6 Reasons Why The US Open Will Be An Event For The Ages
Article by Will Trinkwon
The best golfers in the world will be teeing it up at Pebble Beach to compete in the 2019 US Open. As the toughest of major championships held at one of the most iconic of tournament venues, this US Open promises to be a sporting event of the very highest calibre. Major championships are always high-octane events, the pinnacles of the professional golfer’s calendar, but this week’s competition promises to be exceptional even by these lofty standards. From the many sporting narratives that cluster around the event, to Pebble Beach’s spectacular panoramas, here’s six reasons why this week’s championship is guaranteed to be a show for the ages.
1 – The History
A US Open at Pebble Beach is like an Open at St Andrews – as much an episode in history as a mere golf competition. And the list of past champions who have triumphed at Pebble reads like a ‘who’s who’ of legends of the game. Pebble’s crusty fairways and cliff-cut greens have been trodden by almost all of golf’s greats. The 17th hole was the site of Jack Nicklaus’s famous 1 iron shot in 1972. At 208 yards, with a miniscule green, the 17th is one of the hardest par threes in all golf, but Nicklaus made light work of the fearsome hole, pulling out his 1 iron and hitting a towering, pin-seeking shot which actually clattered into the flagstick before finishing within inches of the cup. He would birdie the hole and bogey the last to close out his third US Open in a style befitting this most historic of venues. Jack’s rival for the best-player-of-all-time moniker, Tiger Woods, has also famously triumphed here. 28 years after Nicklaus’s pathbreaking victory, Woods grabbed a slice of history for himself when he won the 2000 US Open by a record 15 shots. The win was the first of the four consecutive major wins which comprised his 2000-2001 ‘Tiger Slam’ and heralded the arrival of a new dominant figure in the game. Other players who have won the US Open at Pebble Beach include Tom Watson (in 1982) and Tom Kite (in 1992). The presence of such great champions, both in the flesh and in spirit, will give this week’s US Open an incredible atmosphere.
2 – Top Players are in Top Form
Another reason this week’s US Open is set to be a classic is because of the volume of top players who enter the competition in form. The most high-profile of these is perhaps Rory McIlroy. Having already tasted victory at the Players Championship in March, McIlroy elevated his game to a new level at last week’s Canadian Open. Over the weekend he fired a 64 and then a 61, briefly flirting with a 59 before eventually capturing the trophy by a massive seven shots. And McIlroy is not the only top player to come to Pebble Beach riding a wave of great recent performances. Former world number one and Pebble Beach maestro, Tiger Woods, enjoyed a strong showing at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament a couple of weeks ago (finishing tied 9th) to improve hopes of a second major victory in 2019. Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, and Dustin Johnson, who finished second in both this year’s Masters and the PGA, are also playing wonderful golf and will almost certainly be a factor come Sunday. With so many really high-quality talents finding their strides ahead of the championship, this week’s competition looks destined to be one for the ages.
3 – So Many Arresting Storylines
One of the things which makes high-level competitions so special is their narrative component, the storylines which sport allows for and unfolds. This week’s US Open is no different. Perhaps the most sensational story attached to this championship is the question of whether Tiger Woods can recapture the magic that saw him triumph here 19 years ago. If the Big Cat were to emerge victorious here it would be his 16th major championship, putting him within just two of Jack Nicklaus’s all-time record and rejuvenating the possibility of Woods surpassing his tally of 18. But it’s not all about Tiger. Brooks Koepka also has the chance to make history by becoming only the second player ever to win three US Opens in a row after Willie Anderson. And there’s also the small matter of Rory McIlroy, seeking to follow his Woods in claiming his first major championship for almost five years. It hard to believe that McIlroy, once touted as a sure-fire double-figures major champion, has been out of the major winner’s circle for so long, but all that could change with a victory at Pebble, an outcome which looks all the more likely in the light of his recent electrifying Sunday in Canada. Which one of these champions will come good is anyone’s guess, but the number of tantalising storylines ensure that whoever the eventual winner, this US Open is certain to excite.
4 – Unmatched Views
At the heart of a US Open at Pebble Beach, however, is the course. And what a golf course it is. Hailed by many as the American St Andrews, Pebble Beach is among the most beautiful and iconic layouts anywhere in the golf world, particularly when it comes to its views. Few courses on the planet offers such visually arresting panoramas as the curdle of perfectly manicured fairways and greens that stretch across the cliffs in California. The first few holes on the course (while tactically interesting) are visually nothing to write home about, but when players get to the seventh, a short par three which backs onto the ocean, prepare to be mesmerised by the views. The next hole, the 8th, runs right across the clifftops and even sees players hitting out over the water as they go for the green in two. Jack Nicklaus called this “the finest second shot in golf” and Tiger Woods called it the “most daunting”. Though slightly less foreboding, the ninth and tenth holes are similarly difficult and just as spectacular. If players lose any of their shots to the right, they’ll be swimming with the fishes and the presence of the ocean crashing against the cliffs, and Carmel Beach in the background, make this sequence of holes one of the most beautiful and deadly in all of golf.
5 – A Pressure-Packed Finish
Not all the holes at Pebble Beach run so close to the sea, but the cliffs rear into view once again as the players come back towards the clubhouse and the final two holes. The finish at Pebble Beach is iconic and testing and makes for as dramatic a finishing sequence as any in a major championship. Like Amen Corner at Augusta, the power of these holes is their malleability. So much can happen between the 17th tee and the 18th green. 17 is a tough par. A long par three, with an under-sized and rock-hard green, the 17th is as difficult as you’ll find anywhere on the US Open rota. But it can be tamed. Jack Nicklaus’s miraculous 1 iron, which I described earlier in this article (and Tom Watson’s equally famous chip-in in 1982) prove that twos can be made here, although a excellent approach (or a stroke of pure magic) is certainly required. The par five 18th is a pure match-play hole, where eagles can be made as readily as double bogies. With the famous waves smashing against the rocks to the left, the temptation is to bail out right, but this only brings trees and a bunker into play and makes it difficult to hit the surface in two. One or two shot deficits can easily be frittered away or made up in the 560 odd yards that comprise the final hole.
6 – A Truly ‘Open’ Open
Although most golf fans will associate the course with Tiger Woods’s runaway victory in 2000, Pebble Beach is actually one of the most ‘open’ US Open venues. In contrast to Bethpage Black, say, where the damp and long course gave big hitters such as the eventual winner Brooks Koepka and bridesmaid Dustin Johnson a nearly unassailable advantage, Pebble is short (at a little over 7,000 yards) and sweet and should be fast-running enough to allow many types of players into the frame. On the face of it, this may evoke fears that the course may be overpowered or beaten into submission by the so-called ‘bomb and gouge’ style of play which has become so popular in recent years. But what Pebble lacks in size it more than makes up for in sheer trickiness. Its fairways are relatively wide, but also fast-running, and the difficulty of hitting them is only increased by the fact that many of them are cut into slopes. As at any US Open, the rough at this week’s tournament will also be long and clustered. Combined with the smallness and firmness of Pebble’s greens this means that even with short irons, any player who finds himself lost in the tundra is going to have trouble extricating himself and making par, while off-line approaches will be severely punished, often leaving the errant player with difficult (if not impossible) chips. The premium Pebble Beach puts on accuracy over distance means that even the shortest of hitters, provided they’re straight, have the opportunity to contend.
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