The New Face of Pebble

By Randall MellJune 20, 2010, 6:37 am

2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There’s a look you see on people’s faces when they’re watching fireworks.

Or majestic waterfalls.

Or dazzling geysers.

It’s the same look you see on people’s faces when Dustin Johnson hits it flush.

Johnson makes folks gape in wonder.

Ask all those spectators along the fourth hole Saturday at the U.S. Open.

dustin johnson u.s. open
Dustin Johnson is in search of his third consecutive win at Pebble Beach. (Getty Images)
That’s where Johnson reached the short par 4 with his tee shot.

He drove the green with an iron.

An iron.

Johnson crushed a 3-iron 290 yards to 5 feet to set up his eagle there.

Or ask those folks along the 18th hole.

That’s where Johnson mashed driver and 6-iron to reach the closing par 5 in two shots and set up a two-putt birdie.

At day’s end, U.S. Open patrons were gaping at Johnson’s name atop the leaderboard.

Closing hard with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes, Johnson fashioned a 5-under-par 66, equaling Tiger Woods for low score of the day. At 6-under 207, he’s three shots ahead of Graeme McDowell and five ahead of Woods.

Johnson’s name isn’t on the deed to Pebble Beach Golf Links, but he seems to own this place having won the last two AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Ams played here. Sam Snead (1937-38), Cary Middlecoff (1955-56), Tom Watson (1977-78) and Mark O’Meara (1989-90) are the only players to win that championship back to back. Those pedigrees tell you what a special talent Johnson is to be among them. Still, Johnson, just 25, can surpass them all becoming the first player to win three times here in 16 months.

What is it about Pebble Beach that draws out the best in Johnson as he seeks to breakthrough and win his first major?

“I don’t know,” he said. “The first time I walked out here, I loved the place. And I really enjoy playing golf here. You couldn't ask for a more beautiful place.”

What really makes you gape in wonder is watching how Johnson’s taken control of this U.S. Open. He’s overpowering it. He’s smashing the traditional game plan to winning U.S. Opens with a sledgehammer. This is the championship you win playing conservatively, hitting fairways and greens. It’s a championship you win with delicate, surgical precision. Johnson’s being precise, but it’s stunning how aggressively he’s doing so.

Johnson hit driver at the second hole Saturday, leaving him a sand wedge into that 502-yard par 4.

He also hit driver and sand wedge at the 10th hole, a 495-yard par 4.

But even with short irons, he was sharp. He hit wedge to 6 inches at the seventh hole to make birdie.

“Yeah, he was awesome today,” McDowell said. “He really just stood up and had no fear, hit the shots, hit all the shots. He hit some big, big golf shots today.”

Johnson hit six drivers on Saturday, a lot on this course. Even when he wasn’t hitting driver, he was taking aggressive lines.

“I’ve got a good game plan, and I’m not going to change it now,” Johnson said. “It’s worked so far. So I'm going to stay aggressive and take what the golf course gives me.”

Can he keep overpowering this golf course? Is there a reckoning coming playing a U.S. Open with all its trouble so aggressively?

And if he does win doing so, what revenge might await players at next year’s U.S. Open at Congressional?

“He’s going to go home and sleep on a three-shot lead, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow morning,” McDowell said. “If he turns up tomorrow like he did today, he's going to be tough to beat.  But, Sunday in a major, I'm happy to be in the position I'm in.”

Johnson will be paired with McDowell a second consecutive day. They’ll be playing right behind Woods. Johnson said he didn’t hear all the roars Woods created finishing with three straight birdies, but he saw his move on the leaderboard.

“He's the best player in the world, so it's not a shock to see that he's right there and played really good today,” Johnson said. “I can't worry about Tiger tomorrow. All can I do is worry about myself.  I can't control what he does.  All I can do is I can control what I do.

“I haven't been in this situation, so I don't know.  But I'm going to try my best not to let it affect me.”


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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.