U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach
Memorable champions are part of the history of the famed course.
The history of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is short. The memories are not.
The course is famous for its sheer beauty, especially the seven holes in the middle that run along the rugged Pacific coastline, and the wall along the 18th fairway that stands between the great meeting of land and sea. Adding to its mystique: the Hall of Fame champions Pebble produces in the U.S. Open.
The four winners - Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, and Tiger Woods - collectively own 202 victories on the PGA Tour and 41 majors.
"Great venues have great winners," Geoff Ogilvy said. "Most members have it wrong. They think high scores validate their golf course. It's great champions that validate a golf course, don't you think? And they've all been great tournaments."
No doubt, they have been memorable.
It starts in 1972 with Nicklaus hitting a 1-iron into the cool, ocean wind on the par-3 17th, the ball striking the pin and stopping a foot away for the birdie that gave him the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Ten years later, with perhaps the most memorable shot of all, Watson chipped in for birdie from behind the 17th green to deny Nicklaus a record fifth U.S. Open. Kite chipped in on the par-3 seventh hole in the blustery, punishing conditions to win in 1992.
And then there was Woods.
Asked for his favorite memory from 2000, Woods settled on the 3-foot par he made on the final hole. Nothing really stands out from that week because so many shots were right where he was aiming. How else to explain a 6-shot lead after 36 holes, a 10-shot lead going into the final round, and a 15-shot victory that stands among the great feats in 150 years of the majors?
"I didn't do anything special that week," Woods said. "Everything was just on."
Everything is up in the air going into the 110th U.S. Open, and the fifth at Pebble Beach, which starts Thursday.
Woods is No. 1 in the world, as he was 10 years ago coming into the U.S. Open on the Monterey Peninsula, but the similarities stop there. After being caught in a web of infidelity, he has not looked the same since returning from a five-month layoff at the Masters and tying for fourth.