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Pinehurst No 2 to host 2005 US Open

The 2005 U.S. Open was awarded to Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, the USGA executive committee announced today.

Pinehurst No. 2 was the site of the 1999 U.S. Open won by the late Payne Stewart. The North Carolina site beat out the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. It was Riviera's chance to stage the national championship for the first time since 1948.

At the USGA's annual winter meetings here, the executive committee chose Pinehurst No. 2 because it met tougher course standards. Riviera, designed by George Thomas in 1927, would have had to tighten a number of fairways and undergone a complete reconstruction of the greens.

The USGA decided it would not be in its best interests to award the U.S. Open to a course that didn't already have the necessary changes in place.

The announcement that the Open was returning to the North Carolina Sandhills after successfully hosting it in 1999 was not much of a surprise.

The timing was. The six-year turnaround is the quickest the USGA has awarded a U.S. Open to the same course since the 1940s. The normal turnaround time for the Open at such courses as Oakmont, Pa., and others is at least eight years.

The last time the USGA returned to a course so quickly for the U.S. Open was Canterbury Golf Club in 1946, after the Ohio course had staged the 1940 Open.

"It's like winning the lottery twice. This is unprecedented," Pinehurst president Pat Corso said today before boarding a plane to the West Coast. "This is a pretty prideful thing for them to come back this soon."

Last year's tournament was only the second time the Open had been played in the South. The USGA had steered clear of such hot-weather venues in the past, fearful greens would be difficult to maintain.

But with its rebuilt greens, successful merchandising, smooth operations and sold-out corporate hospitality village, Pinehurst No. 2 got rave reviews for its first Open from the players, the USGA and the national media, who were skeptical that a village as small as Pinehurst, about 80 miles southwest of Raleigh, could host an event as large as the U.S. Open.

"Nothing would have happened again if the course would not have held up," said Corso. "It brought back to the game the idea of chipping and putting."

Corso also said the event was relatively free of traffic jams and other logistical headaches.

"I'm not so sure the event in 1999 didn't prove that rural locations may be more advantageous than metropolitan locations because you're not fighting the commute," Corso said.

"When you had as little problems as (the USGA) had they probably couldn't wait to come back," added Don Padgett, director of golf at Pinehurst.

The 1999 event was also a boon to North Carolina, pumping between $160 million and $180 million into the economy, officials said.

"I think by being designated as a host to the national golf championship it makes a strong statement as it's an area where the best players in golf and the whole golf industry convenes," said Caleb Miles of the Pinehurst Convention and Visitors' Center. "It is a strong statement about the importance of Pinehurst and the game of golf."

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