The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

From sandy patches to undergrowth, the 'weeds' at Pinehurst No. 2 offer new look for US Open

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PINEHURST, N.C. - Some of the names at the U.S. Open sound a little different.

Kiss Me Quick.

Fleabane.

Toad flax.

They are among thousands of plants thriving at Pinehurst No. 2 after a 2011 restoration project to the course's natural look from more than a half-century ago. Yet those areas of natural growth also have plenty of what most people would call weeds in an unkempt yard.

This is not the typical pristine look of a course hosting a major championship. Pinehurst looks a lot rougher than the last time the U.S. Open came here in 2005.

"It is what they want to call undergrowth," said Curtis Strange, a two-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN analyst. "I call it weeds. It is everything that you have seen in the worst- kept lawn you've ever seen in your life.

"It is dandelions growing up 12 to 15 inches, it's low growing weeds, and in some cases it's actually difficult to find the golf ball."

Well, that depends on where it lands.

The natural areas have replaced the thick green swaths of high grass typically surrounding the fairways and greens. In some spots, the rough is little more than sandy patches scattered between pine needles or leaves with a few ankle-deep weeds on level terrain.

In others, the ball will vanish in lurking grassy clumps or among plants growing hip-high.

"This golf course at Pinehurst, you have more chances for rub of the green, good and bad then maybe any other Open," Joe Ogilvie said Wednesday on the driving range. "The element of chance is at the forefront here, and I think guys will embrace it."

The revamped rough is the most noticeable piece of Pinehurst's renovation, restoring some of the past natural look while making the course easier to maintain going forward.

"It's different," Billy Hurley III said coming off the putting green. "Never played a gold course like it. It's cool."

Danesha Seth Carley, an assistant professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, assisted on the restoration. That work began in February 2010 with an ecological survey that studies what types of plants were growing here, figuring out which were ones that the course wanted to keep, which they wanted to remove and which they wanted to relocate.

Carley said that most of the course's 75 identified plant species are native to the region. That makes them easier to grow, while having natural areas means Pinehurst Resort officials use less water than they would to make grass grow thick and high in the rough.

Carley is hoping that that Pinehurst's changes will stand out this weekend and during the U.S. Women's Open next week.

"We hope that everybody will see these practices can really enhance the look of a course — the sustainability element, the economics, but really start to educate people that these aren't weeds," Carley said. "Some of these really desirable species, it's just we have to sort of modify the way we think about them."

Ogilvie liked the new look. He pointed to the green conditions down the driving range — minus those natural rough areas — and called them unsustainable long term for the sport.

"They planted a lot of that stuff so they want it to be there," he said. "... When you put me in that native area, it fools me into a false sense of, "OK, I can hit a certain shot out of this.' I probably can't, but when you start putting questions in the golfer's mind, that's when chaos happens.

"I think that's fun to watch for the viewers, it's fun to watch for the spectators. It's miserable for us because it adds a whole different element."

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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