U.S. Open Confidential: Are Pebble greens heading for Shinnecock territory?

U.S. Open Confidential: Are Pebble greens heading for Shinnecock territory?

Phil Mickelson struggled in his opening round, but didn't blame the course for his 4-over 75.
Al Tielemans/SI

Every morning this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the U.S. Open in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: One of the stories of the day was the big hop, i.e., the way every approach shot hit the green took one huge hop forward. Is that the sign of a championship-conditioned course or a signifier of potential trouble on the weekend if the USGA doesn’t take action?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Let’s go to the hop! Nothing wrong with the big hop. You wouldn’t want it every week, but it’s way cool here at Pebble.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I followed Mickelson, Harrington and Yang and didn’t see that at all. Harrington went as far as to say “the greens are soft.” I don’t foresee any trouble.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each commented about the speed of the fairways and the firmness of the greens in their press conferences Tuesday. Phil went as far as to say, “I’m certainly concerned that we could have 14 potential seventh holes at Shinnecock, if [the USGA] is not careful.” The course is providing a serious examination right now, but I for one hope the test doesn’t get any tougher.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Lots of shots spun, others didn’t. That’s been the case all year because of the grooves change, regardless of what the stats say. I like the guessing game. Hit it pure — from the fairway — no worries.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Nobody complains about big hops in the British Open. Indeed, they embrace the hops in that championship. So what’s the big deal about a hopping ball over here? If you don’t like it, play in the Bhutan Open.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It’s perfect now, could stand to get even a little tougher. They softened the greens and they were quite receptive. I expect the USGA to keep it like this for two more days and then grow some serious teeth for Sunday.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I was with Duval, Lehman and Curtis all afternoon and they couldn’t even control purely struck wedges off tight lies. That’s saying a lot for a pro.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This is the U.S. Open. We have this discussion every June. I expect the course to only get tougher, for a handful of pros to complain, and for us to have a winner of the highest quality when the last putt falls.

Morfit: I think it was gusty enough out there to create a significant difference in moisture level on the greens and elsewhere between the morning and the afternoon rounds.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: And yet the only players to break 70 played in the afternoon.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Are we talking about being surprised by how difficult a U.S. Open course played in the opening round? Most Opens have only one winner — the course. Pebble Beach scored a couple of knockdowns Thursday. Expect a knockout before Sunday if it remains breezy. Landing areas short of greens are already turning purple today, and greens are turning brown. Buckle up, fellas, it’s only going to get harder.