By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
With greens in regulation at a premium this week on Pinehurst No. 2, Luke Donald’s world-famous handiwork on and around the putting surfaces could well prove a major advantage, as the Englishman continues his bid to land one of the game’s ‘Big Four’ at the US Open Championship.
Former World Number One Donald played his second US Open when Pinehurst last hosted the event back in 2005, finishing tied 57th, but the No. 2 course is a very different prospect now from what it was nine years ago following an intensive remodelling process in recent times.
"As always, I've been working hard on my game with my coach Chuck (Cook) and my short game is feeling really sharp which I think is going to be great around here because it’s obviously a very tough place to hit a lot of greens,” he says.
“You’re going to need to have good fundamentals around the greens to trust those pitch and chips which are very tricky shots.
“But I really love the course set-up; what (Bill) Coore and (Ben) Crenshaw have done is amazing. Thick rough really limits you while this set-up really gives you so many different options – off the tee, around the greens – it really makes you think about what you need to do around the course.
“And the more thought necessary, the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
Much has been made about the mighty length of Pinehurst No. 2 this week with the revered Carolina course ranking second longest in the storied history of the US Open at 7,562 yards, but Donald says as long as the weather remains dry it should not cause too much trouble.
“Any time you play a course and someone is hitting wedge instead of five iron then obviously an advantage,” he continues, “but right now, with conditions the way they are and the fairways running well, it might not be an issue.
“There are a lot of brown spots which is nice to see. We are so used to these heavily-watered manicured courses, but I like the more natural look.
“We’ll see, but it’s meant to thunderstorm tomorrow and get a little bit softer so that could make it a factor but right now, the way it is, I don’t think it is.
The omens may well be stacked in his favour this week, meanwhile, with Donald’s new swing guru Chuck Cook having coached Payne Stewart to a second US Open title when the event was first held here in 1999.