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America's Golf Mecca

Pebble Beach will host the U.S. Open for the fifth time in June, a testament to one of the greatest settings for the country’s national championship
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Chris Noth, May/June 2010

(continued from page 1)

And don't you think Tiger Woods doesn't want to get back to Pebble Beach? It was here in 2000 that Woods put on the most overwhelming display of championship golf ever, pulverizing and humbling the field with a 15-shot victory, the largest margin of victory in a major. His break from golf to deal with his substantial infidelity issues will end at the Masters Tournament in April, but he claimed a certain percentage of ownership rights in Pebble Beach with his AT&T National Pro-Am win in February of 2000, coming from seven shots behind in the final round, then his General Sherman march to the Open title in June. You just think he has to come back to Pebble Beach.

He won't be alone. You can expect Woods will have competition this year-from the dogged Steve Stricker, from the magical-if-mercurial Phil Mickelson, from the Englishmen Lee Westwood and Paul Casey, from the Irishman Padraig Harrington, from the exciting Colombian Camilo Villegas. Maybe upstarts like Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy or Ryo Ishikawa will be in the mix. And shouldn't the 60-year-old Watson, based on his extraordinary performance at the British Open last year, get one more crack at an Open at Pebble Beach with an exemption from the United States Golf Association?

Whether the championship this June comes down to a lap-the-field victory like Woods's or a neck-and-neck battle like Watson's, Pebble Beach will showcase it like no other course. This Open is very much a homecoming for golf in America. No other course in the Open rota-not Winged Foot, not Oakmont, not Baltusrol or even Shinnecock Hills-evokes such stirring images of the game or such a passionate longing.

Of the thousands of words Nicklaus has used to describe and analyze his favorite course, just one of them tells you everything you need to know. He calls Pebble Beach "majestic."

"This is as close as we have to a national course for our championship," says Kite. "Just think of it-what other course combines so many wonderful things that are great about our game? The site is unmatchable anywhere in golf. The layout is terrific. The shot values are wonderful. The views are jaw-dropping. It's not a private club. Anybody can play there. Everybody wants to play there."

"The greatest recognition our resort can achieve is that we can handle and put up the stern test that the USGA requires for an Open," says RJ Harper, senior vice president for golf at Pebble Beach and general chairman of the Open. "To be considered a true championship is extremely important to us for business purposes. It creates demand across the world."

From any aspect, Pebble Beach reaches into our senses. Standing on the sixth green, the entire course in your view over 180 degrees. Standing on the 7th green, waves crashing against the rocks while sea otters dive for abalone (cracking the shell with a rock on their stomachs as they float atop the kelp beds). Standing on the precipice of the 8th hole, contemplating the most awesome shot in golf across the harrowing chasm. Standing on the 17th tee, hitting to the largest green on the course, except that it is bisected into the two smallest targets. Standing on the 18th tee, marveling at the seething Pacific and praying to avoid it. And praying that you will come back.

Now Pebble beckons the world's finest players again. Will the winner stack up to Pebble's champions of the past? Will he be among the greats? Will Pebble Beach again define the greatness of a player as it defines all that is great about the game itself?

Here's a look at the four previous Opens at Pebble Beach and the great champions who won them.

Jack Nicklaus, 1972
By 1972 Jack Nicklaus had established himself as the best player of all time. He had won 10 major championships and had lost in a play off for the Open the previous year to Lee Trevino. With the Open played for the first time at Pebble Beach, Nicklaus was the clear favorite. He had won the second of his two U.S. Amateur Championships at Pebble in 1961. He had won three "Crosbys." It was his favorite course.

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