Risk-reward possibilities at Pebble Beach for US Open


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Despite its reputation of turning par 5s into par 4s for the U.S. Open, the USGA has tried in each of the last four years to have at least one par 4 in which players are tempted to drive the green.

Pebble Beach has a couple of candidates, although Mike Davis might not know which will work – if any – until the tournament begins.

“I think this using different teeing grounds … whether it’s a drivable par 4 or a different tee for a par 3 or a par 5 or whatever, the idea is to mix it up,” Davis, the senior director of rules and competition, said Monday at the U.S. Open media day. “It makes the players think more. And, really, in some cases if you get a drivable par 4 or some other risk-reward, it allows a spreading of the scores.

No. 7 at Pebble Beach“Instead of just seeing pars and bogeys, you might see some eagles and birdies, but you also might see some double bogeys.”

It would seem the best candidate is the par-4 fourth, which measures 331 yards on the card. It plays slightly uphill to a small green surrounded by bunkers, with a severe drop toward the Pacific Ocean on the right and a gully behind the green.

“So much of it really plays into what wind we’re going to get that week,” Davis said. “We think we’re going to tend to get a westerly or a north wind, but that plays into it so much. Because if we set it up thinking it’s going to play one way and we get a different kind of wind, it would backfire on us. We know there are some options out there to do different things. We’re going to have to wait until we get the weather forecast right before we set tee markers.”

Some players took on the 321-yard sixth hole at Winged Foot in 2006, the first year Davis was in charge of setting up the courses. Oakmont had two par 4s that could be reached – Nos. 2 and 17 – while the USGA moved forward the tees on the 14th at Torrey Pines. Davis contemplated a forward tee for the downhill sixth at Bethpage Black, although rain negated that.

Beyond the fourth, it’s possible to see forward tees on the par-4 third hole to tempt players to take it over the trees with a draw and cut off the dogleg, as Dustin Johnson did during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It also would not be surprising to see a forward tee on the signature 18th hole to give everyone a chance at going for the par 5 in two.
Vijay Singh has the longest active streak of consecutive majors played at 63 through the Masters. Whether he can continue that streak at the U.S. Open could depend largely on the next two days.

Two weeks remain to get into the top 50 and receive an exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Open. The focus typically is on those who are just outside the top 50, such as Rickie Fowler at No. 53.

For Singh, it’s a matter of staying there.

He started the year at No. 26, and when he missed the cut at The Players Championship, his ranking tumbled to No. 46. Singh is playing the Texas Open and the Byron Nelson Championship the next two weeks, which might not work to his advantage if he doesn’t play well. Singh has missed his last three cuts and has only one finish in the top 10 this year.

He likely will need to pick up some points over the next few weeks to stay in the top 50, depending on what happens behind him. Singh already is eligible for the British Open as a Presidents Cup team member.

Those outside the top 50 needing to move up include Graeme McDowell (51), J.B. Holmes (52) and Anders Hansen (56).
Lorena Ochoa spent two years at Arizona before turning pro. She sounds as though she wishes she had stayed longer, and in an era of teenagers turning pro, she wishes more of them would.

“My advice for the young players would be make sure you finish your junior career and go to college and then become professional after that,” Ochoa said at her final tournament in Mexico. “The LPGA is going to be there forever. There is no rush.”

Ochoa said going to college allows players to learn to compete and pick up a degree, along with gaining maturity on and off the golf course. She is concerned to hear so many players 17 and 18 thinking about going pro.

Michelle Wie is doing both, and she appears to be far more at peace with herself since starting at Stanford.

“I say, ‘Go to college, stay in college,”’ Ochoa said. “Figure out what you want to do 100 percent, so by the time you play three or four years, you don’t burn out and you can stay playing golf longer.”

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Alexis Thompson will make her pro debut next month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Paul Goydos was irritated after his final round of The Players Championship, and not just because of a five-putt on No. 7 and an 81 on this scorecard.

Sunday – or even Monday as was the case at the Bob Hope – have not been kind to him.

In the nine final rounds Goydos has played this year, he has shot over par in every round but one – a 65 on the final day at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open.

He shot an 80 on the last day of the Bob Hope. Tied for the lead going into the final round at Pebble Beach, he made a nine on the tricky 14th green and shot 78. In his last two final rounds before Sawgrass, he shot a 78 at the Houston Open and a 77 at Quail Hollow.

His scoring average for the final round is 75.11.
Tom Watson has been selected to receive the Byron Nelson Prize next week in Dallas, given to a person in golf who embodies the philanthropic spirit for which Nelson was known. … Either these guys are good, of this course was soft. Whatever the case, there were only five rounds in the 80s last week at The Players Championship, the fewest since it moved to the TPC Sawgrass in 1982. … Newcomers to the popular CVS Caremark Charity Classic in Rhode Island include Suzann Pettersen, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler. The tournament, hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade will be held July 27-29 at Rhode Island CC with a 20-player field. It has raised more than $13 million for local charities. … Juli Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer have been selected assistant captains for the U.S. Solheim Cup team next year in Ireland. … The USGA accepted a record 1,296 entries for the U.S. Women’s Open this year at Oakmont. That includes 10-year-old Karen Kim.
The PGA Tour event with the longest streak of American winners is the Texas Open, which dates to 1992 when Nick Price beat Steve Elkington in a playoff.
“Johnny Miller criticizes everything I do.” – Tiger Woods, when asked about Miller’s suggestion that Woods needs to get rid of swing coach Haney Haney.