PINEHURST, N.C. — Coastal Carolina University rising senior Andrew Dorn and PGA Tour rookie Donald Constable have something on the other 154 players in the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course.
They are the only players in the field who have won a significant event on No. 2, and the only players with permanent lockers in the resort clubhouse. Dorn won the 2013 North-South Amateur on the course, while Constable won the event in 2010.
The past two U.S. Open winners at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart and Michael Campbell, aren’t in the field, and neither are 2008 U.S. Amateur winner Danny Lee or other North-South champions.
So they’ve got that going for them.
In keeping with his philosophy, Dorn hasn’t set a performance-based goal for the week. He’ll try to stick to a game plan he’s established at Pinehurst No. 2 over the past couple years.
“I’m playing really well right now, so I really don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t go out there and maybe post a few good numbers,” Dorn said. “I definitely have confidence on this course winning here last summer.”
Dorn said about five holes are playing with tee boxes that add length to holes compared to last summer, though “tee shot-wise it’s not that much different,” he said. “And since it’s so firm, you see a 529-yard par-4, but it’s not terribly bad because it’s firm. You’re driver is going about 15 to 20 yards farther than usual, and you’re only looking to hit it on the front edge of the green because the greens are so firm. … The greens are definitely firmer and faster – a lot firmer.”
The Ohio native has enjoyed his first U.S. Open as an experience thus far. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I watch these guys play every week, and to be here sharing a locker room with them and seeing them eating lunch, all of them are so nice and they almost reach out to me because they realize I’m an amateur.”
Dorn expects to be more anxious on the first tee Thursday, when he tees off at 2:42 p.m. with fellow sectional qualifiers Cody Gribble and Chris Thompson. “[Thursday] will probably be a little different,” Dorn said. “It wouldn’t be right if I wasn’t nervous tomorrow. You just have to stay focused on the task at hand and it’s just like any other tournament – that’s how I’m trying to take it.”
Though Andrew Dorn’s instructor is Allen Terrell, eight-time PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson’s former college coach at CCU who now heads his golf school at the TPC of Myrtle Beach, he and Johnson had never met before Monday, when Johnson joined him for a nine-hole practice round.
“When you go to Coastal to play golf there everyone looks up to him because he set the bar,” said Dorn, who in March earned co-medalist honors at CCU’s General Hackler Championship, something Johnson never accomplished in his college career from 2003-07. “You look to his standards. It’s something you can base your level of play off. [The practice round] was awesome. He’s such a cool guy and really nice.”
In addition to Johnson, Dorn has played practice holes this week with players including Hunter Mahan, Patrick Reed, Boo Weekley and world No. 1 Adam Scott, who added his name to Dorn’s for Wednesday’s 1:14 p.m. practice round tee time.
“I thought it was pretty special today to get to play with the No. 1 player in the world,” Dorn said. “Just his whole vibe of how he carries himself and everything, it’s really awesome. He’s an unbelievable class act.”
CCU leaving mark
Dorn’s participation this week marks the second time in the past four years two Coastal Carolina alums of the past decade have played in the same U.S. Open. Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet joined Johnson, his former teammate, in 2011 at Congressional Country Club, missing the cut.
“Since I went there we’ve been good,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a pretty good team with some really good players. Obviously Zack is still trying. I think he’s a good player, he just needs a break here or there to get out here or get on the Web.com Tour. It’s tough. I was fortunate to play well through Q-School.
“Zack’s a good player and I think he’s got the talent to do it, and Andrew looks like he’s got the game.”
A different look
Though the routing hasn’t changed much, Pinehurst No. 2 looks drastically different than the course that hosted the 2005 U.S. Open.
The course is 348 yards longer, stretching the par-70 to 7,562 yards, but the biggest change is the elimination of rough, creation of hard pan sand and wiry grass natural areas along fairways, and a change in agronomy practices and water use that has the course firm and as brown as it is green in places.
One thing that hasn’t change is Pinehurst’s turtle-back greens with undulations that fall off areas of the putting surfaces, affecting players’ abilities to keep approach shots on the green as much or more than their putting, and forcing them to be deft and creative with their short game.
Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson trusts the course setup to determine a deserving champion.
“It forces you to make decisions, make good decisions, to choose the right club off the tee, hit solid iron shots into the green, and utilize your short game to save strokes,” Mickelson said. “There's no luck involved with the hack-it-out rough that sometimes we have around the greens. I think the most exciting shot in golf is the ability to recover, is the recovery shot. And this is going to provide some exciting recovery shots.
“It's just a wonderful test that is, I think, the best test I've seen to identify the best player.”
With the sales on Wednesday of the remaining opening-round tickets, adult tournament tickets are sold out, according to the USGA.
This is the 28th consecutive year the U.S. Open has sold out, and USGA officials have predicted crowds this week will be approximately 50,000 daily.
Tickets for juniors are always available on-site at Will Call and all admission gates during the championship. Juniors ages 12 and younger will be admitted free of charge any day when accompanied by an adult ticket holder. Tickets for juniors ages 13 to 17 will be available for purchase at a reduced rate of $15 for practice rounds and $35 for championship rounds. There is a maximum of two junior tickets per one adult ticket holder.
Tickets for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open are still available. Prices start at $30 for daily tickets and range up to $175 for weekly Trophy Club packages and can be purchased by visiting uswomensopen.com until Monday or Will Call locations at Pinehurst No. 2 during either championship.