June 10, 2014 - 9:17am
Posted by:
PGA.com staff
dpurdum's picture
Pinehurst No. 2
USA Today Images
The staff at Pinehurst is ready to put on the first back-to-back men's and women's U.S. Open Championships.

PGA.com spoke with Eric Alpenfels, Director of Golf Instruction at Pinehurst, leading up to this week’s U.S. Open Championship. Here is what the PGA Professional had to say.

PGA.com: The late Payne Stewart had a strong relationship with Pinehurst and the staff even before winning the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. What stands out in your memory from Stewart’s win?

Alpenfels: There were so many people up around the 18th hole (during the final round) that it was just impossible to break through. My office was the only place where you could actually see the final couple of holes. So we were up there with my wife and a few people, including Payne’s instructor, Dr. Richard Coop.

Coop told us that Payne had played out the final hole in his head several times. If he missed the fairway to the right, he was going to wedge it out short of the green, hit the shot up onto the green and then make the putt to win the tournament. Right before Stewart stood over the (winning) putt, Coop got up and said, ‘I’ll see you later. I’m going to go greet him coming off the 18th green.’ He knew he was going to make it. He just walked out the door.

MORE: Remembering Payne Stewart 14 years after his tragic death

PGA.com: Where will you be this Sunday during the final round?

Alpenfels: I will be on the driving range in the morning and then probably sitting in my office watching how the final holes play out, simply to avoid all the chaos that will be going on around the 18th green.

PGA.com: What hole do you believe will play the toughest this week?

Alpenfels: I think No. 5 playing as a par 5 is going to be very, very interesting. The fifth hole is traditionally a long par 4, slight dogleg left with a lot of undulation in the fairway. Most of the time on your second shot into this par 4, the ball is slightly above your feet and there’s some trouble to the left. It’s pretty dangerous in the sense that, if you go too far left of the middle green, you can roll it off of the green and into a pot bunker. But it’s playing as a par 5 this time, so it’ll be interesting to see if some of the players try to reach the green in two. You could be left with some really messy and difficult short-game shots, if they miss the green left. That may not play the toughest, but it may be the most interesting hole this week.

I think the par 3’s could play extremely difficult. I think the sixth hole is a really tough par 3 that’s going to play maybe 218 yards. If you land it short of the green, it won’t necessarily skip up. If you hit it to the right, there’s a bunker and a waste area. Give me five more minutes, and I’ll go through them all.

PGA.com: Sounds like a typically difficult U.S. Open setup. What’s your pick for a winning score?

Alpenfels: If somebody comes in at 2-under par, that’ll be really spectacular golf. By design, it’s going to play hard and fast.

PGA.com: What are you and your team’s responsibilities during the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens the next two weeks?

Alpenfels: We have two responsibilities. Our instructors are teaching lots of individual lessons through clinics to accommodate the corporate groups that are in-house for the two weeks. In addition, some of our team is going to be managing the practice facility, the full-swing, the short game areas. For us, it’s a very small role, simply because we have so many volunteers helping out.

Bob Farren, director of grounds for all the courses, quite frankly has done a remarkable job. They’re prepared for the men’s tournament and have all the staff in place to make it go off without a hitch. Then, they’ll turn it around the next week and have it in great condition for the women just like it is for the men.

 

Pinehurst No. 2: Insider's take
June 10, 2014 - 8:08am
Posted by:
PGA.com staff
dpurdum's picture
PGA Professional Greg Stephens
Photo by Randi Stephens
One of many scenic pictures that PGA Professional Greg Stephens has posted on social media.

PGA.com has been publishing Instagram photos of golf courses for a few months and it's proven to be a crowd pleaser. One of our first photographers to share multiple (and creative) images was Greg Stephens, PGA Director of Golf at Victory Ranch Club near Salt Lake City. We talked with him a little bit about his use of social media to promote the game and his golf course.

PGA.com: What equipment do you use to take your photos?

Stephens: It’s all my iPhone 5, and, before the 5 came out, it was the 4. I think I have maybe one or two pictures out of all of them that were done with my Casio high speed, if I was really trying to capture a certain position. But I haven’t taken that out of the bag in the last two golf seasons. Everything the last two years has been strictly iPhone.

I’ve seen a lot of posts (on Instagram) from GoPro. I’ve used it plenty when mountain biking and snowboarding. I’ve never really incorporated it into golf. I’m thinking about dabbling with it a little in golf, because I’ve seen a lot of cool angles and a lot of cool shots from the wide fisheye lens. But right now it’s just the iPhone.

