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June 5 - A Return to Tradition

It seems fitting in the year that the British Open will be held at St. Andrews in Scotland, the United States
Open will be held at the place many consider to be the St. Andrews of American golf, Pinehurst No 2.

“It’s a thrill for us to have the Open at Pinehurst,” said Marty Parkes the USGA’s Senior Director of
Communications. “Many people consider it to be the St. Andrews of the United States. It has a long great
tradition of golf and to be able to go back there is great. ’99 was the first time we had the Open there and
it certainly was one of the most exciting in history.”

The course has not changed much over the past six years and Parkes admits that the USGA wanted to
return to the resort in North Carolina as quickly as a possible. The course will play just 92 yards longer
than in ‘99 and the set up is basically identical to that in ’99. That’s the first time he’s seen it in his
fourteen years with the USGA.

“We’re going back in six years and that may sound like a lot of time for a lot of people. But for the USGA
that’s like warp speed and that’s a great testament to the golf course.”

Pinehurst No. 2 is about the greens. They are the traditional Donald Ross type which are basically
upside down saucers. That makes playing to the correct part of the green on the approach probably the
most critical shot the pros will take during the week.

“The greens are the most difficult part of the golf course. They are small and very crowned,” said Parkes.
“You have to be accurate and they will be very fast. Those greens are what really makes the No. 2 course
so famous.”

Back in 2002 the Open was played at Bethpage Black. The public course in Farmingdale, Long Island
measured the longest in Open history at 7,214 yards (and has been surpassed this year by Pinehurst
7,267 yards) and it obviously favored the big drivers on tour including the eventual winner Tiger Woods.
His length off the tee and his touch around the greens gave him a big advantage over most of the field.
Everyone has their own choice to win the championship. Parkes, however, answered the question as to
who will win diplomatically.

“I think when you look back at the Opens you see Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus all won four
times; Hale Irwin three times. I don’t think it is any accident that the best players seem to win the most at
the Open.”  

The late Payne Stewart, who lost the year before at the The Olympic Club in San Francisco, when Lee
Janzen completed the biggest come-from-behind win after 54 holes since Hale Irwin came from five
back in 1973, held off Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods, to become only the 19th man to win
multiple US Open Championships. Stewart’s win at Pinehurst No. 2 made him the third man to win the
Open twice during the decade of the ‘90s (following Lee Janzen in '93 and '98 and “The Big Easy” Ernie
Els in '94 and '97). But this year it will be emotional for all golf fans who remember the tragic plane crash
near Aberdeen, South Dakota on October 25, 1999 that claimed Stewart’s life.

“I think it makes it much more poignant for a lot of people because I think for a lot of people that memory
of Payne Stewart making that last putt and that famous fist pump, that is the kind of last image people
have in their mind about Payne Stewart and probably always will,” said Parkes, who also lost his father
that year.