Holding the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on consecutive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 is a brilliant move.
There may be no place in the U.S. that loves golf more than Pinehurst, and the course, designed by Donald Ross in 1907, is suited to define the best player of each gender. No. 2 has no rough around the large crowned greens; it boasts sandy soil that drains well, Bermuda grass that doesn’t need to be grown to obnoxious lengths to be a challenge, ample practice facilities and enough hole locations for back-to-back championships. The women will have the same setup as the men, but shorter and a touch softer.
Is playing back-to-back Opens perfect? No. Weather like we had at Bethpage could interrupt the start of a normal Women’s Open week. And the USGA might need to readjust par, since two of the par-5s at Pinehurst, numbers 8 and 16, will be reduced to par-4s for the men. In an ideal world, there would be equal purses, but the differences in TV ratings, tickets purchased and hospitality tents sold for the men and the women don’t justify such parity. (The Women’s Open is the ladies’ largest purse of the year: $3.25 million, compared with $7.5 million for the men.)
But the upside, particularly for the women’s event, is enormous: added exposure and interest, huge production savings, increased media coverage, possible bargain rates for companies entertaining during both weeks and a rare chance for the Women’s Open to not lose money. And what a bonus for fans who attend. They’ll be able to watch the best for two straight weeks and play some world-class golf on the off days.