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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 3)

Rogers, Watson's playing partner, said afterward, "You could hit that chip a hundred times and not get it close to the pin, much less in the hole."

"A thousand times," said a stunned Nicklaus.

"I was at the peak of my confidence," said Watson recently. "There wasn't any reason for me to not believe I could make it."

In the end, Nicklaus sat slumped and stunned in the scorer's tent and Watson raced around the 17th green like an unbridled pony. The late, great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind remarked that Watson's chip "was the most sensational shot since World War II."

Tom Kite, 1992
The weather forecast was ominous for the final round, with high winds predicted to pick up by noon and blowing straight into the hopes and dreams of the leaders. On an historic note, Dr. Gil Morgan had become the first player in known Open history to reach double digits under par when he birdied the 3rd, 6th and 7th holes on Friday to move to 12 under par (he would then go nine over par in the next seven holes).

Kite birdied the first hole on Sunday to tie for the lead, but already the wind was starting to gust. Pebble, in its typical Open setup, was hard and fast. Too fast for Nick Faldo's liking. "If they want greens like this, I'm going to take up topless darts," said Faldo. "It would be easier to catch them in your teeth today."
By the time Kite arrived at the fourth hole, it was howling. He made a double bogey on the short par 4, but bounced back with birdie on the par 5 6th. There on the 6th green, on the highest point on the course, Kite's pants were flapping like sails in a squall. It was all he could do to keep his balance, but he rolled in a 20-footer for the birdie.

Now comes the short 7th, a mere pitching wedge down the hill to the most photographed green in golf. Except when the wind is roaring, it's anything but a wedge. Kite chose to punch a 6-iron, but he pulled it slightly and the right-to-left wind carried off the left side of the green into the rough. He thought he had a 50-50 chance of getting up and down for par as he stabbed his wedge at the ball. It came out fast but it was on line and with a clank that could be heard above the wind it hit the flagstick and fell in, a most unlikely birdie.

"I was surprised that it went in, then I said ‘Yeah, Watson did it!' " says Kite. "But this was different. Watson did it on the 17th and I'm on the 7th with more than half the golf course to go, the toughest part of the course, and the wind was really blowing."

At that point, Colin Montgomerie had finished at even par for the championship and was in the ABC television booth along with Nicklaus, who was doing commentary. Nicklaus shook Montgomerie's hand. "Congratulations on winning your first U.S. Open," he said.

This was the ultimate test of Kite's fortitude. He pushed his approach to the 9th just off the edge of the bluff, but was able to get down for a bogey. He parred 10 and 11, then rolled in a 35-footer for birdie on the 12th. Jeff Sluman had just finished at one under par and looked in a fine position to win even though he trailed Kite by four. Kite made bogey at 16 and 17, but still held a two-shot lead. After a perfect drive at 18, he raised his arms. The dreams of his youth were coming true.


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