McDowell braced for Pinehurst: "I might take 5-over and sit in the clubhouse"

McDowell braced for Pinehurst: "I might take 5-over and sit in the clubhouse"

"To me Pinehurst is golfing mecca," says Graeme McDowell.

Graeme McDowell says he feels at home at Pinehurst No 2, which is good news for his chances of winning a second US Open next month.

But despite the absence of rough — Donald Ross' sandy, "native areas"have been restored at the expense of the Bermuda — he has an inkling that if the wind blows on what promises to be a firm and fast track, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that the winning score could be as high as five over par. 

Graeme McDowell practices around the greens at Pinehurst No 2

"I really enjoyed it," he told Pinehurst Resort on a recent visit to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and play a sneaky practice round. "First and foremost, it was very difficult. It's great to be back at Pinehurst.

"[The] 2005 [US Open] was the first major championship cut I ever made. I have good memories here at Pinehurst but it is a very different looking golf course that what I remember in '05.

"The restoration is amazing. I just love the sight lines and the way everything frames up right now. The Bermuda grass, the Bermuda rough didn't really frame the golf course up the way this new fairway and native area does. 

"Standing on tee boxes and seeing the edges and really feeling some of these fairways, it's a great test of golf. It feels like I'm in the sand belt in Melbourne. It feels like I am at Kingston Heath sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I am in Pine Valley and other times I feel like I am at Royal Lytham. 

"It is such a mixture of so many great looks and feels. It is very unique. It really does feel more like a British Open than a US Open around the greens. But this is going to be a great test of golf. I really believe that if the wind was to blow here and if conditions were firm and fast, I'd certainly take level par and sit in the clubhouse. 

"I might take five over par and sit in the clubhouse. I really believe it is that tough and you really have to control your golf ball around here."

Asked about how a US Open with no rough might play differently to US Opens of the past, he said: "You think US Open, you think heavy rough. But in the modern day, that's not what it's all about. You don't want to stereotype the US Open into being something that's the same year in, year out.

"The US Open to me is about going to America's iconic golf courses and Pinehurst No 2 is one of America's most iconic golf courses, especially now that it has gone back to Donald Ross's original architecture, original feel. It's exciting and yes, it's going to be a US Open with which we are not familiar.

No rough but there's plenty of trouble at Pinehurst No 2

"It is going to feel a little but more like a British Open at times but you know what, we don't have to stereotype a US Open into narrow, 20-yard wide fairways and small greens. It can be a Pinehurst No 2.

It’s linksy around the greens which is something I like. You have got to pace putt well here, which I like. And you have got to be very accurate off the tee. I love the way it sets up for me.
— Graeme McDowell on Pinehurst No 2

"It think the players are going to love it and the fans are going to love it and it is going to be a great US Open."

McDowell clearly feels at home in Pinehurst, which is one of the great golfing destinations of the world. As a native of Portrush, he's familiar with places that eat, breathe and sleep golf, which might be a good omen. More importantly, he believes it sets up perfectly for his game as it requires accuracy, good pace putting and some imagination around the greens.

Sand is a constant threat at Pinehurst No 2

"To me Pinehurst is golfing mecca," he said. "You are coming to a part of America that is steeped in history; tThe east coast with all the early settlers. It has a touch of Ireland, it's got a touch of Scotland. It's got a little touch of home up here and it's like going back in time a little bit.

"Golf is in the blood in this part of the world and where I grew up in Portrush in northern Ireland, golf was in the blood. I guess I do feel like there is a piece of home here and the golf courses are spectacular. The hospitality it spectacular and it is just fun. It's a fun place to be."

Asked what it would mean to him to win a major at Pinehurst, he said: "I'm not fussy. I don't really mind where I win my next major championship. My first one was very special. With Pebble Beach being iconic, Pinehurst No 2 being iconic, to follow my first US Open up with a US Open win here would be a bit special. There are going to be a lot of players who have something to say about that. I am going to have to play extremely well.

"But having seen the golf course today, I like the way it sets up for me. Yes, it is long, but it will be firm and fast. It's linksy around the greens which is something I like. You have got to pace putt well here, which I like. And you have got to be very accurate off the tee. I love the way it sets up for me. It is a different US Open for sure but it is going to be a fun one."