The 119th U.S. Open Championship, which begins Thursday at 6:45 a.m. PDT, is the sixth time the USGA has brought the national championship to Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most scenic and iconic major championship venues in the world. In all, the USGA has utilized this seaside course for 13 championships, including the 2018 U.S. Amateur.
Players widely regard Pebble Beach, which will play to par 71 and 7,075 yards, as among the finest venues for the U.S. Open. “It tests everything of your ability, and that's the way U.S. Opens should be,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, who has finished 2nd and 3rd in his championship starts at Pebble. “If you just look at these par 3s, you've got everything from a 2- or 3-iron to a lob wedge on the par 3s. You’ve got great par 4s, long ones. You’ve got doglegs. You’ve got elevation changes, and you’ve got small greens with heavy rough.
“If you’re ever going to have a blueprint on a U.S. Open, this is the one.”
“Pebble Beach for a U.S. Open is like playing The Open Championship at St. Andrews. It’s that special,” said 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott. “But when it comes to scenic venues, Pebble Beach is probably the most spectacular in championship golf.”
The tapestry is everything in championship golf, so this week’s U.S. Open is sure to be memorable. Here are three things to look for in the opening round.
Open Season at the Open
Don’t be surprised if Pebble Beach, relatively short and with its small greens, proves to be the ultimate equalizer among the field of 156 players. Many of the game’s long hitters might hit driver on only five or six of the 14 driving holes. And while two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka insists his power remains an advantage – because he can hit irons on some holes where other players might still need a driver – several players of medium length expressed confidence that they’ll be better able to compete this week than in the past few years. Jim Furyk, 49, who won the 2003 U.S. Open, is among them. “I feel like Erin Hills and Shinnecock [in 2017 and 2018] were set up for the long hitter,” Furyk said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the case at Pebble Beach. It’s going to be a little more about strategy and keeping the ball in the fairway, and hopefully that gives me a little more of an opportunity.” In short, this U.S. Open is open to more contenders of different playing styles.
Winning Breeds Winning
Four of the five winners of the U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach had previously won the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the exception being Graeme McDowell in 2010. Two men, Jack Nicklaus in 1972 and Tiger Woods in 2000, won both in the same year. Phil Mickelson, still trying to break through after six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open, could join them and complete the career Grand Slam. In addition to Woods and Mickelson, other past Pebble Beach Pro-Am winners in the field are Dustin Johnson, the 54-hole leader here in the 2010 Open; Jordan Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open champion; Brandt Snedeker and 2016 PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
No Feelings of Deja Vu
Having just mentioned how Pebble Beach Pro-Am winners have fared so well in U.S. Opens here, it’s worth noting that Pebble is nothing like the layout players encounter each February. The course is traditionally soft that time of year, meaning that balls will stay on the fairways and approaches will hold the greens, often even from the rough. Speaking of rough, it is barely a factor for the PGA Tour event because a full field of amateurs has to get around the course with their pro partners. The fairways are also wider. And on the greens, in another nod to helping the amateurs, the hole locations – which remain the same for the first three rounds – aren’t as challenging as those utilized for this championship. All in all, the pros will recognize the layout and the routing, but not the examination. Unless they were here in 2010. Or, in some cases, 2000.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to usopen.com and usga.org.