Daily Flogging: Pebble Beach offers U.S. Open preview

It's no surprise that it rained off and on Tuesday at Pebble Beach, site of this week's PGA Tour stop, since this is the tournament that coined the phrase, Crosby weather, a reference to the lousy seaside conditions that the old Bing Crosby Pro-Am was often played in. So the three courses will likely be soggy all week, which means those players hoping to get a sneak preview of Pebble Beach in preparation for June's U.S. Open will see a markedly different track from a course that usually plays firm and fast in summer months. It will also be a different course than the one where Tiger Woods won the 2000 Open by 15 shots.
From Steve DiMeglio in USA Today:

"One of my reasons for playing this week is to
get good practice in on the course for the U.S. Open," two-time U.S.
Open champion Retief Goosen said Tuesday. "I will be looking at all the changes."

Under the redesign direction of Arnold Palmer,
Pebble Beach can now be stretched to more than
7,000 yards. Four greens have been rebuilt and enlarged; dozens of
trees have been planted and others repositioned to pinch landing areas;
bunkers have been added and others remodeled; and six holes have been
supplemented with championship tees, including on the already arduous,
coast-hugging ninth and 10th holes. The only hole that has not been enhanced in any way is the par-3 12th.Not all of Palmer's changes, however, will be
welcomed, especially a new tee box that would lengthen the par-4,
466-yard ninth by 50 yards. "Why 50? Maybe they want to see woods into the
green," Goosen said. "There's no use in making a hole longer if it's
going to be a silly hole. It is such a great hole. But that's the thing
now — every course has to be lengthened."

The Monterey Herald looked at how the par-5 14th hole, not as glamorous or as pretty as the par-5 18th, may nonetheless be the most difficult hole on the course. Writer James Raia quoted Hale Irwin as saying the hole should be played in reverse -- in other words, a player figures out what yardage he wants for the third shot and adjusts his first two shots accordingly. More from other players:
"The 14th hole is difficult for a number of reasons," said
Nick Watney, who won the Callaway Invitational at Pebble Beach in 2005.
"First and foremost, it is very long (572 yards), and the tricky thing
is that the third shot plays 10 to 15 yards longer than yardage because
it's so far up hill. The green is treacherous. The green itself is large, but the
actual area where the ball will stop is small"
The 14th has "changed a little bit the past few years because they
put those bunkers in on the tee shot," said Kevin Sutherland, who has five
top-20 AT&T finishes, including a second-place finish in 2007.
"Back six or seven years ago, the tee shot and second shot weren't
much. It was all about setting yourself up for the third shot. And it's
a very difficult shot, even though it's a short one. The third shot is easily the most difficult. The wind is
usually kind of blowing in and it makes the shot play quite a bit
longer. You don't really feel it as much, but it's there. The third
shot is also uphill, so it makes it hard to judge it. And the target is
just so small." 
Luke Donald, who once shot 62 at Spyglass Hill, skipped this tournament the past two years and decided to return this week because of the upcoming U.S. Open. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that his 62 wasn't anything extraordinary.
"When you have rounds like that, it doesn't seem that special," he
said Tuesday. "Things just click and everything kind of works, and it
feels like you're playing the golf you should be playing every week.
... Spyglass is a tough course, but hopefully I can re-create some of
those memories."
The Chronicle also asked Donald if he checks out televised golf when he's not playing.
"I only watch if I'm bored," he said. "I don't really like watching Golf Channel."
Meanwhile, John Reger reported for Reuters that any golfer expecting to win the U.S. Open this year at Pebble should've signed up for the AT&T. The four U.S. Open champions who won at Pebble Beach -- Jack Nicklaus, Tom Kite, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods -- all won the February event, too. Nicklaus and Woods won both tournaments in the same year. More from Reger:
But even with that statistic, and the improvements made to
the course, it has still been difficult to get get professionals
to play. The weather is the main deterrent for many players. The
winter often proves merciless on the Monterey Peninsula, where
rain is as regular a visitor to the tournament as actor Bill
Murray. The weather, along with sometime agonisingly long rounds
that are played with amateurs and celebrities, keeps many
golfers away.
"Yeah, you know, it could be totally, it could be soft and
wet this week," said Steve Stricker, who last played the event
in 2006 and tied for 14th. "It could be soft and wet when we go
back there for the Open, too, who knows? But I've played there enough so I don't feel like I need to
go there for that reason alone. I just don't care to go up there
and fight with that weather too much."
This year marks the return of Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course to the tournament rotation. The club's Dune Course was part of the event when Crosby first started the pro-am in 1947 and was used for 18 years. Then the Shore Course was used for two more years, and also again in 1977. In a bigger change, perhaps, the field was cut from 180 pros to 156 in an effort to combat the event's maddening glacial pace of play.

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