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.

mike davis tiger woods
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.

Getty Images

U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

Getty Images

Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
Getty Images

Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.