A golfer may or may not have what is termed the ‘architectonic sense’ very highly developed so far as the courses he plays on are concerned. He may be partially blind to the strategic influences that threaten him and have a stronger inclination to specialize in the technicalities that claim his greater interest. But there may be others who prefer to receive impressions as they come with irrelevant swiftness, who delight more in the spirit than in the precise letter of the game. TOM SIMPSON
Strong numbers for FOX with Gary Woodland outlasting Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose to win in prime time.
No wonder Pebble Beach’s next U.S. Open is year one of the next television contract! West coast is best…
Here are my winners and losers of the week for Golfweek, with Gary Woodland winning in style with a dramatic chip at the 17th and resounding birdie at the 18th. That last putt is no picnic to two-putt.
Other than the June gloom, it was a sensational week for a journeyman player who has hung around and persisted, the USGA and Brooks Koepka despite a second place finish.
As Brooks Koepka prepares to tee off and pursue the incredible feat of three U.S. Open wins, Douglas Seaton gives us an excuse to revisit the short life and times of four-time U.S. Open winner Wilie Anderson.
North Berwick born and raised until his family emigrated to America. He was most famous for telling the Myopia members to stick their kitchen-dining plan for the pros:
At the 1901 US. Open played at Myopia Hunt Club near Boston, Massachusetts, Willie and Alex Smith posted a 72-hole score of 331, to tie the tournament. In the first 18-hole play-off in Open history, Anderson won by one stroke, 85-86. At that championship, the American media picked up on Anderson's quote when he growled " No, we're no goin tae eat in the kitchen." Willie was furious when told the professionals could not enter the clubhouse. The players were eventually allowed to eat in a specially erected tent.
Anderson is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
I chatted with Fox Sports’ director Steve Biem Sunday for this Golfweek story to better understand how the Kaze Aerial team is getting the remarkable drone images from the 2019 U.S. Open, as well as an audible with the new FlightTrack tracer covering the 6th tee shot and now, the 17th.
It was fascinating to hear about the adjustments made to get where they are, which is providing us views like we’ve never seen before.
Tiger’s third round 71 left him at even par and out of contention for the 2019 U.S Open, but he praised the balanced setup Saturday.
“I think they did a great job of setting it up so that we can make birdies,” Woods said. “And if you do miss them in the wrong spot then you still can get up and down here, which is not always the case.”
He did admit after the round that the cool conditions have made it harder to get loose. From Bob Harig’s ESPN.com story:
Woods was predictably coy when asked about any physical issues as he wore KT tape -- a therapeutic strip often worn to treat pain -- on his neck, just as he had during The Open at Carnoustie last year.
"When it's cold like this, everything is achy," Woods said. "It's just part of the deal."
Phil Mickelson’s 75 Saturday at Pebble Beach ended his chances here, so it’s never too early to start rebuilding his Golf Gods karma credits.
From Todd Kelly’s Golfweek story:
“I tell you, I think it’s — I’m really happy that I had this chance, this opportunity this week. I’ve got to give it to — hand it to the USGA for doing a great setup. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. And it’s identifying the best players. It’s making the players the story,” he said.
“I think the biggest thing was pin placements, instead of putting them right on the edges they were in good spots, rewarding great shots. I can’t say enough great things about how this week has gone so far. And I’m appreciative to the effort they’ve put in and for the opportunity that I had this week.”
Have I ever mentioned that more people watch U.S. Opens in California?
Biggest second round numbers since the last one here in 2012 at Olympic Club:
With Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose in prime time, Fox drew an impressive number given the NBA Finals competition.
It’s almost unimaginable to see scoring averages and eagle counts you’d find in the February AT&T, but that’s where we’re at after one round at Pebble Beach. With no end to the good scoring in sight.
My Golfweek roundup of the astounding day one numbers that are a tribute to the amazing condition of the course, the talent of today’s players and of course, the incorporation of coconut oil in their morning coffee allowing them to hit 6 irons off 428-yard par-4 tees and wedges into half the par-4’s.
With so many swing coaches, physios, agents, assistant agents, dieticians, physicists, psychics, baristas, sous chefs and children’s tennis coaches hovering around players, the tendency to talk about the we approach to golf seeps into the lingo more at majors.
Take first round 66-shooter Xander Schauffele’s reference to his major preparation:
Just the mentality changes, a little more focused coming into the week, extra preparation. You just kind of dive a little bit deeper into the properties. And I feel like the team and I have done a decent job of doing that.
