The greatest shot ever struck at Pebble Beach? You’ve likely never heard of it

June 4, 2019

Which golf shots rank as the greatest ever struck at Pebble Beach?

You’d run out of ink trying list all the contenders.

Tom Watson’s chip-in on the par-3 17th at the ’82 U.S. Open rates high on the roster. So, does Jack Nicklaus’s flagstick-rattling 1-iron on the same hole 10 years prior in the same event.

The ’92 U.S. Open gave us Tom Kite’s chip-and-roll out birdie 2 on the par-3 7th, a difference-maker in Kite’s run to the title; while the 2000 AT&T supplied us with Tiger Woods’ eagle on the par-4 14th, a punctuation on his epic come-from-behind win.

But you knew all of those, right?

Here’s one we bet you’ve never heard of: the 5-iron smoked in 2013 by Mike Duncan, the only player ever known to have notched an albatross, aka a double-eagle, on Pebble’s par-5 14th hole.

A few words about No. 14, in case you’re unfamiliar. At 580 yards, with a crooked fairway that turns right and toward a tiny, elevated green, it’s a mean test. At the 2010 U.S. Open, it played as the third-toughest hole for the week, a rare degree of difficulty for a par-5. Phil Mickelson once made an 11 on it. Woods has called it “probably the hardest third shot in all of golf.”

Mike Duncan poses for a photo after his miraculous shot.
Courtesy Photo

All the more reason to go for it in two.

It was a mid-spring afternoon, and Duncan, who was then in his early 20s and working as an assistant club professional at Pebble, was squeezing in a twilight round with a colleague from the pro shop.

The wind was up, with gusts so strong that Duncan whacked a 6-iron on the 106-yard par-three 7th.

The sun was hanging low when Duncan and his partner arrived at the 14th. An accomplished player who lettered on the golf team at Methodist University, in North Carolina, Duncan drives it plenty long. Not Bubba or DJ long, but at least 300 yards when he hits it flush.

“But that day I was playing pretty terribly,” he says.

With the fan blowing behind him, Duncan opted for an aggressive line, playing a high draw over tall trees on the right. His drive carried the second of two fairway bunkers, leaving him 210 him yards from the hole.

While his partner laid up to wedge distance, Duncan blistered a 5-iron for his second shot toward the flag. The pin was cut on the middle right, and Duncan figured he had flown it.

“As I walked past, I looked down and saw a ball in the hole, but there was another ball a good ways beyond the green,” Duncan says. “I just figured, Cool. My buddy must have holed his wedge.”

Nope, he realized an instant later, though it took a few more minutes for the impact to sink it.

“It was surreal,” Duncan says. “I was just kind of staring in disbelief.”

His friend snapped him out of his reverie by blurting: “Dude, you just made a two!”

Otherwise, it was a mellow celebration, marked by a high-five and an iPhone photo, which Duncan later posted on his Facebook page.

The 15th hole awaited, but by then, it was nearly too dark to continue, so the two friends packed it in and went for drinks in Carmel. (Yes, Duncan bought the booze.)

“Maybe that makes it unofficial, I dunno,” Duncan says of cutting the round short. “But either way, it happened.”

There is no evidence that it ever happened before. Or since. Though there have been other 2s on other par-5s at Pebble, including a deuce on 18 by a 17-year-old in the 2014 First Tee Open, Duncan’s is “the only ‘double-eagle’ we’ve heard of on 14,” a Pebble spokesperson said.

In recognition of the feat, Pebble’s then head professional, Chuck Dunbar, presented Duncan with a wooden “double-eagle” box, a memento akin to what players receive for making a hole-in-one.

Speaking of aces, Duncan has one of those at Pebble, too: an 8-iron from 167 on the 17th hole.

But his double-eagle was the more astounding shot.

He kept the ball (a Titleist). And he holds tight to the memory.

And although he’s since moved on to another job in the golf industry, there’s a chance, he says, that he’ll be back at Pebble this year for the U.S. Open, camped out alongside the 14th green.

Woe to the Tour pro who does worse than a 2.

“Oh, I’ll be all over them for sure,” Duncan jokes. “Like, Come on, guys. It’s not that hard.”