Watson Pebble Forever Linked in Lore

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 31, 2004, 4:00 pm
Tom Watson is returning to the place where so much history has followed him. He is at Pebble Beach this week for the First Tee Open, back to a course that he has played a hundred times.
Watson went to college up the road at Stanford and regularly played Pebble as a young man. And in 1982, he chipped in a difficult shot on the 17th hole to win his only U.S. Open. Amongst these are an indescribable amount of memories for the 53-year-old.
I think what defines this golf course is the beauty, he says. I think everybody who thinks about Pebble Beach, the first thing they think about is not that it's a par-72 golf course. They think about the beauty of this place, because that is what this place represents. It's a beautiful golf course.
The area here is - has always had a rich golf history. But only until recently has the Open been played here, starting in '82. But I think that's the element that everybody who plays here, who writes about this place, they understand it and that's the first thought that comes to mind. That's what makes it special.
The Champions Tour members will play with amateurs and youth mostly from the First Tee in the three-day competition. There will be three competitions ' one with the professionals alone, one with the pros and the youth, and one with the pros, youths and amateurs.
Twenty juniors have been selected to play with the elders, representing every area of the country. Those who were selected had to survive a qualifying tournament, but that is not all. They also were judged on personal interviews, essays and decorum. Golf proficiency only comprised 30 percent of each participant's numeric score.
The selection process was devised, in part, to protect the amateur status of The First Tee youths who travel to Pebble Beach. Sponsorship support helps defray travel costs and players could not accept such assistance if their tournament qualifications were based strictly on their play.
Watson wishes a program such as this had been in place when he was a youth. It wasnt, of course. But one memory he will always have is that little chip on 17, from deep rough behind the green to a downward slope. The green has changed somewhat and so has the rough in the 22 years since he won the Open.
I've hit the shot a few times, both in the light and the dark, recalling various attempts to replicate the moment ' and the few times hes tried it after the course had officially closed for the day. We won't go into that, he grinned.
But it was a fresh-faced young man from Kansas City who first laid eyes on the course.
The first time I played Pebble - I came out here from Stanford in 1967, spring of 1967; had a chance to play Pebble then, he said. I don't recall - I think I shot 79 or 80 or 81, something like that, when I first played it. It was everything I thought about.
I remember when Pebble got snowed out. I remember them saying, Today's round has been canceled because of snow. Watching the tournament here all the years, with Bing Crosby, I wanted to play the golf course. It's a beautiful, beautiful golf course.
And Pebble Beach will always be a difficult course, simply because the skimpiness of the size of its greens.
That's the key element in this golf course is how small the greens play, said Watson. They're just tiny. And when you have conditions like they did in the '92 U.S. Open when the golf course got away from them, in the last round, the greens became concrete, then they go from needing a dinner plate to a coffee cup saucer.
Related links:
  • TGC Airtimes

  • Full Coverage - First Tee Open at Pebble Beach
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.