Ross aimed at providing golfers as personified by the shot of the weekend, Kenny Perry’s bender on the par-four 14th, a 479-yard hole. Perry, 53, and the oldest player in the field, had an errant drive that ended up in the native area that was part of the refresh in 2010. After pulling a hybrid from his bag, and peering around the trees at the pin that was 220 yards away, he proceeded to record the first eagle of the week on 14, with a shot that would rival the famous banana that Bubba had during his Master win in 2012. While Parry didn’t win, his shot immediately became the best of the weekend.

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All things considered, this year’s US Open was one for the storybooks. Next year’s US Open will be held at yet another throwback, the Robert Trent Jones II designed Chamber’s Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington. Much akin to Pinehurst from a standpoint of keeping native features alive, Chamber’s Bay is a links course that also tests the “strategic choice” philosophy. And with a hole named “Humpback,” you never know: another big bender could happen anytime.

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