Just something about Pebble Beach

By Rex HoggardFebruary 11, 2010, 4:40 am

“Rex,” the voice at the other end of a one-bar cell phone connection sighs, “there’s just something about a Pebble Beach Open.”

And with that Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s top golf course set-up man, offered a “Cliff’s Notes” journey down a scenic nostalgia lane. From Nicklaus in 1972 to Watson in 1982 and even Woods’ brutish masterpiece in 2000, Davis offered an oral resume for the greatest meeting of land, sea and air in the game, or so the old saw goes.

Those with ADD will dismiss the allure of Pebble Beach to the old real-estate rule – location, location, location. But then the four national championships played on the Golf Links transcend soulful views and Polaroid-perfect snapshots of Carmel Bay. After all, we enjoy a steady parade of such images each year when the old Crosby comes to town.

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Mike Davis has overseen the course setup at the U.S. Open since 2006. (Getty Images)
No, the views may fill postcards and promotional material, but for Davis the magic of Pebble Beach lies in the simple genius of the design. Much like the Old Course at St. Andrews and a good merlot, Pebble Beach has aged well.

And give credit to the USGA and Davis on this. Some will glance at the results from the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and might wonder aloud: Was the tee sheet at Torrey Pines all filled up?

“It’s funny the people who say, ‘Fifteen strokes (Woods’ margin of victory in 2000)? Do you really want to go back there,’” Davis laughs. “You really want to shake these people and say, ‘The best the rest of the field could do was 3 over.’”

Woods’ four-round 2000 TKO aside, the links have delivered, which is why the championship returns to Monterey in June and why many players decided to brave “Crosby Weather” and five-hour pro-am rounds to play this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

They all know the drill. February Pebble Beach and June Pebble Beach may be of similar DNA, but many consider the two separated at birth. This week’s celebrity-driven event will be wet with little to no rough and greens on the SpongeBob Square Pants side of the Stimpmeter.

There are, however, nuggets to be gleaned from a few soggy rounds in February.

“The biggest thing will be the sight lines,” Davis said. “It will be a much different look from what they saw last year.”

Players will discover new tee boxes at Nos. 9, 10 and 13 that add between 40 to 50 yards to each hole, shifted fairways at Nos. 8 and 18 and new mowing patterns that bring the water into play on every hole that runs along the water.

“I think that's great. That's what the ocean is there for to catch off-line shots, and if you have thick rough, one bounce and it just stops and takes away an extra shot,” said Luke Donald, who usually comes out to a major championship venue a week early to prepare but with his wife expecting the couples’ first child at the end of March he needed to do some early scouting.

“Why not let the lay of the land determine what happens to your golf ball? Don't let long rough grab the ball. I'm sure there will be long rough on the other side, though.”

Smart man that Luke Donald. On the famed 18th hole, for example, the fairway has been shifted to the left toward the ocean while the rough has been grown down the right forcing players toward the hazard.

Players can also count on a few Davis staples like tightly mown areas around greens (No. 14), graduated rough and even a drivable par 4 . . . maybe.

“We have a few options, but I’m not sure we’re going to have one. We’re going to have to look at the course that week,” Davis said.

That’s not to say, however, that Davis and the USGA are content with the Pebble Beach status quo. The layout may be timeless, but new groove regulations notwithstanding technology marches on.

“There are things we wanted to work on,” Davis said. “Jack Nicklaus hit the green in two (shots) in 2000 at (No.) 18. He was what? 60 (years old). That gives you an idea how it played.”

Translation: Phil Mickelson might want to rethink that no-driver U.S. Open experiment from a few years back.

It is exactly the outlook players have become accustomed.

“The USGA has figured out to make holes harder and players more upset before they even get there,” Brad Faxon said.

Still, the fact there was no Rees Jones extreme makeover after the 2000 Open is exactly what makes the seaside gem so special, and why Davis gets nostalgic when he imagines the possibilities.

“Pebble is Pebble. We don’t have to do too much. Every time we have an Open at Pebble something historic happens,” said Davis, USGA executive, armchair architect and, when it comes to Pebble Beach, hopeless romantic.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.