Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

June 25, 2014

Abacus Column: Blitzkrieg Sunday

CROSSVILLE — It may be a bit insensitive to describe the final day of two major sport championships as Blitzkrieg Sunday; however the affect on losing players and the swiftness of their defeat may not be more aptly described. On Sunday, June 14, Martin Kaymer blitzed 155 of the best golfers in the world at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, NC with back-to-back 65’s on the first two days of the tournament. He had an eight stroke lead after two days and coasted to the championship while maintaining his eight stroke cushion through four rounds. After hustling back home from Pinehurst # 2, I watched the San Antonio Spurs smother the powerful Miami Heat for the NBA Championship that evening with a dominant 4-to-1 game margin. It was an exclamation point to the coaching and team building artistry of Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich.

If you read my previous column, you realize by now that my handicapping of major golf tournaments is on a par with my golf game; both are way above par. My forecast of Bubba Watson winning the U.S. Open did not enhance any claim I might make as a prognosticator, when Bubba failed to make the cut after two rounds. On Bubba’s behalf, he has always insisted that golf should be fun. Despite what Martin Kaymer fans might believe, there were no players having fun at this U.S. Open; fans yes, golfers no. Bubba was not having fun and had no chance to catch Kaymer after the second round. So why not go home and spend a few days off with his wife and baby boy? This U.S. Open would test players more than any other because of the greens. The greens were not difficult, they were diabolical. Phil Mickelson, my sentimental choice to win, spent more time in the rough than usual. Even after Phil’s amazing ability to recover from the rough, or as Bubba described it, "The Wasteland," the diabolical greens remained undefeated. I was rooting for Tennessee’s Brandt Snedeker all the way, yet even Brandt could not fathom The Wasteland and greens of Pinehurst # 2.

The real winners were evident, with a second place tie, Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler brought their golf game to a level they had never before achieved. Martin Kaymer made "Martin" the most favored name for newborn German baby boys and regained his position as the man to beat in professional golf; a position he held only four short years ago. Golf fans won also; Pinehurst # 2 was a test like no other. If the heat and humidity had risen higher it would have been miserable for both fans and golfers, but the weather was perfect. The USGA and Pinehurst staff and volunteers should be commended for a masterful job of preparation and event management. Now for the inside story of the event as promised:

My son and I were positioned in a perfect shady location to watch both the tee and green on the 15th Par 3 hole when Mrs. Robinson sat next to me. No, not the Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate. Jane Robinson is the mother of three men in their 40's. They all attended and played sports at Appalachia State University. The university is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the city of Boone, NC. Boone is named after Daniel Boone. The Mountaineers play 20 Division I sports and are particularly noted for their football team. The Mountaineers beat Michigan a few years ago and will play the Wolverines again this fall. Jane and her husband Erwin are proud North Carolinians. They are proud of their three sons John, Kevin, and Mylam. John, the eldest at 6'3, towered over his parents. At age 47, John had the unmistakable look of a former college athlete.

When Jane realized I was writing a newspaper article about the U.S. Open, she gave me the insider story of Pinehurst # 2 and her son Kevin. Kevin is an agronomist by training and has been with Pinehurst for 18 years. In 2010, he was in charge of courses six and seven. There are eight courses in the Pinehurst resort, the legendary # 2 played at an average 7,390 yards for the U.S. Open. Pinehurst Management wanted to make a major change at Pinehurst # 2 in 2010. The Bermuda grass rough would be replaced with the natural sand and pine needle grass of the area and the greens would become the domed and undulating super fast greens experienced at the Open. The upside was water conservation and a rough unique to Pinehurst. The former head greens keeper, a traditionalist, was not in favor of the changes requested by management. Management turned to the younger Kevin Robinson for an opinion and found both a supporter of the changes, as well as someone who was uniquely qualified to implement the makeover. Kevin, now in charge of all eight of the Pinehurst courses, is the inside story of the U.S. Open. While Martin Kaymer proved the course was playable by gifted professional golfers, the real story of this U.S. Open was Pinehurst # 2.

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