Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour – Pebble Beach Golf Links is hosting the 110th United States Open Championship this week, and the golf world is a buzz with all the possibilities of what may play out with beautiful weather forecast along the Pacific Ocean. All the world’s very best players are in the field even if this major has a shallower overall contingent than others.

However even with the likes of Woods, Mickelson, Els, Harrington, Ishikawa, and McIlroy, the star of this week is, no doubt, the golf course. The USGA has made Pebble extremely difficult as they do every host course they award a championship to, but the beauty and majesty of this place on Carmel Bay must still distract many of the players. The holes that will make or break players down the stretch on Sunday are 14, 17, and 18.The 14th hole is a long, uphill, dogleg right par 5 that players will feel fortunate to par. No one can reach this green in two shots, and the approach is a blind third shot that must hit the proper section of the green if the ball is to stay on the green. The same hole took Paul Goydos out of contention at the AT&T Pro-Am in February after he made 8 on Sunday. Two scary facts to add to that are Goydos was not the only triple bogey on the 14th and the greens much more quicker and less receptive this week than they were in February. The 17th is the classic US Open at Pebble hole. Nicklaus hit a clutch tee shot on this 220 yard par 3 in 1972 to cinch his victory. Then in 1982, Tom Watson chipped in from the deep stuff on 17 to stop Jack from winning another at Pebble. The green is an hourglass shape positioned at a 45 degree angle from the tee with a bunker guarding the green in front and nasty rough surrounding the putting surface long. Lots of drama has occurred here in the past, and patrons will be staking spots at 17 early in the morning to witness some history. The 18th is a long par 5 that traditionally is a birdie hole, but the analysts are predicting many golfers will lay back off the tee this week. The 18th fairway used to house two trees at the landing area for professional tee shots. The trees came down after a storm a few years ago, but they were recently replaced by two more trees that very likely could cause problems for players using driver.

I foresee Pebble Beach winning this US Open, but as far as the players go, I am watching Jim Furyk. He plays smart golf, which is why he won the ’03 Open in Chicago and has been in contention in others. He tied for 10th at the Memorial with a mediocre weekend, but steady golf wins Opens. Another steady golfer to watch is Luke Donald. He has not been near the top of many major leaderboards in his career, but I believe he has the nerves to handle the pressure. NBC televises the US Open.

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