PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) Ricky Barnes knows Pebble Beach Golf Links better than most, having played it more than 20 times between his amateur and professional career.
It's an easy course to remember for the 29-year-old California native.
He certainly remembers his last round at a U.S. Open.
A year ago, Barnes was one of the feel-good stories at Bethpage Black, a young star that never quite reached expectations suddenly flourishing on one of golf's biggest stages.
He led the U.S. Open after three rounds, sitting at 8-under with 18 holes to go. It all unraveled in a final round 76 that left Barnes tied for second and two shots behind champ Lucas Glover.
Despite faltering, Barnes only looks back at the positives from last year.
"Nothing but good thoughts," Barnes said after finishing up on the range Monday afternoon. "I was close and everything, but I've got another chance this year and I've just got to keep on building up my game."
Still without a PGA victory in his career, Barnes' game has finally stabilized in the months since his U.S. Open run. He's made the cut in 13 of 16 events this season, including five top-10 finishes. He finished in a tie for third two weeks ago at The Memorial and tied for 10th at the Masters in April.
The performances in the last year helped legitimize Barnes' effort at last year's Open when he became just the fourth golfer in Open history to reach double-digits under par.
"The game is coming around. I feel a little more confident when I'm out there and my game is proving it," he said.
When he finished his college career at Arizona in 2003 as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Barnes was lumped among a wave of young talent about to enter the professional game. But the Stockton, Calif. native floundered.
His finish at the Open earned Barnes $559,830 and spots in the British Open and 2010 Masters and U.S. Open - huge perks for a player who spent the previous four full seasons on the Nationwide Tour. Before surging into contention at Bethpage Black, Barnes had made only six cuts and $68,667 in 12 regular PGA Tour events.
Now he gets an opportunity to erase last year at a course he knows quite well. Barnes played in the Open at Pebble Beach 10 years ago as a 19-year-old amateur qualifier. Barnes missed the cut that year, finishing at 13-over in two rounds.
"I think I'm meeting what I expected and playing where I expected to be playing the last couple of years," Barnes said. "No one had higher expectations than I did of myself. I've just proven (it) to myself, but other people as well."
PRO TOO SOON: Scott Langley nearly turned pro without anyone knowing.
Two weeks ago, Langley won the NCAA individual championship. The Illinois star finished at 10-under to win by two shots, and a few days later earned a qualifying spot for this week's Open at Pebble Beach.
During his interview Monday morning, Langley, about to enter his senior season at Illinois, slipped up talking about his status.
"I couldn't have probably drawn it up any better than to pick my, not only my first major, but my first professional event to be out here. So yeah, it's pretty special," Langley said.
To which the moderator asked if Langley had turned pro.
"No, no, I'm an amateur," he quickly answered. "But my first event on this stage. So I'm an amateur."
Langley is one of the lucky youngsters to already have the "wow" factor of Pebble Beach out of the way, having played the course as part of the Champions Tour's First Tee Open in 2006. While the course is setup completely different than four years ago, the focus for Langley can now be on his play and not the surroundings - for the most part.
"Yes, I'll be distracted by the scenery just a little bit, but it's nice to be able to just focus on what I need to do," Langley said.
CHIP SHOTS: Glover, the defending champion, spent part of Monday participating in a youth clinic to help kick off the week of activities. More than 800 local kids turned out for the event at nearby Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside, Calif. ... "June Gloom" was in full effect Monday: fog and low clouds most of the day. Temperatures all week are expected to hover in the upper 50s and low 60s with only brief breakouts of sun.