MORE: Check out Carly Booth's amazing workout on her Instagram

 

PGA.com: Your have more than 1,300 followers on your Instagram account, @Instgregs. How has social media benefitted your course?

Stephens: We always have people asking, ‘Where is that golf course?’ and ‘What are the green fees?’ We run into a little trouble, because we’re a high-end private facility. But if this was a public or a resort facility, you would be able to drum up a substantial amount business and increase your rounds through social media. It’s amazing how much more I could get, based on my Instagram.

 

 

PGA.com: What has been the key to your social media success?

Stephens: In my opinion, it comes from the hashtags. Some people think it’s dumb or don’t like seeing photos with tons of hashtags on them. But, in my opinion, that’s how you get your stuff seen. For me, there’s certain hashtags that I’ll always use with a golf photo, whether it’s ‘#golf’ or ‘#golflife,’ ‘#Nike’ or ‘#Nikegolf.’ The interest I’ve gotten I would have to point directly at hashtags, because a lot of time it’s people that I don’t know. It’s maybe people that didn’t follow me at first, but found your stuff through your hashtag and started looking through your page. It’s funny -- I’ve got people from the East Coast that have said playing Victory Ranch is now on their bucket list of golf courses to play. That’s pretty funny, because it comes from me just putting up a picture on Instagram.”

 

PGA.com: Judging by some of your photos, you’re kind of a sneaker head. How many pairs of golf shoes do you have and what is your most unique pair?

Stephens: I’m embarrassed to tell you how many golf shoes that I have. Honestly, a couple hundred pair. The Eric Koston golf shoe (is most unique). Along with being big into snowboarding in the winter time, I’m big into skateboarding. I don’t do it so much anymore, but I do a little bit. I grew up in New York and got my first skateboard literally before I was 2 years old. I started out sitting on my butt, scooting around. I pretty much lived on top of a skateboard until I was old enough to drive. Eric Koston is a skateboarding legend and he is a Nike skateboarding athlete and a scratch golfer. Because he’s so into golf, they made a couple of pairs of shoes last year. It’s a pair of really unique golf shoes, solid red with a black swoosh. The upper (part of it) looks just like his skateboarding pro model shoe, but it’s got a full-on golf sole on the bottom. So it’s a full-on skateboarding shoe converted into a golf shoe.

 

 

 

 

How PGA Professional uses Instagram to market course
Carly Booth
Carly Booth via Instagram
Carly Booth proves she is as accomplished in the gym as she is on the golf course.

The other day, I shared an Instagram video from Scottish golfer Carly Booth, in which she hit an amazing flop shot over the head of a man standing only a few feet in front of her. 

So, for fun, I checked her Instagram account again today – and found that she'd posted a new video that's even more impressive than that flop shot. By a long shot.

GOLF BUZZ: Carly Booth hits a flop shot that even Phil Mickelson would admire 

In this one, the two-time Ladies European Tour champion is finishing up a gym session with some upper body work. With the camera on, she concludes her workout with a show of strength and flexibility that I would expect to see only from an Olympic gymnast or maybe a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.

I can't even describe it without feeling like my arms are gonna rip out of their sockets. Just take a look.

Carly Booth ends workout with eye-popping feat of strength
June 9, 2014 - 8:45am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Miguel Angel Jimenez
European Tour
That's Miguel Angel Jimenez (middle) dancing after a hole out for eagle on Sunday.

By now, we all know that Miguel Angel Jimenez is the most interesting man in golf.

Even so, the Spaniard never ceases to amaze us. Here's his latest offering -- a dance -- after an eagle hole-out during the final round of the Lyoness Open in Austria on Sunday, where he finished in a tie for eighth:

Outstanding. It's right up there with his stretching routine: 

Miguel Angel Jimenez dances after eagle hole out
June 9, 2014 - 7:52am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Payne Stewart, Phil Mickelson
YouTube
When Phil Mickelson finished runner up to Payne Stewart in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, it was the first time in his career Mickelson finished second in the national championship.

With the full understanding that it's nearly impossible to make you feel bad for a guy who has won 42 times on the PGA Tour, including five majors, has a loving family and a permanent smile, I'd like to make a case for Phil Mickelson.

This week, the 43-year-old Mickelson along with 155 more of the best golfers in the world, will descend on Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open.

Right around the time we get to thinking the game owes us one is also about the precise time that the Golf Gods remind us we're owed nothing.

