Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Pinehurst, N.C. _
Donald Constable, the Minnesota native and former Gopher, is such an interesting guy I wasn't able to fit all the good stuff about him in today's column.
He also won a 2010 North-South Amateur at Pinehurst #2 in 2010.
He defended the championship in 2011, which means he's seen the transformation of the course from one with thick rough, to one with sand where the rough used to be, to one with sporadic tufts of wire grass in the sand.
``It's different,'' he said. ``It's a lot different. My last trip here, they had just done the re-do, and everything looked different. It was all really just sand. The little bushes were the size of your hand, so you could hit it anywhere. Now it's really filled out. No. 18 looks much narrower than it used to.
``I have good memories here.''
After graduating from Minnetonka High, Constable accepted a golf scholarship at the University of Texas. After two years at Texas, he transferred to the University of Minnesota.
Minnesota golfers are often asked how they can succeed without playing outside for months at a time.
``I played better golf once I got back to Minnesota,'' Constable said. ``Minnesota's got everything you need. They're going to start building an indoor facility for winter, which is the last step in having everything you need.
``They have a great short-game facility. It's a great spot to work on your game. I really learned a lot while I was there.''
Constable has the upper-body of a weightlifter.
``I lifted playing hockey, and even when I was playing golf in college,'' he said. ``Even now, I lift four or five days a week, even though it's more golf-specific stuff. I enjoy working out and going to the gym. I also like to look good when I go in the lake back home. So you’ve got to stay in shape.''
Yes, he said that with a smile.
Reached former Gophers golf coach Brad James via email on Tuesday to talk about his work with Rask, and his knowledge of Constable:
Here was James' email response:
``Both players have had a long journey to get to the U.S Open this week, both competing on many mini tour events with stints at the highest level for both of them. It’s always fun as a coach to watch how players develop and what pathways they take along the journey after high school and college golf.
``You’d like to think that you played some role on getting the player to where they are today. Both Clayton and Donald were extremely hard workers in college and certainly had the tools to take their games to the professional level. I hope the players take advantage of this opportunity to compete at the ultimate level and learn from the experience so they can have continued success after this week. I am sure a week competing on the world's stage will inspire them to work even harder so this is not just a one off experience.
``One of my favourite memories of Clayton Rask was on his first trip with the U of M team, Clayton woke up early and cooked eggs for breakfast for the entire team. I thought Clayton showed great leadership qualities back then. He was always close to his family and family always came first. I am sure his family is very proud of him this week I can only imagine the entire Rask family driving down to watch him play as they did for every college tournament. Go Gophers!''
I asked Rask how he'll handle his nerves while he's playing in his first U.S. Open. ``I want to take it all in, have fun, stay patient,'' he said. ``This is a grat opportunity just to play my game. This is what I have dreamed about doing and I’m here, so I’m going to take full advantage of it.''
I"ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15. I'll also co-host Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday, from Pinehurst.
Pinehurst, N.C. _
So I'm walking the back nine at Pinehurst No. 2, trying to get a feel for the place while following native Minnesotans and former Gophers Donald Constable and Clayton Rask.
And there's Johnny Miller.
My favorite golf announcer was riding the course in a car, checking out the greens and the rough.
He stopped to chat with a group of fans, and signed autographs, and said two things that jumped out at me:
1: ``I didn't think the rough would look like this, or be this tough. All those seeds must have lain dormant for 100 years under that Bermuda rough, and they saw the sun and said, ``Whoa!'' That stuff (wiregrass) is going to cause some headaches.''
2: ``A lot of guys are going to be pulling their hair out by the end of the week.''
Pinehurst, N.C. _
My Minnesota bias is going to show through heavily in this post.
Met two Minnesota-born qualifiers who attended the University of Minnesota today. Donald Constable and Clayton Rask played a practice round together, with Rask heading to the practice grounds after 13 holes. Both are interesting, engaging guys. I'll have pieces on both in tomorrow's Star Tribune and on startribune.com.
Also, maybe I'm biased, but legendary Pinehurst No. 2 didn't grab me on first examination.
I have no doubt it will be a fine championship test. It will be difficult, and the removal of rough in favor of natural sand and vegetation will make it much more interesting than the old-school hack-and-hope out of knee-length rough. I'm in favor of the changes.
But as someone who expects to see ponds if not lakes on and around every golf course I visit, it's really strange to see a legendary course with only hints of water.
The pine trees are beautiful, and Pinehurst should be congratulated for going for the more-natural looking grass and rough. Course officials are estimating they've cut 70 percent off their previous water usage.
But with no significant bodies of water on the course, it just looks like a long, brutal test of golf. I know all of the traditionalists will hate me for mentioning this, but I have trouble ranking Pinehurst with the great courses.
Pebble Beach offers spectacular views. Augusta National dares you to hit it over water, creating some of the most dramatic risk-reward shots in the game. Our great Minnesota courses either incorporate lakes or are built entirely around them.
There are a dozen Minnesota courses I'd rather play than Pinehurst. That shouldn't be shocking, though: We are blessed with remarkably good courses.
I'll be covering the U.S. Open all week for the Star Tribune. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15 or so from Pinehurst. I'll also co-host Sunday Sports Talk from Pinehurst, 10-noon on 1500ESPN.
Spent most of the morning walking with Bubba Watson's group at The Masters. He's playing wit Sergio Garcia, whose pants are the same shade of pink as Bubba's driver. Not sure they coordinated that.
Bubba won this tournament two years ago and shot what might have been the most impressive round of Day 1, not making a single bogey while playing in the higher winds in the afternoon.
I followed him on the front nine and he was long and volatile as usual. He hit a bomb of a drive on No. 8, then, when his approach went left, he screamed that he had mud on his ball.
On No. 9, he drove long and left, and yelled at a photographer who snapped in his backswing. (Bubba was right to be angry.)
The theme of the week: You can't leave yourself above the hole. I watched two gropus play into the par-4 fifth hole, and all left the ball short of the green rather than chancing hitting it past the pin and facing a downhill putt, or winding up on a different tier.
I like that the course challenges the players' creativity. Thick rough forces all players to gouge the ball out and hope. Augusta National has shaved grass near the greens. So of the six players I watched, three putted, two chipped and Garcia used a fairway wood.
Garcia got to tap-in range. Joost Luiten putted in. Marc Leishman, who had made three birdies on his round, chipped past the hole and two-putted, leading to a collapse.
It's a fascinating course.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey and Judd.
Bill Haas took the lead at The Masters on Thursday, but the course was the winner.
Augusta National demonstrated that fast greens and tough pin placements can defend par without high rough and bad weather.
It was a beautiful day in Augusta, although winds seemed to pick up and affect players in the afternoon. Yet there were only four players in the 60s, and eight in the 80s.
It's funny how this stuff works. Adam Scott, who shot at 69, hit one bad shot on Thursday. His tee shot on the Par-3 12th went into Rae's Creek. He said the lack of wind allowed him to lose focus, and he made a lousy swing.
Gotta be honest, I didn't miss Tiger Woods' golf game, but I did miss his presence today. He creates excitement. A Tiger birdie creates a bigger roar than anyone else's. I spent most of my time following Scott, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, and all three are wonderful players, but Tiger does draw the eye.
Wrote about Scott and leader Bill Haas for the paper. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m., and on 1500ESPN at 12:15 tomorrow from Augusta. I'll also do my Sunday show on 1500ESPN from 10-noon.
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