Graham DeLaet arrived for the U.S. Open on Saturday evening and got his first good look at Pinehurst No. 2 the next day, when he played 10 holes.
He practiced Monday and will play all 18 on Tuesday, with nine planned for Wednesday. In the meantime, he hasn’t been shy about voicing his opinion about the legendary layout on Twitter.
— Graham DeLaet (@GrahamDeLaet) June 8, 2014
Looking out my hotel window and seeing rain…only the heavens can tame this beast! #Pinehurst
— Graham DeLaet (@GrahamDeLaet) June 8, 2014
“It’s a great test, a great track. It’s going to be fun,” said DeLaet on Monday.
“It’s going to test every part of your game from driving to irons to your mental game to short game and putting. It really is one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played,” he added.
Whether he is feeling as kind towards Pinehurst No. 2 a week from now remains to be seen. It isn’t only the upside-down bowls that serve as greens that can make for a long day.
“Everything out there is a little bit scary once you get on that golf course,” said DeLaet.
“You look at it, especially if you’re downwind and it’s a firm green and you’re standing in the fairway with your approach shot and you don’t even know how it’s possible to hit the green,” he said.
“You’re obviously trying to get the ball on the green, but if not, you want to leave it in the right spot, so that you have at least a chance of getting up and down. You can hit some great shots in there, but if you’re a little careless, being a little bit too aggressive, you can end up with a bogey or a double pretty quickly,” said DeLaet.
Opened in 1907, the course was designed by Donald Ross, who tinkered with it the rest of his life. In 2010, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw began a restoration project that introduced again hardpan, natural bunker edges and native wire grasses.
It’s going to make for an interesting test, according to DeLaet.
“You either have to be doing everything pretty well or you’re going to have to be doing a couple of things – maybe driving it extremely well or putting extremely well — to kind of compensate for maybe a couple of missed iron shots here or there, so you’re going to have to be on top of your game,” he said.
DeLaet says there are a couple of different outcomes off the tee that he noticed.
“The thing that’s different than I’ve ever seen is it just goes fairway right into the natural area and the middle of the fairways are watered, but the edges of the fairways are super dry,” he said.
“So, if you get something landing on the edge, it’s just going to kind of trickle, trickle, trickle and at least half the time, it’s going to end up in the waste area and if you hit a perfect tee shot down the middle, it’s going to stay in the middle, but it’s going to land softly and you’re going to have more club into the green,” he added.
The test is going to be controlling one’s emotions, accepting the fact that things are going to go wrong from time to time and just dealing with it.
“The majority of the time, probably 75 per cent of the time, you’re going to be able to get club on it and probably get it up somewhere near the green and sometimes, even be able to hit a long iron out of it, but you’re going to have times when you get unlucky and you’ll have to take an unplayable and chip it sideways,” said DeLaet.
“It’s going to happen to everybody in the field, so not getting upset that you kind of got unlucky when you ended up in a tuft of grass, where if you were a foot this way or a foot this way, you could hit a five iron into the green type of thing, so it’s going to test your mental strength, as well,” he said.
Physically, DeLaet says he’s fine after having to take the Memorial off due to a problem with his foot that he first noticed at Colonial a couple of weeks ago.
“As the week went on, it was progressively a little bit worse. I could have played. It was just to the point where I just tried to make a smart decision to make sure I was able to play at a high level for the rest of the year,” he said.
“I just kind of had a strain of the tendon on the outside of my left foot. It was nothing serious. I just wanted to take some time off to make sure that it’s something that didn’t linger all year long,” he added.
“Unfortunately, I missed Memorial, which is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. It definitely improved a lot over the past couple of weeks and it will be no issue going forward,” said DeLaet.
It’s just one less thing as he faces a golf course that undoubtedly will create other issues for him this week.