Pebble No Stone Unturned

By Brian HewittJanuary 16, 2009, 5:00 pm
A nerve has been struck. Yours truly wrote Wednesday about the extensive course changes that have been made, and continue to be made, at Pebble Beach in advance of the 2010 U.S. Open there.
The gist of the changes is that fairways have been extended right up to the coastline hazards on six holes. More drives are going to end up wet without a significant cut of rough to keep them from tumbling off the cliffs.
The Comebacker loves to strike nerves. It is the lifeblood of The Comebacker to respond to e-mails about controversial subjects. And when it comes to Pebble Beach there is no shortage of opinions.
Without further ado:
Todd writes: With the winter drought that we are experiencing here on the Monterey Peninsula, the fairways may indeed be much faster than anyone could imagine in February. With temperatures in the high 70s and no rain in sight, the 'new hazards' may come into play sooner than anyone expected.
The Comebacker Think about it: The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is just that ' a pro-am. Can you say six and a half hour rounds?

Colin writes:This ought to be interesting. I just love watching pro golfers make double bogey. Tiger beat up a course (Pebble Beach at the 2000 U.S. Open) when nobody else could make par, and they want to make it harder. People will watch Tiger no matter what he shoots. They will not watch Phil shoot 80.The USGA better hope Tiger is in contention. One of the reason I watch golf is to see great players make great shots, not watch them decide where the ball crossed the hazard.
The Comebacker Colin, youre all over the map. Let me just say this: The USGA doesnt need to have Tiger in contention. As big as Woods is ' and I believe hes bigger than anybody in the history of the game ' he is not bigger than The Masters or the U.S. Open.

Jay writes: Nice preview to the new Pebble Beach. I thought you might like to know that for those players that haven't played No. 15 recently, many will be surprised to learn about the new/enhanced bunkers that have been added down the left side. One of them even has a built-in ladder to maneuver in and out all kinds of changes are in store for the show this time. One other thing to consider: We are having a very dry winter so far here in the (Del Monte) forest. If this trend continues next year, look for greens and sloping fairways to be a much larger factor...which should bode well for the field vs. Tiger. When the greens are moist, Tiger has a clear advantage with his trajectory and distance control. The real story in '10 though for Monterey, will be Tiger's return to the Peninsula. Just his presence alone is good for a $50M boost to the local economy.
The Comebacker It always seems to come back (no pun intended) to Tiger, doesnt it?

Wayne writes: I had the chance to play Pebble for the last two years during the month of December and of course, the first year I was in awe of all the surroundings and the icon of Pebble itself. Then last year I was more relaxed and enjoyed my round totally, even thought I shot a combined eight shots more than the year before. As a 12 handicap, I do have issues out there as well as other courses, but all in all, Pebble is one of a kind as are the other courses in Monterey. My personal favorite is Spanish Bay, as I shot a round of 84 there last December and was thrilled.
The Comebacker Happy for you, Wayne. But why do I get the idea that one of the first things you bring up at cocktail parties is your Pebble Beach stories.

John writes: I have no doubt that once players understand the purpose of the restoration they will embrace it with open arms.
The Comebacker Dream on, Johnny boy. The Comebacker has no doubt there will be complaining, at the very least at the 2010 U.S. Open. Actually, I think they teach a course on it at Q-School.

Doug writes: I played Pebble Beach more than 30 years ago, calling for a tee time the same morning I played, and the price, with cart, was $55.00. It was and remains the most memorable course I ever played. I think the changes you describe will be great. I am used to seeing deep rough in major championships, and watching the pros hack out from there. Shortening the rough is certainly an opposite for a major, and I for one, am looking forward to seeing how the pros cope. One thing I recall about No. 6 is television does not come close to the actual visual when you are standing on the fairway, looking towards the green, and you have to hit across Stillwater Cove. A scary sight indeed for an amateur.
The Comebacker The thing about Pebble Beach is this: Its the most visually distracting golf course in the world. There is so much beauty in every direction that its hard to stay in your shot. Also, on a sunny day on the Monterey Peninsula, the reds are redder, the greens are greener and the blues are bluer. One word: Kodachrome.

Michael writes: I played there last April for the first time and No. 6 will be diabolical, but then they deserve that. If you fade the ball, better bring a draw or WD.
The Comebacker
There you go.

Alex writes: Here we go again, changing courses to fit the equipment instead of the other way around. My favorite analogy is with the game of baseball. Ballparks are not being constantly enlarged to accommodate souped-up bats and balls, so why do we continue to make these 7000+ plus yard monsters? The lords of golf continue to shamelessly kowtow to the equipment manufacturers and kiss their offered hand so they will continue the big dollar cash flow. And shame on the USGA for not having any backbone. Where is the tournament ball that was suggested as far back as in Bobby Jones' day? Someone has got to stop this madness.
The Comebacker My first thought in response is to remind you that last years U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was close to 7,600 yards. And it was pretty good stuff, as I recall. Pebbles only going up to 7,014 for the 2010 U.S. Open. I wouldnt call that a souped-up monster.

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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1