Will Brooks Koepka capture three?

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This week’s U.S. Open will be a tournament that will determine who is hungry for a victory, who is hungrier and who is the hungriest.

Will it be two-time defending champ Brooks Koepka (8-1)? Or how about perennial runnerup everywhere Dustin Johnson (8-1)? And don’t forget which-one-will-show-up Tiger Woods (10-1). All three can make their case for winning this week at the PGA Tour’s third major being played at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links.

But let’s start with a look at this stunning golf course. Pebble Beach is the No. 1 rated course by many, if not all, golf publications. The views, the challenge, the ambience, it’s all right here in a picturesque 7,075 yards.

Try to find a more beautiful place to tee it up anywhere in the world, we dare you.

That is, until the U.S. Open and the USGA come to town. Then, all bets are off. The rough will be up and the greens may be shaved to within 1/64th of an inch of their lives. Par is 71 this week and the challenge just got upped with the second hole changing from a likely birdie 516-yard, par-5 to a tough-as-nails par-4.

But forget the tough conditions the players will take on this week and take a few moments to concentrate on the beauty. Take in the greatness that is Pebble Beach.

We’ll throw one hole at you that will leave you speechless if and when you play it. The 7th hole, a par-3, is ridiculously short by anyone’s standards (106 yards with a 40-foot drop from tee to green) but still a challenge, especially if — and when — the wind blows. Long and right is the ocean, or if you’re lucky, a bunker. Remember, this is just 106 yards. It’s a wedge. But, what a wedge it has to be.

While you’re trying to decide which is more important — a par or the view — remember there are 17 more of these beautiful, but challenging, holes around this slice of paradise.

We now interrupt this PR moment to get back to the regularly scheduled major golf tournament and the trio of players who will likely be on everyone’s radar this week — Johnson, Koepka and Woods.

All three of these stars certainly have the talent, the drive and the resume to win. But it’s going to come down to that hunger thing we talked about and we think we’ve got the answer.

Only it might not be who you’re expecting. Or betting on … yet.

We’ll start with Koepka. There’s no one hotter on the planet if you tell him there’s a major coming up. Well, there’s a major coming up, and it’s right now.

And he’s won this one twice in a row. And he’s coming off a major victory at the PGA Championship which he’s now won twice in a row.

So how can we possibly not pick him for a three-peat? He’s still hungry, that’s been proven time and time again. But we’re sorry to be the ones to break the news, but there probably won’t be a three-peat.

He was a mere mortal last week (granted, it wasn’t a major), but turning your game on and off week after week (on for a major, off for a non-major) has to be tough to do, even for someone with the focus and talent of Koepka.

Then there’s the hungrier portion of this equation, Woods. He’s still looking for major No. 16 and victory No. 82. If that’s not the definition of hungrier when you’re playing at one of your favorite tracks then it just doesn’t exist.

Woods is also coming off a Sunday to remember two weeks ago at Jack’s Place where he put a scare into the field despite starting the final day 11 strokes back. He didn’t get there but it wasn’t for lack of effort. A back-nine run of pars derailed his comeback effort and proved there’s still work to be done to fine-tune his game.

The good news is he won here in 2000. But, let’s be real; he won everywhere that year with nine victories. He tied for fourth when the U.S. Open was held here in 2010 and was T15 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2012.

It’s just one of those tournaments where you’re not quite sure which Tiger will show up. It could be the one who finished with a roar at Jack’s event two weeks ago. Or maybe it’s the one who missed the cut at the PGA Championship. Or maybe it’s the one who won The Masters. At any rate, don’t look for his victory numbers to go up this week as the consistency isn’t quite there, especially on the sure-to-be-lightning-quick greens, for us to pick him as the winner.

That brings us to the hungriest portion of our tale, Johnson.

He has definitely been close to grabbing his second major. How close? Well, he’s been runner-up in the last two majors — The Masters and the PGA Championship. A break here or there and he could be two-for-two.

As it is, he’s still looking for major No. 2 in his career. There’s more to this numbers game, such as he’s ranked No. 2 in the official world golf rankings. He was T2 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in 2018. He also has two wins at the AT&T event, winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He can flat-out tame this place.

With that talent, that focus and that success at this course, why not win that second major at Pebble Beach and satisfy that hungriest of appetites?

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About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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