A beau­ti­ful course, a beast of a US Open at Peb­ble

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

PEB­BLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods and Jor­dan Spi­eth be­gan the fi­nal day of U.S. Open prepa­ra­tion with a walk along the beach.

No other U.S. Open has such a calm­ing ef­fect, es­pe­cially the seven-hole stretch along the Pa­cific coast with sweeping views of sea lions bask­ing on the rocks below the sixth green and peo­ple walking dogs on the seashore below the 10th fair­way.

“What’s not to like?” Dustin John­son said. “The golf course is fan­tas­tic from start to finish. When you’ve got nice weather, it’s quite beau­ti­ful out there.”

About the time Woods and Spi­eth, along with Justin Thomas and Kevin Kis­ner, be­gan their nine­hole prac­tice round Wed­nes­day on No. 10, fog crept over the foothills and soon blan­keted the course. Vis­i­bil­ity was re­duced to about

250 yards.

It was an omi­nous sign the U.S. Open is no hol­i­day.

John­son is among the early starters when the

119th U.S. Open be­gins Thurs­day at Peb­ble Beach, which is cel­e­brat­ing its

100th year.

He is one of the fa­vorites, not only from his sheer skill, but his­tor­i­cal rea­sons whether it’s Fe­bru­ary or June. John­son has won the AT&T Peb­ble Beach ProAm twice and was run­nerup twice. The last time the U.S. Open was at Peb­ble, he had a three-shot lead go­ing into the fi­nal round un­til he rushed his way through a triple bo­gey and pair of double bo­geys be­fore he got to the fifth hole. John­son shot 82 and tied for eighth.

“The golf course was great,” John­son said about

2010. “I feel like the golf course is get­ting to where it’s go­ing to play like that later on this week. It’s go­ing to play tough. You’ve got to be very, very pre­cise.”

The USGA says it used

2010 as a blue­print for this U.S. Open, with a few ex­cep­tions. A tree that seems to be in the mid­dle of the

18th fair­way is now only a few paces from the rough on the right be­cause of how much the fair­way was nar­rowed.

The rough is lush as ever. The greens are small, and they look even smaller when not hit­ting from the fair­way.

This is what a U.S. Open is sup­posed to look like.

“We’re go­ing into this week with a great plan, and part of that plan is to do what we’ve always done,” said John Bo­den­hamer, the se­nior man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of cham­pi­onships for the USGA. “We will con­tinue to en­deavor to pro­vide the tough­est test, the ul­ti­mate test, the most com­pre­hen­sive test, what­ever you want to call it.”

Adding to the anticipati­on is how the other two ma­jors turned out this year.

Noth­ing can top what Woods did at the Masters, where he emerged from a six-player pack on the back nine at Au­gusta Na­tional to win his fifth green jacket and 15th ma­jor in a ca­reer that only two years ago looked to be done in by back problems.

Brooks Koepka showed his ma­jor prow­ess, along with plenty of re­solve, when he set a PGA Cham­pi­onship record with a seven-shot lead through 54 holes, nearly lost it, and then held on to beat John­son by two shots.

Koepka now goes for three straight U.S. Open ti­tles, a feat only ac­com­plished more than a cen­tury ago. John­son looks for atone­ment from his U.S. Open melt­down at Peb­ble Beach. No one has greater his­tory at Peb­ble Beach than Woods, not so much by num­ber of vic­to­ries but mar­gin of vic­tory. His 15shot win in 2000 is nearly as iconic as the course it­self.

David J. Phillip / As­so­ci­ated Press

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