Then there is Rickie Fowler explaining his mullet:
We're doing it for the PGA in May. We're calling it Mullet May. And we weren't doing it to, you know, get any extra attention or anything like that. It was for fun. And obviously we're not trying to look a good with it, it's just a fun thing. And I just thought it was a good way to, when asked about it, talk about our foundations.
It was Spieth’s outburst, however, that got the most round one attention and suggests the benefits of team membership aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Spieth, understandably fuming after his 4-iron lay-up at the 8th ran through the fairway into the water, was heard barking out, “Two perfect shots, Michael. You got me in the water on one and over the green on the other.”
Spieth explained the comments after an opening 72:
“We were talking about potentially one less [club on the third shot], and I said, ‘But isn’t it playing about 60 with a fade?’ And then he said yes,” Spieth said. “So we both agreed on that. It was clearly a 4-iron off the tee. At the same time, when you hit a couple of shots exactly where you want to, and the first one is in the water and the next one is dead over the green, I’m going to be frustrated that as a team we didn’t figure out how to make sure that didn’t happen.”
We meaning, you Michael…
Here’s our Golf Channel look at the 1929 version of Pebble Beach, it’s primary designer Chandler Egan and whether restoration is needed to keep the course functional for U.S. Open play (or 60,000 rounds a year).
Brendan Havens produced. Enjoy!
Sounds like quite a swell night. At least based on the incredible photos by the USGA team.
Rory McIlroy’s comments from his Wednesday press conference:
Q. You mentioned a couple of times, can you talk a little about what the dynamic was like at the Champions dinner last night? You don't do it every year. Who else did you have interesting conversations with?
RORY MCILROY: It was awesome. 33 of the 36 living U.S. Open champions. We had a great table. It was Erica and myself; Jordan and his wife, Annie; and Brooks and his partner, Jena. It was just the six of us at a table. And it was really cool. I don't know, even just the stories that we were telling. We were obviously the young table (laughter). We must have stayed about an hour and a half after everyone else had left. We shut the place down, just chatting, and it was really, really cool.
But then talking to Lee Trevino about the Ryder Cup in Walton Heath and it was like '81, and Jerry Pate came into the story, and they played together in the foursomes and they beat Faldo and Sam Torrance. Yeah, just really cool.
And then there was some artifacts from the USGA Museum, Hogan's 1-iron from Merion. The golf ball Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam with. Arnold Palmer's visor that he threw up in the air at Cherry Hills. I'm a golf geek, and I love the traditions and history of the game. And that is so cool.
I sort of walked away from that dinner wishing that they did it every year. But I think it is so special that we do it every five or six years, and you look at that picture. Gary Player stood up and made a great speech about how he came here to the United States with no money. He won, I think -- he won the U.S. Open, it was $5,000 or something. And that was a huge deal back then.
Just how the game has changed and evolved. It just made me really appreciate being a part of that club that have won the U.S. Open. It was a really cool thing. And looking forward to being able to do it for years to come.
Golf.com features their picks and Brooks Koepka is more popular there.
Rob Bolton’s Power Rankings at PGATour.com always makes for a handy guide.
I won’t be picking Phil Mickelson, who just has not put down the right markers in a U.S. Open a lot people would love to see him win.
If you’re looking for a fun qualifying story or just a total longshot to round out your pool team, Porter did a nice roundup of the very best to root for.
Mike Tirico’s Vantage Point chat which covered a range of topics, with a slight undertone of awkwardness given recent years and player griping, nonetheless it’s worth a few minutes if you’re interested in hearing about this week or Davis’ view on the USGA’s role going forward as a steward of the game. He notes that the organization puts more money into the game than any other.
As we await the USGA’s annual news conference here at Pebble Beach, Brendan Porath’s lengthy Q&A with new course setup supervisor John Bodenhamer is a pretty revealing look at the lengths he is taking to ensure they hear all points of view.
Check it out, but this was interesting as it relates to Mike Davis, who is still involved but no longer in charge. No shortage of opinions have been sought!
We try to follow what the architect intended. I think it’s really fun to be around that with Mike. I’ve learned a lot.
As far as different, I don’t know — I think Pebble Beach will always be what Pebble Beach has been for the U.S. Open. I mean, why would we do anything different when we’ve had Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods, and McDowell win, and in dramatic fashion every time. Why would we change the recipe? We’re not going to. Now look, there are a few new putting greens here, some new teeing areas, you know it’s little bit different golf course than it was in 2010 and the weather is going to be different probably and all of that. There are some differences.
The one thing that I would say that I have tried to infuse, and Mike and our team are fully supportive, is to be a little more informed with how we’re going into this U.S. Open. What I mean by that is we have Jason Gore on our staff [Gore was announced as the USGA’s first Player Relations Director in March]. A player that has won 11 times at the professional level, seven times on Tour. And he’s informing our process from a setup standpoint.
