Pinehurst official talks about U.S. Open golf security

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 19, 2013 

— The American flags were at half staff Friday at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, a reminder of the tragic events of the week.

Next year, the resort will be hosting unprecedented sporting events – the U.S. Open golf championship, followed the next week by the U.S. Women’s Open. More than 400,000 fans could flock to the No. 2 Course in the two-week period.

Reg Jones, senior director of U.S. Open championships for the U.S. Golf Association, said Friday security measures are being reviewed with state and local authorities following the Boston Marathon bombings.

“We will take every possible precaution,” Jones said. “We have a security plan we feel comfortable with.”

Jones did not offer details, but likened it to the increased security given the 2002 U.S. Open, held on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island nine months after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, gave an update on the golf preparations for the staging of the back-to-back Opens at a news conference Friday. The men’s Open will be played June 12-15, 2014, and the Women’s Open June 19-22 on the No. 2 course.

The U.S. Open was held on No. 2 in 1999 and 2005 but has not hosted a U.S. Women’s Open. The 1996, 2001 and 2007 U.S. Women’s Opens were played at the Pine Needles resort in Southern Pines.

The historic No. 2 course was given an extensive redesign by former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and golf architect Bill Coore. The project, completed in March 2011, resulted in wider fairways, bunker restorations and the removal of the Bermuda rough, which was replaced by more hardpan, natural wire grass and sandy areas to restore more of the feel of the original Donald Ross design.

“I think they hit an absolute grand slam,” Davis said. “It’s wonderful architecturally and visually.”

Not that Davis and the USGA didn’t make changes. The par-4 fifth hole, one of the signature holes on the No. 2 course and arguably the toughest, will be played as a par 5 in the Opens. The par-5 fourth hole will be shortened and played as a par-4.

Davis said Friday that Ross originally designed the fifth hole as a par 5 and that the side hill lies and raised green would make for a difficult test. It’s believed it’s the first time since the 1930s, and possibly the 1936 PGA Championship, that the fifth hole has been played as a par 5.

Davis said No. 2 would play to a little more than 7,500 yards and a par 70 for the men, and about 6,800 yards and a par 70 for the women.

Davis said the men’s tournament will be held the week before the women’s because the USGA wants a little softer greens for the women, although insisting the greens would still be firm and fast.

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