CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Phil Mickelson, often referred to as a man of the people, might need the people to clear out before he gets his first look at Pinehurst No. 2.
Mickelson is in North Carolina for the first of two big tournaments, one weighted a little more than the other. In what amounts to the second stage of the season, he tees off Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship on a Quail Hollow course that has new greens and an exciting new finish.
Six weeks later, he'll be two hours east at Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open.
This would seem like a good time for Lefty to sneak over to Pinehurst for his first look, except for one small problem.
"I've tried to get down there three times now, and the course has been booked all three times," Mickelson said Wednesday. "So I don't know when I'll get down there."
Jonas Blixt, a runner-up at the Masters, played Pinehurst No. 2 on Tuesday. But he was able to get around in relative peace. Mickelson prefers to take his time when he starts studying for the U.S. Open test, and the Donald Ross design is getting plenty of action in the final weeks before it closes ahead of the U.S. Open.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored the old look to Pinehurst by eliminating rough with sandy waste areas dotted with wire bushes, giving it a rugged, natural look. Mickelson might as well wait. After a brutally cold winter, the idea is to let the grass grow. The day Blixt played, the greens were on the slow side and even the tightly mown collection areas were a bit hairy.
"Over par will win," Blixt said with a smile when he was leaving.
Besides, Mickelson is very interested in this Carolina event at Quail Hollow. The course took a beating last year when a combination of factors — maintenance and management demands — about killed the greens. All of them were bumpy and most of them had large patches of mainly dirt.
Quail Hollow is getting the 2017 PGA Championship, and the private club began an ambitious project to redo the greens right after last year's tournament. Bent grass has been replaced by Bermuda, and the contours and sharp edges have been softened.
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