PINEHURST, N.C. -- There's been a lot of talk over the last few weeks about how Pinehurst is different from most U.S. Open sites. And it is, largely due to the fact that there isn't any rough here. Instead, the ever-present native areas run along the sides of the fairways. There, if you get lucky, you have a good lie and a shot to the green. If you get unlucky, your ball is tucked up against a large tuft of wiregrass, making a shot out near impossible.
To avoid lies like that, a few of the men put in longer irons last week to hit off the tee. Shorter and easier to control than a driver, a long iron makes it easier to control tee shots and keep them out of the native areas.
Two notable players that did this were Rickie Fowler (T-2) and Martin Kaymer (yeah, the guy that won by eight shots). Fowler took out a wedge so he could put in a 3-iron, and Kaymer played two 3-irons, one had a longer shaft that was bent to 2-iron loft. Since this obviously worked for them, I perused the range at the U.S. Women's Open to see if any of the women were letting Pinehurst's setup lead them to swapping out clubs.
A bunch of women haven't changed a thing, including Lydia Ko and Cheyenne Woods, who said they're keeping it all the same this week.
A few players have opted for more loft. Lizette Salas has put in a higher lofted 3-wood for the week, and Holly Clyburn took out her 3-iron and put in a 7-wood. It's a club she hasn't carried in a while, but her caddie says that the 7-wood is going to land a lot softer coming into the greens. They'd rather be holding greens than risking coming in with the lower trajectory of a 3-iron. These greens are firm, fast, and crowned -- it's all too easy for a hot 3-iron to run straight off the back.
Lexi Thompson, however, has a plan similar to Fowler's and Kaymer's. According to the guys at Cobra, Thompson's taking out her 18 degree 2-hybrid and putting in her 3-iron. Lexi's concern isn't about what to hit into these greens, it's about what to hit off the tee.
While strategy is something that needs to be catered to individual players based on their strengths and weaknesses, comparisons are all too easy to draw when the Opens are held at the same venue. Come Sunday, we could see that the club-choice strategy that was victorious for the men is the same strategy that will be victorious for the women.