PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Embroider the $200 sweaters, order the $125 golf shirts, the $40 hats and various memorabilia: When the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach Golf Links in 2019 it will be a party -- the 100th birthday of America's most celebrated walk in golf.
And if some pros have any say about it there will be a softer, kinder 14th green -- the culmination of a flabbergasting, uphill, 572-yard par 5.
After Paul Goydos and three other players made quadruple bogey on No. 14 in the final round of the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Goydos said, "You're trying to stop a pitching wedge on a moving school bus."
The 14th at Pebble Beach was looking more like a NASCAR pileup at one of the world's most distinctive greens.
Once again, golfers and officials alike started calling for a change.
"We are in talks for the 2018 Amateur and 2019 U.S. Open setups," said RJ Harper, senior vice president, golf, Pebble Beach Company. "No decisions have been made for any changes to Pebble Beach at this point. We should know more in approximately six to nine months."
But others have already reported that Arnold Palmer will direct a transformation of the 14th green, with a goal to expand the upper left side of this elevated green and reduce the killer slope that feeds to the right.
So what if you have never played Pebble Beach, and it is on your Bucket List? Don't you want to play this glorious course with all its historical quirkiness?
What if they blew up the hourglass green on No. 17, that 178-yard, par 3 where Tom Watson chipped in to win the 1982 U.S. Open? What if they bulldozed it and expanded it into a massive, circular Tom Fazio adventure complete with bumps and humps faster than putting on the hood of a Dodge pickup? That's not Pebble Beach.
And actually, that year Watson won, he credited his recovery on 14 for the win, not the chip in at 17. At 14, he hit his approach thin and it rolled through the green leaving him 35 feet of trickiness to negotiate to save par. He did and remembers feeling in control of the tournament with a one-stroke lead.
Dave Riney, of nearby Salinas, doesn't play Pebble Beach every day, no doubt, with the green fee near $500. So he summed the feeling up pretty well for everyone who walks on the beautiful property to play for the first time.
"I was really excited when I walked from the putting green and stepped on the first tee," Riney said. "Because I am a local, I was able to walk on a day when the weather was beautiful. When you take in the panorama at the seventh (106-yard, par 3), it seems so easy yet intimidating because of the ocean background and sand around the green.
"Then No. 8 (416 yards, par 4) with a blind tee shot -- and a second shot requiring clearing the ocean and hitting a small green -- was amazing. Teeing off on 18 (543 yards, par 5) after seeing it done for years on TV was exhilarating. With Carmel Bay on the left, trees in the fairway and small houses on the right, the shot was intimidating but an awesome feeling."
This course can humble the best golfers when the cold and wind sets in but can be had on a perfect, sunny, warm day.
Don't miss playing at least once in your lifetime. The novice will be nervous on the first tee but will soon be thrilled with the beauty and challenge.
And to Pebble Beach's brass: Please don't change the 14th green. It's a hoot to watch the pros struggle. But remember in the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, D.A. Points holed his third shot for eagle, barely clearing the cavernous front bunker, landing in the greenside sticky rough and rolling into the hole. He went on to win the tourney and the pro-am with his celebrity partner, Bill Murray.
"Personally, I think the third shot (usually played with a wedge) is likely the hardest shot on the golf course and the one most PGA Tour players fear the most, especially if they are trying to get it close enough to have a decent birdie putt and make up ground on the leader," said former PGA Tour player Bill Pelham, of Houston. "There is simply no margin for error, and even a good shot can get a hard bounce and end up some place ugly."
Pebble Beach is also about small greens. The average green size is 3,580 square feet -- the smallest on the PGA Tour. The course has 92 bunkers, and water comes in play on nine holes along the Pacific Ocean. That's where your mind can wander fast. But it will be the most enjoyable wander you might ever have.
Can't afford the pricey Lodge at Pebble Beach? No worries. Stay at the Mariposa Inn and Suites just across from Del Monte Shopping Center. Enjoy a "Healthy Beginning" continental breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, microwave, small refrigerator, fire pits, hot tub, pool, and covered parking. For more information, see www.mariposamonterey.com or call (800) 824-2295.
May 20, 2011