Short Game

U.S. Open 2024: A short game expert predicts we'll see plenty of this mistake at Pinehurst No. 2


Jared C. Tilton

June 12, 2024

PINEHURST, N.C. — Pete Cowen hates lob wedges. Well, hate is a bit strong. He’s just not a fan.

The problem, according to the veteran coach, is that high-lofted clubs that easily pop balls in the air can mask inferior technique. Some weeks golfers can get away with it, but this week at Pinehurst No. 2 won’t be one of them.

“I don't think there are many places out here for a lob wedge, unless it's absolutely necessary,” said Cowen, who has a stable of major champions to his name.

For all the pre-tournament cramming trying to solve Donald Ross’ turtleback greens, Cowen projects many players will fall into a familiar trap once play begins. They will miss a green, pull out their usual wedge, and then they’ll chunk a chip by attempting to dig the leading edge into the turf. If the lie is what should dictate most shot choices in a U.S. Open, Cowen suspects players will underestimate the challenge of chipping into the grain out of Pinehurst’s tightly-mown collection areas.

“Anybody that drives the leading edge into the ground is going to struggle,” he said. “You need to know how to use the bounce, but most people don't know how to use the bounce properly.”

As Cowen said, the only way to use a wedge from off a green here is by opening the face and slide the club along the ground to utilize the bounce. You can see Matt Fitzpatrick do so here, albeit with his unconventional cross-handed chipping method.

The better option, Cowen says, is something with significantly less loft, whether it’s Tiger Woods’ 4-iron bump-and-run, or the 3-wood Webb Simpson was using in his practice round Wednesday.

Still, the best option according to Cowen is the least loft of all.

“Even though I'm a really good chipper, I would be putting on most of them," he said.