Nick Price, we’re involving Nick in what we’re doing here at Pebble Beach. Nick will be here this week. We also brought in a guy that I’ve known for a long time — a guy by the name of Casey Boyns. He’s a 37-year caddie here at Pebble Beach and a two-time California amateur champion and probably won 20 other major amateur events around California and the country. I’ve known him a long time, played golf with him years ago. He’s won two California amateurs at Pebble Beach, when he won in the 80s and 90s. But he caddies 250 to 300 times a year here and he’s done it for 37 years. There is nobody who knows this golf course better than him. We brought him out and went around the golf course with him. We showed him our plan. He knows how these greens behave in certain types of weather. He knows what the four new putting greens are behaving like. He knows what the wind will do certain times of the year. It’s fascinating and we’ve brought him in and that’s a little bit new for us.
I will side with Tiger Woods since he knows what he’s doing and certainly would never want to putt from above the hole at Pebble Beach, but it’s still interesting to consider the best strategy for playing a U.S. Open course. Yesterday in his 2019 US Open press conference, Woods explained his priority in approaching the Pebble Beach poa annua greens:
The trick to putting on poa is to make sure they're always below the hole. If you're putting downhill, it's like a Plinko effect, you're going to go every which way. The key is to be below the hole where you can take low lines and try and take the bumpiness out of play.
Strokes Gained Guru Mark Broadie has been studying the effort to get a ball under the hole now that ShotLink numbers are tracking putts from different parts of greens and is making the case that it all evens out on the greens. Granted, he wasn’t talking about specific grass types, but it’s still fascinating food for thought given modern green speeds and players wanting to be below the hole, even if it does not necessarily apply to Pebble Beach this week.
Simple: It’s very hard, over the course of a full season, for a player to leave himself a lot more easier putts than difficult ones, and vice-versa. Over the course of dozens and dozens of rounds, everything tends to even out. So planning to give yourself more uphill putts than downhill ones isn’t a strategy worth pursuing. No evidence exists to show that players can systematically leave themselves with easier types of eight-footers.
Nice note here from Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com on the USGA advising players of the right to hit greens with water midday to prevent, well, we all know…
One of the concerns following the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, in 2010, was how the poa annua greens became particularly difficult in dry conditions, much like those forecast for this week. Perhaps in reaction to that officials have told players that they will syringe greens between the morning and afternoon waves on Thursday and Friday if needed.
The USGA hands over control of the operation when Pebble Beach hosts the U.S. Open, so some of the stalwart brands and items may or not make it to the peninsula. Some new faces like Travis Matthew and Vineyard Vines added a few of the livelier items.
I got out for a bit to throw golf balls around, check out the rough and assess it for Golfweek.
The course is in a great spot heading to the event and more than able to handle the surprising heat we’ve experienced Sunday and Monday.
Last year’s U.S. Amateur winner, Viktor Hovland, visited the media center and compared the setup to last summer’s event he won over Devon Bling.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, definitely generally the rough is a lot thicker than it was last year, and a lot of the fairways are narrower. So, for example, on 4, the fairway is right of that bunker; that used to be in the middle of the fairway. And, for example, on 11, that one is basically cut in half. And there's one other one. For example, 8 is moved all the way over on the right side, where you used to have the world to the left.
But as of right now, the greens are pretty soft and on the slower side. At the Am they were fairly firm and fast. But I'm assuming they're going to become that way later in the week. So not too worried about that.
Q. More along those lines, how about things like the rough, and also can you take anything from that experience and bring it into this, or does this feel like a completely different world?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, a lot of things are different. Obviously the atmosphere and the tournament is different. But it's still the same course and you still have somewhat of the same lines off of the tees. The greens still do the same way, they still break the same ways. And I think just a couple of things here and there. Oh, yeah, I missed it in the left bunker, but that wasn't too bad in, for example, that spot that you kind of learn.
Golf.com’s Pat Ralph talked to the USGA’s John Bodenhamer about the setup he’s overseeing this year. This sums up the changes since 2010:
Both 14 and 17 were really restored to more of what the architect originally intended for it to do. So those four greens 9, 13, 14 and 17, are different and we think that the restoration of those is a great improvement. A new teeing area that was added a few years ago on number nine adds about 21 yards for that par 4 when played from the very back. The only other thing, really, that’s different is that a little bit of the fairway on number 11 has been rerouted from the right-back to the left, where it originally was. And at 14, we had a runoff left of the green that’s no longer there which is all rough again. So it’s really going back to what the U.S. Open has always been at Pebble Beach.