Golf stars could do with a rule check

Professional golfers quite rightly dedicate plenty of time to practice in the lead up to majors but as the US Open approaches they would be advised to have a quick refresh of the local rules.

Golf stars could do with a rule check

While knowing every nuance and roll of Pinehurst No 2’s infamous turtle-back greens will undoubtedly be useful, understanding the lay-out could potentially avoid a messy and expensive mix-up.

Many pros will have rejoiced when it was announced the revamp of the famous old course would remove the rough – usually one of the most punishing elements of a US Open venue.

However, taking the 18 holes back to their original 1907 profile has created another issue as the rough has been replaced by what is deemed waste area.

Such a barren piece of land cost American Ryder Cup player Dustin Johnson the chance of winning the 2010 US PGA Championship at the bunker-ridden Whistling Straits as he was penalised two shots for grounding his club in what he thought was a waste area but was actually classed as a trampled sand trap, costing him a place in the play-off.

Six years previously Stuart Appleby suffered a similar fate on the same area of ground, after which notices were posted in the locker room warning of the unusual local conditions.

How many professionals actually paid any attention to those in 2010 was unclear but it is safe to say Johnson and his caddie did not so the field at Pinehurst are advised to check the notice board before heading for the course.

American Matt Kuchar acknowledged the issues which are likely to present themselves at a redesigned course he has yet to see first-hand.

“I haven’t heard exactly what it looks like,” he said.

“But just speaking of sandy areas, how they’ll be played, whether or not we’ll have the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits issue or exactly how they’ll be played, if you can ground your club, remove things, I don’t know that just yet.”

Newly-crowned BMW PGA champion Rory McIlroy will not start his US Open preparation until after this week’s Memorial tournament at Muirfield while the man he beat on Sunday showed his resilience to qualify for the second major of the year just over 24 hours after missing out at Wentworth.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry showed no ill-effects from playing six rounds of strokeplay in five days as he finished top of the US Open qualifier at Walton Heath on Monday.

“I carried a lot of momentum in from Sunday to get the job done,” said Lowry.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to Pinehurst. Majors are where I want to be playing.

“Last week I was comfortable competing down the stretch with the likes of Thomas Bjorn, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, so I’ve got a lot of confidence and I’ll take that with me to Pinehurst.”

Fellow qualifier Marcel Siem is happy just to be able to experience a real-life Pinehurst having only previously seen in a virtual world.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play at Pinehurst – I’ve played it so many times on the PlayStation,” said the German.

This year the USGA has taken the unique step of hosting the men’s and women’s US Opens back-to-back on the same course in successive weeks.

There has been some concern expressed that the women will not find the course in its best condition after the men have departed.

That will be the least of California’s Lucy Li’s worries as she tees off as the youngest qualifier in history at the age of just 11.

Pinehurst can reduce even the most hardy of golfers to mere shadows of themselves so what it will do to a child is anyone’s guess with the notoriously tricky greens expected to run at between 11 and 12.5 on the stimpmeter as opposed to the upper limit of 10.5 on normal weeks.

* On the Tuesday of US Open week the USGA will posthumously award Payne Stewart with the Bob Jones Award, given each year since 1955 in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.

Just four months after winning the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst, and a month after helping the US win the Ryder Cup at the Country Club, Stewart died in a plane crash.

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