2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach: Who will ride the winning wave?
Tiger Woods waits to putt on the 18th hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament Wednesday, June 16, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Phil Mickelson hits a drive on the seventh hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Fans on the 17th hole watch a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament Wednesday, June 16, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Seung Yul Noh, right, and Y.E. Yang of Korea walk up the 18th hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament Wednesday, June 16, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
By Darren Feeney/ KFMB Interactive
A decade has passed since Pebble Beach last hosted a U.S. Open Championship. The course has undergone significant changes since then—perhaps not all that noticeably to the spectators—but undoubtedly visible to the players.
The Arnold Palmer Design Company offers a new and more challenging setup, including significant enhancements to the bunkering on several holes, new tees and new fairway alignment.
It's not a completely new Pebble Beach, but rather a more intensified Pebble Beach.
Whoever hoists and puts a pair of lips on the US Open trophy Sunday evening will certainly have done two things well: Keep the golf ball astray from the treacherous cliffs and dial in on approach shots to the abnormally small greens.
The tournament could definitely be won on holes four through 10, 17 and 18—which just happen to be the most scenic.
Players will have to battle likely windy conditions on those holes, making club selection crucial on the par-3 5th and 7th. Holes 6, 8 and 9 will force players to decipher between a driver and 3-wood from the tee, with the windy conditions and re-sloping of the fairways towards the ocean coming into play.
Hole 17 is a classic par 3 with quite possibly the most challenging green with its' hourglass shape, making any pin placement a difficult one.
Hole 18 is perhaps the finest finishing hole in golf. A strong par-5 tempts longer hitters to reach the green in two. But the narrowed fairway and added trees and bunkers, not to mention the Pacific Ocean bordering the entire hole on the left, allows for a make-or-break finale.
In all, since the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, four greens and 16 bunkers were rebuilt, altered or installed, 11 tees received enhancements and over 200 yards were added to the course.
All eyes and a heavy gallery will flock towards Tiger Woods, the World's No. 1 golfer, who downright rewrote the PGA record book in 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. Woods won his first U.S. Open in dominant fashion by an unprecedented 15 strokes. It was the largest margin of victory ever recorded at a major golf tournament and his 12-under-par 272 shattered the previous U.S. Open record by four strokes. In all, nine records were either broken or tied.
An account of the last highly publicized seven months is unnecessary. When asked Tuesday during a rather uneventful press conference how difficult it has been to mix his personal life with his professional life, Woods had this reply: "It's none of your business."
Amongst the numerous changes Woods has reportedly undergone, most noticeably was his solitude around the Pebble Beach confines Wednesday.
It wasn't just Elin who was absent, but Woods was on the practice green and driving range without a caddie, coach, agent or press attaché. It has been a long time since there has been a ‘Tiger Sighting' without an entourage, especially at a Major tournament.
Yet, as the new-and-improved Tiger appears primed and focused to rekindle his championship form, the field has other aspirations.
Some have slated Phil Mickelson, the World's No. 2 golfer, as the leader in the clubhouse before the 72-hole tournament begins. Fresh off his fourth major victory at the Masters in April, Mickelson, the San Diego native, looks to capture his first U.S. Open title, despite being a five-time runner up.
Nevertheless, the notion that Lefty or Tiger are a guaranteed scribe into the 110th US Open trophy is far stretched.
Rory McIlroy, the youngster from Northern Ireland, is on a quest to burst onto the professional golf scene. Still relishing in his fanciful 62 to win the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina last month, the 21-year-old is paired with Tom Watson, the proprietor of quite possibly the most miraculous shot—and victory—at Pebble Beach.
Down one stroke in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Jack Nicklaus's name was all but engraved after Tom Watson sent a tee shot into the deep rough on the par-3 17 th. Watson holed the chip and went on to birdie the 18th for one of the most memorable comebacks in professional golf history.
Watson, 60, who received an exception to make his make his 31st US Open appearance, and his possible passing of the torch to McIlroy will draw quite a following in the two-round pairing.
Lee Westwood, the World's No. 3 golfer, may have the most confidence entering the Championship. Appearing in his 10th US Open, it is safe to say the Brit is due. Westwood has four top-3 finishes in his last 8 majors and won the St. Jude Classic just last weekend, on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff.
The field is set, practice rounds are through, and the U.S. Open is nearly underway with storylines aplenty.
Can Lefty be just right? Will Tiger be tamed or will he silence his critics? Or will someone else write their chapter in the U.S. Open history book and emerge from the pack for a late Sunday surge around the Pebble Beach track?
One thing is for certain: The 110th U.S. Open is, well, wide open.
*Darren Feeney is reporting from the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach