U.S. Open invades Pebble BeachWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The U. S. Open will be contested at one of the most beautiful and challenging locales in the world, Pebble Beach. It is a public golf course, although green fees are over $500.00 per round, and is at the top of every golfer’s bucket list. For you number guys, Pebble Beach will have a 76.3 index and a 149 slope rating for the tournament. Most scratch amateur golfers would fail to break 100 on the course.
Pebble has hosted some rather memorable Opens in the past. In 1972 Jack Nicklaus bounced a 1 iron off the flag on the 71st hole, made birdie and went on to win his second U. S. Open title. In 1982 Tom Watson chipped in from an impossible lie on that very same 71st hole for birdie to beat the aforementioned Nicklaus. Tom Kite outlasted the field on the wind swept fairways and rock hard greens to claim his only major title in 1992. In 2000 Tiger Woods did the unimaginable, he was the only player to finish under par and beat the rest of the field by 15 shots.
9,052 aspiring amateur and professional golfers entered qualifying for the 156 man field that will tee it up for the 2010 championship. Two of the hottest golfers currently on the planet Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler failed to qualify and will not be in the field. Their absence has prompted the media to question the qualifying requirements for the tournament and have called for revisions to the entry cut off date. PGA Tour Veteran, Vijay Singh, was awarded a special exemption into the tournament due to some physical ailments that contributed to his poor play early in the season, dropped him out of the top 50 in the world rankings and made him otherwise ineligible.
With the absence of Tiger Woods in the winner circle every other week and battling swing problems, as well as, some personal demons, there have been some opportunities for new faces to pick up trophies. Through 24 tournaments thus far in 2010, ten events have been won by players under the age of 30. Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan, Camilo Villegas, Justin Rose, Bill Haas, and Dustin Johnson have all collected first place checks and could vie for their first major win.
Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are two international players that have been playing well and have the type of games that would allow them to contend at Pebble Beach. Padraig Harrington is coming off knee surgery but always seems to do well in major events.
I’ve failed to mention fan favorite and #2 in the world, Phil Mickelson. He drastically needs a U. S. Open trophy for his mantle and has had success at Pebble Beach in the past. His “attack and take no prisoners” type of golf doesn’t really fit a typical USGA course set up with tight fairways and cow pasture rough, however. If he can’t keep his long booming drives on the fairways he may have a long week on the Monterey Peninsula.
Can Tiger find his game? Can Phil add the U. S. Open to his majors won list and overtake Tiger for #1 in the world? Will an international player or someone under the age of 30 win their first U. S. Open? All these questions that will be answered next Sunday on the “Back 9” at venerable Pebble Beach.