It’s a place of myth, magic and great champions. It’s a name, Pebble Beach, that evokes other names, those such as Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods.
A golf course can be equated to a battlefield. It’s what happened there that makes it unforgettable. Through the years at Pebble Beach, what’s happened is four times the U.S. Open was played and four times top players won.
No flukes here. No lesser knowns. No unexpecteds. No Orville Moodys or Lou Grahams, not that they couldn’t play.
A great course produces great champions, and so the probability is that the 110th U.S. Open, starting today at Pebble Beach, will give us a winner who’s familiar, a winner who’s a star.
Maybe a Phil Mickelson, who turned 40 on Wednesday, and has finished second four times in an Open. Maybe Lee Westwood, the Englishman who is No. 3 in the world rankings. Maybe a Tiger Woods, who won the 2000 Open at Pebble by 15 shots and seemingly has moved on from his tumult.
What happens this time? Does the champion offer a finish with a flourish, as did Jack Nicklaus in 1972 when he hit the flagstick of the 17th with that 1-iron shot? Or is there a stunning conclusion, a sudden turn, as when Tom Watson in 1982 chipped in from the rough off that same 17th.
Or does a player, as did Tom Kite when he ended all the talk of being the best golfer at the time never to win a major, come up with an unlikely chip-in at the iconic 7th hole in 1992? Or, unlikely as it would appear, could anybody duplicate Tiger’s historic runway of 2000?
To triumph at Pebble in an Open takes patience. Poor George Archer.
The late San Francisco native had been around Pebble Beach so many times in other circumstances. But the tricked-up, wind-blown course for the 1972 Open, the first here, so vexed him in the final round he shot 87 and intentionally whacked a ball into Carmel Bay on 18.
To triumph at Pebble in an Open takes brilliance. Woods in 2000 never made worse than a par his first 22 holes or his last 26. Nick Faldo, who has gone behind the microphone for CBS and The Golf Channel, was in the field.
“I’m happy,” said Faldo, “I finished less than 20 strokes back.”
Ernie Els, tied for second with Miguel Angel Jimenez, could only sigh, “What do we have to do to get him?”
Men and their moments. U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach have created an abundance.
And starting today, there should be many more.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.