PEBBLE BEACH has hosted four U.S. Opens. Each has been, well, historic.
In 1972, Jack Nicklaus became the fourth man to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam in the same season. Two months after winning his fourth (of six) Masters, he joined Craig Wood (1941) Ben Hogan (1951, '53) and Arnold Palmer (1960) by winning his third national championship (he'd get another in 1980), and first in 5 years. It wasn't so much that he did it, but how.
It also, by the way, tied him with Walter Hagen for most professional major titles, with 11. Bobby Jones had won 13, which included five U.S. Amateurs and a British Am.
Anyway, Nicklaus had been tied for the lead after the first two rounds, and was in front by himself through 54 holes. He'd won the 1961 U.S. Amateur there, and the annual Bing Crosby clam bake to start the '72 season. Heading to the par-3 17th, he was still ahead by three. He hit a 1-iron that took one hop on the green, hit the flagstick and ended up inches from the cup for a tap-in. A closing bogey gave him a three-shot victory. He remains the only golfer to win an Amateur and an Open on the same course.
Ten years later, Nicklaus had to settle for second because Tom Watson pulled off one of the greatest shots ever to grab his lone Open title. Again, it happened on 17.
Watson and Nicklaus were tied. Nicklaus was watching on TV. Watson pulled his tee shot right of the green into heavy cabbage. Yet somehow, he got a playable lie. His caddie, Bruce Edwards, told him to get it close. Watson told him he was going to make it. And somehow, he did. Good thing, since the ball probably would have rolled about 10 feet past had it not found the bottom of the hole. Watson then birdied 18, too. It really doesn't get any better.
Fast forward another decade. Tom Kite was that best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major guy. Until Father's Day. At 42, the runner-up in three majors finally got his defining snapshot.
Gil Morgan, at 46, had led after each of the first three rounds. But he closed with an 81, in windy conditions that rendered the course almost unnavigable. Nicklaus, commenting on TV, had actually congratulated Colin Montgomerie for winning, after a 70 left him at 288. Oops. Monty would get passed by Jeff Sluman (71, for 287) and Kite (72, 285). Kite, like Watson, chipped in for a bird. His came at the short 7th. Do you believe in omens? Once again, Pebble had produced a popular/worthy champion.
Which brings us to . . .
In 2000, Tiger Woods took it to a whole new level. And then some.
Earlier that year he'd won the weather-delayed AT & T National Pro-Am on a Monday, his sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory, after trailing by seven with nine holes to go. Remember the pitching-wedge hole-out for eagle on No. 15?
The Open would be interrupted by rain and fog as well. Not that it mattered. It was all Tiger, 24/7, in what was also Nicklaus' last Open.
Woods opened with a 65. He would lead by six through 36, and 10 at the end of 54. His winning margin was 15, following a bogeyless 67 on Sunday, over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jiminez, who became trivia fodder. Nobody else came in under par for the tourney. That broke the record for any major, which had stood since the third British Open in 1862, when Tom Morris Sr. won by 12 over Willie Park Sr. in what was then a 54-hole event. You want perspective? The Battle of Gettysburg was still a year away.
It was unlike anything the game had seen before. Or in all likelihood will witness again in the forseeable future. Not to mention even well beyond. That's how this posterity thing works.
As legacies go, it's been an indelible relationship between venue and moment. Makes you wonder what this Open can possibly produce to live up to those images.
Pebble, which also hosted four U.S. Amateurs from 1929 to '99 (plus a pair of Women's Ams in the 1940s), was the site of the 1977 PGA. Lanny Wadkins won his only major by beating 1961 U.S. Open champion Gene Littler on the third hole of a playoff. It was the first time that any major had been decided via sudden death.
Wadkins was able to overcome a five-shot deficit on the final nine holes of regulation. He made his lone birdie of the fourth round on the 18th. At one point, Littler bogeyed five of six holes. Jack Nicklaus would finish third, one back, after bogeying 17.
About the course
No. 1: Par 4, 380 yards
No. 2: Par 4, 502 yards
No. 3: Par 4, 404 yards
No. 4: Par 4, 331 yards
No. 5: Par 3, 195 yards
No. 6: Par 5, 523 yards
No. 7: Par 3, 109 yards
No. 8: Par 4, 428 yards
No. 9: Par 4, 505 yards
OUT: PAR 35, 3,377 YARDS
No. 10: Par 4, 495 yards
No. 11: Par 4, 390 yards
No. 12: Par 3, 202 yards
No. 13: Par 4, 445 yards
No. 14: Par 5, 580 yards
No. 15: Par 4, 397 yards
No. 16: Par 4, 403 yards
No. 17: Par 3, 208 yards
No. 18: Par 5, 543 yards
IN: PAR 36, 3, 663 YARDS
TOTAL: PAR 71, 7,040 YARDS
Last five winners:
2009: Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black)
2008: Tiger Woods (Torrey Pines)
2007: Angel Cabrera (Oakmont)
2006: Geoff Ogilvy (Winged Foot)
2005: Michael Campbell (Pinehurst No. 2)
2011: Bethesda (Md.) Country Club
2012: The Olympic Club, San Francisco
2013: Merion Golf Club, Ardmore
2014: Pinehurst (N.C.)
2015: Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash.
2016: Oakmont (Pa.) C.C.
The USGA is expected to announce on Wednesday that it is awarding 2017 to Erin Hills Golf Course in Delafield, Wis.
Remaining Major Schedule
British Open: July 15-18, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
PGA Championship: Aug. 12-15, Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wis.
Ryder Cup Matches: Oct. 1-3, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, South Wales.
Also at Pebble
Top 5 at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (which is also played on Spyglass Hill and Monterrey Peninsula), held Feb. 11-14:
Dustin Johnson, 64-68-64-74 - 270
David Duval, 67-68-67-69 - 271
J.B. Holmes, 65-67-68-71 - 271
Steve Marino, 68-67-67-71 - 273
Josh Treater, 70-67-68-69 - 274
J.P. Hayes, 68-71-63-72 - 274
Paul Goydos, 67-65-64-78 - 274
Phil Mickelson tied for eighth, at 275
Thursday and Friday: ESPN, 1-3; NBC, 3-5; ESPN, 5-10.
Saturday: 4:30-11, NBC10.
Sunday: 3-9, NBC10.
If necessary, an 18-hole playoff will be held Monday beginning at noon. ESPN will provide coverage until 2, with NBC picking it up from then until the conclusion. If there's still a tie after 18, the format reverts to sudden death (as happened in 2008).
On the Web: * Log on to philly.com for a live scoreboard from the U.S. Open at www.philly.com/golf