Pebble Beach has short history of great champions

By Doug FergusonJune 14, 2010, 5:10 pm

2010 U.S. Open

The history of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is short. The memories are not.

The course is famous for its sheer beauty, especially the seven holes in the middle that run along the rugged Pacific coastline, and the wall along the 18th fairway that stands between the great meeting of land and sea. Adding to its mystique is the World Hall of Fame champions Pebble produces in the U.S. Open.

The four winners collectively own 202 victories on the PGA Tour and 41 majors.

“Great venues have great winners,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “Most members have it wrong. They think high scores validate their golf course. It’s great champions that validate a golf course, don’t you think? And they’ve all been great tournaments.”

 

Tom Watson
Tom Watson hit one of the most memorable chip shots in golf history at the 1982 U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
No doubt, they have been memorable.

 

It starts in 1972 with Jack Nicklaus hitting 1-iron into the cool, ocean wind on the par-3 17th, the ball striking the pin and stopping a foot away for the birdie that gave him the second leg of the Grand Slam.

Ten years later, with perhaps the most memorable shot of all, Tom Watson chipped in for birdie from behind the 17th green to deny Nicklaus a record fifth U.S. Open. Tom Kite chipped in on the par-3 seventh hole in the blustery, punishing conditions to win in 1992.

And then there was Tiger Woods.

Asked for his favorite memory from 2000, Woods settled on the 3-foot par he made on the final hole. Nothing really stands out from that week because so many shots were right where he was aiming. How else to explain a six-shot lead after 36 holes, a 10-shot lead going into the final round and a 15-shot victory that stands among the great feats in 150 years of the majors?

“I didn’t do anything special that week,” Woods said. “Everything was just on.”

Everything is up in the air going into the 110th U.S. Open, and the fifth at Pebble Beach, which starts next Thursday.

Woods is No. 1 in the world, as he was 10 years ago coming into the U.S. Open on the Monterey Peninsula, but the similarities stop there. His image was shattered during the offseason when he was caught in a web of infidelity, and Woods has not looked the same since returning from a five-month layoff at the Masters and tying for fourth.

For the first time in his career, he failed to finish consecutive tournaments – he missed the cut at Quail Hollow, then walked out in the final round of The Players Championship with a sore neck. The next day, he and swing coach Hank Haney ended six years together.

The real measure of Woods might start at Pebble.

It is a course where Woods feels comfortable, even though he last saw it eight years ago. It is where he became the first player in U.S. Open history to finish at double digits below par (12 under).

“Places like Memorial, Pebble Beach, the Old Course … his history is pretty good at those golf courses,” Paul Goydos said. “If he goes through all those uncompetitive, then you can ask that question.”

In the bigger picture, Woods is four majors behind the record 18 won by Nicklaus. This is an important year with Pebble Beach and St. Andrews on the major rotation. Nicklaus still believes Woods will break his record, although he is curious about these next two months.

“He basically won on those fairly easily through the years,” Nicklaus said. “If he has problems with those golf courses, sure, they won’t come around for a while. Maybe it might be tougher.”

For now, the more tangible rival is Phil Mickelson, who brings as much hope as he does scar tissue to the U.S. Open.

Mickelson is a three-time winner at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it was at Pebble Beach in the 1992 U.S. Open that he turned pro. He opened with a 68 that year, only to follow with an 81 to miss the cut.

It’s about like his career, filled with ups and downs, the changes sometimes swift and with little notice. Mickelson is trending upward at the moment, and he comes to Pebble Beach as the only player capable of the Grand Slam this year.

His inspirational victory at the Masters, where wife Amy showed up for the first time since being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, allowed him to break out of the pack behind Woods with his fourth major, the most of active players next to Woods.

Mickelson might trade them all for a U.S. Open, the major that is haunting him. He was runner-up a year ago for a record fifth time. From Pinehurst to Shinnecock to Winged Foot, all he has to show for the U.S. Open is a silver medal.

“It’s my national open,” Mickelson said. “Growing up here, that’s a special event for me. I really want to give myself the best opportunity in the U.S. Open. I had a good chance last year – a couple of years I’ve had great chances and haven’t really come through – and it’s the one event that I’d love to win.

“With this tournament being at Pebble … I feel like there’s a good opportunity there.”

He typically plays the week before a U.S. Open to get into the flow of competition. This year, Mickelson took the week off and is spending time at Pebble developing a strategy.

Depending on how Woods fares, Mickelson could go to No. 1 in the world for the first time by finishing as high as second. A victory would allow him to join some elite company – Woods, Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer – as the only players in the last 50 years to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam.

This is the 50-year anniversary of what some consider one of the best U.S. Opens ever, a convergence of three great golfers when Palmer held off aging Ben Hogan and Nicklaus, a 20-year-old amateur, in 1960 at Cherry Hills.

Such a scenario is possible at Pebble Beach.

Watson is 60 and was given a special exemption, making him the only player to compete in every U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. It was only 11 months ago that he came within an 8-foot putt of winning the British Open at Turnberry, and no one is ruling him out.

Woods and Mickelson represent the present.

The future? It’s loaded.

Already this year 10 players in their 20s have won on the PGA Tour, though not all of them qualified. Among the threats are Rory McIlroy, who shot a course record 62 to win at tough Quail Hollow two days before his 21st birthday. That was the same day that 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa shot 58 to win on the Japan Tour.

Anything is possible at Pebble Beach, a course that has been magical when the U.S. Open comes to town.

The course is nearly 200 yards longer than it was 10 years ago, most of that length coming on the ninth and 10th that run along the ocean, and on the 13th hole. At 7,040 yards, it is the shortest U.S. Open course since 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.

Length isn’t usually the problem. It’s the wind off the ocean.

“It’s one you can play in many different conditions,” said Nicklaus, who has often said that Pebble Beach was where he would go if he could play only one more round of golf. “It requires not only golfing skills, but discipline. You’ve got to be in control. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”