With wild and memorable finish, Pinehurst delivers in U.S. Open return :: WRALSportsFan.com

With wild and memorable finish, Pinehurst delivers in U.S. Open return :: WRALSportsFan.com

— It took all 72 holes over four days — as well as a devastating missed putt and a remarkable bunker shot on the final hole — to identify the U.S. Open champion this week at Pinehurst No. 2.

it didn’t take nearly as long to realize that Pinehurst has ascended to its rightful place as an “anchor site” in the U.S. Open rotation. Hosting for the fourth time in 25 years, Pinehurst delivered the kind of drama that majors crave — two popular champions dueling down the back nine.

“The USGA just fits here at Pinehurst,” USGA president Fred Perpall said before the championship began.

And then the world’s best golfers proceeded to show just how well the USGA’s signature event fits at one of the “cathedrals of the game,” as USGA chief championships officer John Bodenhamer said earlier in the week.

It was 2020 champion Bryson DeChambeau, the one-time loathsome golf nut turned man of the people, who outlasted 2011 champion and tortured golf soul Rory McIlroy with a magical par on 18, moments after McIlroy had missed a four-footer for his third bogey in four holes.

The course has hosted the men’s U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014. This was the first since the USGA designated it a “anchor site,” a move designed to put the Open at signature courses more often and allow for more investment by both sides.

Pinehurst will host the U.S. Open in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. That’s eight appearances in 48 years. In addition, the USGA is bringing the U.S. Women’s Open to Pinehurst in 2029 (back-to-back weeks) and in 2044.

“If we had the opportunity to go back to places on a more frequent schedule, we thought we could make deeper investments in those places,” Perpall said. “We could work on continuously improving the experience for the players, the experiences for the fans.”

It works because of the course. And because of the community. And because of the fans.

US Open Golf

More than 225,000 people came through the gates this week. And it just seemed like everyone of them was packed around the 18th green on Sunday evening to watch the fantastic finish.

How many will say they were there when DeChambeau holed the putt and then invited everyone to touch the trophy? And he nearly made good on that invite by parading it around the 18th green and into the bunker where he made “the shot of my life,” as he called it.

The one that will be replayed over and over and over to signify the 2024 championship, right up there with Payne Stewart’s putt in 1999.

“When you come here, you feel the energy, the excitement, the celebration of the game,” Bodenhamer said. “People here get the game. When they feel it, it fits. We fit here at Pinehurst because it’s about golf. It’s at the center of this community. It bleeds through everything that’s here.”

And if there were concerns about the course, its fairness or the run of its greens, those, too, were erased by the end.

McIlroy got a seemingly bad break on the par-5 5th hole when he went for the green in two shots, only to see his approach roll off the green and into a hole in the native area. Had he ended nearly anywhere else, including a green side bunker, he likely makes no worse than par. Instead, he made a bogey.

But the course was more than up to the test down the stretch, unnerving the best players in the world — fairly. Six finishers in the top 11 shot under par. McIlroy was done in, not by approach shots or bad bounces, but by two short putts. DeChambeau couldn’t control his driver all day, including on the last, but scrambled his way to a second Open title.

“The venue was great,” said Patrick Cantlay who finished tied for third. “The golf course was in perfect U.S. Open shape. I’m sure looking forward to the next time it’s here.”

The good news is neither he nor anyone will have to wait very long.


Source: wralsportsfan.com