The quality of Pebble Beach, which will host its fifth Open this week, is reflected in its list of US Open champions.
Pebble Beach winners match venue
The history of the US Open at Pebble Beach is short. The memories are not. The course, which will host its fifth Open this week, is famous for its 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 is the Hall of Fame champions the course has produced during its four US Opens. The four winners 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 started in 1972 with Jack Nicklaus hitting a one-iron into the cool, ocean wind on the par-3 17th. The ball struck the pin and stopped a foot away for a birdie that gave him the second leg of the Grand Slam. Ten years later, with perhaps the most memorable shot of all, Tom Watson chipped in for birdie from behind the 17th green to deny Nicklaus a record fifth US Open.
In 1992, Tom Kite chipped in on the par-3 seventh hole in the blustery, punishing conditions to win. And then there was Tiger Woods, who won by 15 strokes in 2000, the greatest winning margin in 150 years of major championship golf. Many people have said they expected Woods to win that year. But this year, everything is up in the air going into the 110th US Open, which starts tomorrow. Woods is the world No 1, as he was 10 years ago, but the similarities stop there. His image was shattered during the off-season when he was caught in a web of infidelity, and Woods has not looked the same since returning from a five-month layoff at the Masters and tying for fourth.
For the first time in his career, he failed to finish consecutive tournaments - he missed the cut at Quail Hollow, then withdrew in the final round of The Players Championship with a sore neck. The real measure of Woods might start tomorrow at Pebble Beach. It is a course where he feels comfortable, even though he last saw it eight years ago. It is where he became the first player in US Open history to finish in double digits below par (12 under).
"Places like Memorial, Pebble Beach, the Old Course ? his history is pretty good at those golf courses," tour player Paul Goydos said. "If he goes through all those uncompetitive, then you can ask that question." Woods is four majors behind the record 18 won by Nicklaus. This is an important year with Pebble Beach and St Andrews on the major rotation. Nicklaus still believes Woods will break his record, although he is curious about these next two months.
"He basically won on those fairly easily through the years," Nicklaus said. "If he has problems with those golf courses, sure, they won't come around for a while. Maybe it might be tougher." For now, the more tangible rival is Phil Mickelson. He is a three-time winner at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it was at Pebble Beach in the 1992 US Open that he turned professional. He opened with a 68 that year, only to follow with an 81 to miss the cut.
His career has been like that, filled with up and downs, the changes sometimes swift and with little notice. Mickelson is trending upward at the moment, and he comes to Pebble Beach as the only player capable of the Grand Slam this year. He scored an inspirational victory at the Masters, but has never won the Open. From Pinehurst to Shinnecock to Winged Foot, all he has to show is a silver medal. A year ago at Bethpage Black, Mickelson missed short putts over the final four holes and fell out of contention. He could not catch Lucas Glover, and was runner-up for a record fifth time.
"It's my national open," Mickelson said. "Growing up here, that's a special event for me. I really want to give myself the best opportunity in the US Open. I had a good chance last year. A couple of years I've had great chances and haven't come through, and it's the one event that I'd love to win. "With this tournament being at Pebble ... I feel like there's a good opportunity there." * AP
2000 Winner: Tiger Woods (71 tour wins, 14 majors) Score, margin: 272, 15 shots Runners-up: Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez Summary: In the most dominant victory in the 150 years of major championship golf, Woods opened with a six-under-par 65 and never let up. His 15-stroke win broke the record for widest margin in a major, previously held by Old Tom Morris (13 shots) at the 1862 British Open. Woods became the first player to finish a US Open in double digits under par (12 under) and played the final 26 holes without a bogey. 1992 Winner: Tom Kite (19 tour wins, 1 major) Score, margin: 285, 2 shots Runner-up: Jeff Sluman Summary: Kite closed with a par 72, including two unlikely birdies. Vicious wind and firm turf turned the final round into a battle, but Kite chipped in for birdie on the par-3 seventh and made a 30-foot birdie on the par-3 12th to take the lead. 1982 Winner: Tom Watson (39 tour wins, 8 majors)Score, margin:282, 2 shots Runner-up: Jack Nicklaus Summary: Watson was tied for the lead after three rounds, and 12 players were separated by four shots. Nicklaus ran off five birdies and joined a four-way tie for the lead. On the par-3 17th, Watson hit into the rough, but hit a perfect pitch and the ball dropped for a birdie in one of the most dramatic US Open shots at Pebble Beach. 1972 Winner: Jack Nicklaus (73 tour wins, 18 majors) Score, margin: 290, 3 shots Runner-up: Bruce Crampton Summary: Nicklaus had a one-shot lead going into the final round, when strong winds dried out the course. A gust nearly knocked Nicklaus off his feet during his swing on the tenth, and his drive wound up on the beach. He took a double bogey. Three shots ahead on the 17th, he hit a one-iron that stopped six inches away and he made birdie.