13 Things We Learned At Pinehurst

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13 Things We Learned At Pinehurst

June 15, 2014

Martin Kaymer is good.The German seized control at Pinehurst No. 2 with back-to-back 65s to set a U.S. Open scoring record and match the largest 36-hole lead in tournament history. And then he didn't let up. Kaymer finished eight shots ahead of his closest pursuers to win his second major by displaying an all-around game that the USGA hoped to identify in its champion when it set up this course up. His wire-to-wire win came a month after leading from start to finish at the Players. Technically, Kaymer still isn't back to being a top-10 golfer in the world, but he's been the game's most impressive player in 2014.-- Alex Myers

Martin Kaymer is REALLY good.Combine Kaymer's U.S. Open and Players titles in 2014 with his 2010 PGA Championship, making the winning putt at the 2012 Ryder Cup, being a former World No. 1, winning a World Golf Championship event in 2011 and, well, you get the point. Those accomplishments already give him a truly special career -- and he's not even 30.-- A.M.

You don't need rough for a course to play tough.That just-chop-it-back-to-the-fairway rough we're so used to seeing at the U.S. Open wasn't at Pinehurst No. 2. Instead, it was replaced by native/waste areas that still challenged the players while allowing them a chance to pull off spectacular recovery shots. Finding the fairway was still a major advantage, but missing one didn't mean a player was automatically pitching out, either. It helped make the golf more interesting, and it's not like the players tore the course up. Only three finished the week under par. -- A.M.

And you don't need a course to be green to be great.Regardless of what Donald Trump might have you believe, Pinehurst No. 2 was a significant step forward in altering the perception of what constitutes an elite course. Maybe it wasn't the majestic green we've come to associate with courses like Augusta National, but Pinehurst was still more interesting than any U.S. Open layout in a decade. Most important, it provided a roadmap for other courses that want to provide affordable golf without driving itself into the red. You'd like to think it's triggering a lot of conversations among greens committees around the country.-- Sam Weinman

__There's some real substance to go withRickie Fowler's style.__It's not like Fowler made the PGA Tour because he's a nice guy. He earned his card, won a tournament and was even picked for a Ryder Cup team because he can play. And yet up until this season, Fowler risked going down as the most overexposed middle-tier PGA Tour player in history. But thanks to a newfound dedication to his craft, namely his work with Butch Harmon, Fowler has made strides on the course, picking up needed yardage off the tee and, now, working his way into contention at consecutive majors. Just imagine how many kids will be wearing flat-brim orange hats if Fowler actually won one of these. -- S.W.

__Driving the ball is still imperative at theU.S. Open.__Martin Kaymer's putting was undoubtedly special this week, but more than anything else, it was his driving that won him his second major title. And that's become something of a recurring trait among the tournament's winners. Since 2000, only one golfer (Jim Furyk in 2003) has driven the ball shorter than the tour average the year he won the Open. -- Luke Kerr-Dineen

We secretly like it when the USGA sets up the U.S. Open really, really tough.Kaymer put on a stunning display of golf Thursday and Friday, but there always seemed to be something missing. After all, soft and receptive greens are what the rest of the season is for. Helped by the good weather, the USGA cranked it up a few notches over the weekend and straddled the line perfectly -- making the U.S. Open feel more like a U.S. Open while never stopping players from being able to shoot under par. -- L.K.D.

The U.S. Open always delivers on unlikely stories.You knew Erik Compton and Fran Quinn would steal headlines at Pinehurst. OK, maybe not Erik Compton and Fran Quinn specifically, but guys like them. Feel-good stories have a habit of emerging at the USGA's signature event -- it's the byproduct of being the most democratic of the four men's majors -- and Compton and Quinn filled the roles this year. A double heart-transplant recipient playing in Sunday's penultimate group and a 47-year-old journeyman feeding off an opening 68 with his son on his bag. Yeah, that sounds about right. -- Ryan Herrington

But you can't will some stories to come true.Since Phil Mickelson raised the claret jug at Muirfield last July, the thought of him claiming his elusive U.S. Open title at Pinehurst and capping the career Grand Slam was almost too good to be true. And it turned out that it was. Mickelson had fans, USGA officials and even some media encouraging him to avenge his six runner-ups in the championship. Yet as everybody grudgingly came to accept, you can't just flip a switch and miraculously win a major title. A T-28 finish was probably what Lefty deserved given the way 2014 had been playing out. -- R.H.

__It will be hard to match what a good job NBC has done televising theU.S. Open.__Everything about NBC's sign off Sunday embodied what we loved about their coverage of the U.S. Open: no maliciousness, real emotion and all class. Unlike some of the courses it has covered over the years, NBC's broadcast was never "tricked-up." Fox will find it a tough act to follow.-- L.K.D.

Bubba Watson is not one to fake it.For all the growth Watson has shown in harnessing his immense talent, he hasn't quite figured out every aspect of the game just yet. Two days before the U.S. Open, the reigning Masters champion spoke about the challenges Pinehurst presented him in not being able to hit driver off many tees. He said the greens were "unfriendly," and noted sarcastically how "fun" the layout was. The subtext was clear: Watson wasn't a fan, and not surprisingly, a poor showing followed. For the second time he followed a win at Augusta with an MC in the U.S. Open. We can't help thinking Watson would fare better if he could learn to temporarily love those courses he might not particularly like. -- S.W.

Major championships may not be meant to be for a handful of Englishman.The proverbial window of opportunity remains open for Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter. But with each successive major start -- and each successive major disappointment -- you get the sense their careers are tracking more toward Colin Montgomerie than Darren Clarke. Pinehurst did nothing to change that thinking. In hindsight it's hard to believe Westwood and Donald were considered dark horses before Thursday's start given Thursday's finish (75 and 77, respectively). Poulter at least made it to the weekend before his flame out a Saturday 74.--R.H.

We're ready for Tiger to be back.As much as we resent the notion that golf ceases to exist without Woods in the mix, we're also of the belief that the return of the 14-time major champion would give the season a needed boost. For all the compelling stories 2014 has produced -- Martin Kaymer's resurgence, Rickie Fowler's growth, Rory McIlroy's continued ups and downs -- Woods still is an entry point into the game for those fans who might otherwise be indifferent. We think golf stands on its own merits with or without Woods. But that starts with people first taking notice. Tiger back on the golf course would certainly help.-- S.W.

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