RELATED: Short film captures the essence of Payne Stewart | U.S. Open coverage

But, man, can't Mickelson just get that one U.S. Open trophy to check, "career Grand Slam winner," off his long list of accomplishments?

This is a man who has finished runner up in our national championship on a record six occasions. Six. That's two more than anyone else. Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are all second on the list of most runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open with four apiece.

Snead, like Mickelson, is the lone legend on that list who never snagged a U.S. Open. Jones (4), Palmer (1) and Nicklaus (4) account for nine U.S. Open titles.

Given his record this season -- zero top-10 finishes in 14 starts -- it's hard to imagine, but, this could be Mickelson's best chance at winning the U.S. Open.

And, trust us when we tell you, there's no place Lefty would rather win.

Let's take you all the way back, 15 years ago, to 1999. It was there at Pinehurst when Mickelson was "second-best" at the U.S. Open for the first time in his career. At the time, Mickelson was a 28-year-old, 16-time Tour winner with three top-5 finishes in the majors.

Many were beginning to wonder when Mickelson would win his first major -- it hadn't yet reached the point where some wondered if he'd ever win a big one (for the record, Mickelson wouldn't claim his first major until the 2004 Masters -- his 11th start in the Masters and 42nd start, as a professional, in a major).

That whole week at Pinehurst in June of 1999, Mickelson had two things weighing heavily on his mind: trying to win a major and -- more importantly than anything else -- the impending birth of his first child.

Throughout the week, Mickelson carried a pager along for each round (remember those things?) and swore that if it went off indicating that his wife, Amy, was going into labor, he would immediately leave the golf course to head back home to the other side of the country to be there for the birth of the couple's first child -- no matter his standing in the tournament.

MORE: U.S. Open tee times | U.S. Open qualifer calls penalty on self days later

That would have been the right thing to do -- no one can deny that. But, put in that very situation, it would be interesting to see how many players would leave with a chance to win a major championship.

Luckily for the world of golf, Mickelson's pager never went off. Because of that, we were able to witness one of the all-time epic U.S. Open duels between Mickelson and Payne Stewart.

We all know how it played out. Stewart played near flawless golf all week and holed a long putt on 18 to edge Mickelson in regulation. But, in his exhilarating moment -- and after a bear hug with his caddie Mike Hicks -- Stewart walked over to Mickelson, who had his hand extended to congratulate the champion. Right then, Stewart made the moment about Mickelson. He famously grabbed Mickelson's face on that Father's Day in 1999 and, nose-to-nose, looking the father-to-be Mickelson right in the eyes, Stewart said, "You're going to be a father!"

With those words, Stewart put into perspective that -- compared to being a father -- the U.S. Open was really only a consolation prize. It was an awesome moment.

The next day, the Mickelson's welcomed baby Amanda to the world.

Since then, so much has happened on the course for Mickelson. He's won the Masters three times, the PGA Championship once and just last summer he won the British Open. All he needs (yeah, "all he needs") is that U.S. Open to complete the career Grand Slam and join Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players in history to do so.

It's often said that the U.S. Open is the most difficult of the four majors to win. You're not likely to get an argument from Mickelson there.

On Sunday, Mickelson tied for 11th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, matching his best finish this season. While you'd think that might be cause for some confidence. You'd be wrong. During his final round, Mickelson actually switched his putting grip. Afterwards, when asked about his putting, he said: "Pathetic."

In a U.S. Open, "pathetic" putting isn't going to get the job done. But maybe, just maybe, Mickelson can recapture the magic he had at Pinehurst 15 years ago.

For Mickelson, there would be no better place to complete the career grand slam. 

What a U.S. Open win could mean for Phil Mickelson
Rickie Fowler, Kevin Tway and Chesson Hadley
Rickie Fowler/Twitter
Rickie Fowler, Kevin Tway and Chesson Hadley get ready to fly Sunday via private jet to Pinehurst.

When you absolutely, positively have to get to Pinehurst, N.C., overnight, why not hop on a FedEx plane?

According to a tweet from Rickie Fowler, that's what he, Kevin Tway and Chesson Hadley apparently did Sunday after the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Check out the selfie:

 

 

 

And Ian Poulter is apparently getting a lift as well.

 

 

 

Memphis is FedEx's world headquarters, so the company provided a private jet for the PGA Tour pros to make their journey just that much easier. Certainly beats driving a rental car the 700-plus miles from western Tennessee to the Sandhills of North Carolina.

At least they didn't have to ride in the cargo hold.

 

FedEx delivers golf pros to Pinehurst