Pebble Beach gets US Open look and feel

By Doug FergusonJune 15, 2010, 3:39 am
2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – As the fog began to lift early Monday afternoon, there was no mistaking the scenery that makes Pebble Beach so iconic.

It was the golf course that looked so different.

The fairways are more narrow and defined than they were four months ago when it hosted the PGA Tour. The rough is far more dense, except on the right side of five holes that run along the Pacific Ocean. Native grass is waist-high on the outside edges of bunkers, while the edges near the fairway have been shaved to feed golf balls into the sand.

It’s supposed to be that way. This is the U.S. Open.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy during Monday's practice round at Pebble Beach. (Getty Images)
“Completely different from February,” said Dustin Johnson, the two-time defending champion in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “This is going to be fun. This is going to be a challenge.”

Johnson played early Monday with Tiger Woods, another player who can claim to be a defending champion. Woods won the U.S. Open the last time it was played at Pebble Beach, obliterating the field in 2000 by a record 15 shots.

He’ll have to hit the ball a lot straighter that he has been since returning two months ago at the Masters.

Johnson’s experience at Pebble Beach is pounding the ball some 300 yards in the air and watching it plug in the soggy grass. He’s not used to feeling firm ground under his feet, and seeing the ball bounce along the fairways.

“Any time the ball is bouncing, the ocean is in play more,” he said. “I don’t hit driver as much.”

He did on the par-5 sixth, and while his drive went so far and straight that Johnson only had an 8-iron to the green, he decided when he walked onto the fairway that he will opt for a 3-wood off the tee, maybe even a 3-iron. That would leave him another 3-iron to the green.

A reporter asked if that decision was to keep it out of the rough.

“No,” Johnson replied. “To keep it out of the ocean.”

Right of the sixth fairway is one example where the U.S. Golfers Association has cut down the rough. Any shot that drifts to the right and rolls too much could easily go over the cliff and into Stillwater Cove. Just standing on the sixth tee, the fairway looks like carpet. It’s beautiful to see, more frightening with a club in hand.

It’s like that down the eighth, ninth and 10th fairways, the famous stretch along the Pacific.

Woods played for the second time Monday as players began to arrive from the St. Jude Classic or from their homes. They were greeted with surprisingly chilly air and a light fog, and only late in the afternoon did the sunshine take over.

The weather, not to mention the surf that sends ocean spray onto 18th fairway, was better during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. But at least there is no rain in the forecast, and seven days of sunshine could make Pebble a real menace.

Even so, there were few complaints about the USGA going over the top to make the U.S. Open live up to its billing as the “toughest test in golf.” Ernie Els, who shot a 67 at Pine Valley in his final round before coming to the West Coast, offered a cautious smile when he spoke of the fast fairways and the changes to the angles on some tee shots.

“This course right now is ready for the U.S. Open,” said Els, a two-time champion. “It’s not tricked up. They’ve done a good job. The bunkers are not plugging. I don’t think anyone will be complaining.”

Will he say that on Thursday when he has to put a score down on his card?

“Yes, if they can keep the course the way it is now,” he said. “The weather, obviously, can change. We had only a light breeze today. But if the greens get white, we’re going to have some problems.”

There already is potential for problems on the par-5 14th, especially with the front left hole location. That’s where Paul Goydos lost a one-shot lead in the final round in February with a quadruple-bogey 9, when his wedge went down the slope to the left. His first chip came back at his feet. The next one rolled down the slope on the front of the green.

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson each hit sand wedge at the flag during practice Monday, walked up to the green and were shocked to eventually find their balls down in the rough. McIlroy gouged out a high pitch that struck the branches of the tree and rolled back to his feet. Stenson stood on the green, looked down at his ball and said, “Ridiculous.”

Walking toward the gallery, Stenson motioned at McIlroy’s caddie and said, “I say ridiculous, he says severe. Which is it?” The fans laughed, and Stenson joined them with a smile, but not for long. After one chip he said, “If that doesn’t stay on the green, I’m on the next flight to Orlando.” He was joking. Maybe.

From the front bunker, with a face so steep that Stenson could barely see the top of the flag, he found a solution.

“Here’s what I’ll do,” he said, then stooped over to pick up his ball and tossed it onto the green. “At least I won’t make a 10. I’ll take my two-shot penalty.”

Sadly, his caddie informed him that it wouldn’t count. He still would have to play the shot.

That’s what Monday at a major is all about – getting to the know the course, finding where not to miss, preparing for a grueling week.

Camilo Villegas tried to figure out where to hit his tee shot on the par-3 fifth hole, not convinced by his caddie’s suggestion to aim at the largest tree on the left side of the green. His 5-iron sailed well to the right, toward either the waist-high native grasses or down onto the beach below.

“You might not find that,” his caddie told him.

Villegas turned and smiled.

“It’s Monday,” he said. “I don’t need to.”
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.