Pebble the perfect setting for a golf major

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A few years ago, Sports Illustrated polled 50 top professionals on the PGA Tour and asked them which of the four major championships they would most like to win.

Not surprisingly, the Masters outpolled the U.S. Open 2 to 1. The British Open ranked third and the PGA a distant fourth.

I suspect that if the polling had offered another option: which would you rather win, a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach or the Masters at Augusta National, it might have been a dead heat.

Pebble was the first public course to be named by Golf Digest as the Best Course in the World, and it consistently ranks in the top three on any of those lists.

This week marks the sixth time that Pebble Beach has hosted a U.S. Open, and it’s list of champions give it additional luster.

Jack Nicklaus won the first Open at Pebble in 1972, with a shot that goes down at the top of any list of clutch shots in a major.

On the spectacular par-three 17th hole, with a brisk wind in his face, the Golden Bear fearlessly ripped a one-iron that bounced off the flagstick and stopped an inch away.

Lee Trevino has said that in a lightning storm golfers should hold a one-iron above their heads, because “Even God can’t hit a one-iron.” Nicklaus proved him wrong that day.

Ten years later, that same 17th hole would prove to be a curse for Nicklaus. 

As he was being interviewed in the 18th hole tower and congratulated on winning his fifth U.S. Open, a feat that had never been accomplished, his nemesis Tom Watson was surveying a brutally tough downhill pitch shot from heavy rough left of the green. It was a shot a great player would get up and down less than half the time.

But Tom had a feeling, and when he holed the pitch he turned and pointed to his caddie Bruce Edwards as if to say, “I told you so.” Watson then birdied the 18th hole to seal the deal.

In 1992, in squalid conditions more suited to a British Open, 42-year-old Tom Kite, who had been close several times but never won a major, survived the bluster of the final round and became a deserving Open champion.

In 2000, at the height of his golfing powers, Tiger Woods annihilated the field at Pebble, shooting 12 under par and winning by 15 strokes. It was the most dominant major performance ever and should last the test of time.

The only non-Hall of Famer to win an Open at Pebble was Graeme McDowell in 2010. Again, it was a matter of surviving the swirling winds and ocean breezes that led to his win. McDowell was proficient at hitting low iron shots

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About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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