USGA hoping to get back to old-style US Open at Pebble Beach


By DOUG FERGUSON - AP Golf Writer



This Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the sixth and seventh holes of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

This Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the sixth and seventh holes of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)


This Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the seventh green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)


FILE - In this June 18, 2000, file photo Tiger Woods holds the trophy after capturing the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. For all his feats, however, nothing compares with Woods' 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the largest margin in major championship history. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)


Key anniversaries for the 2019 US Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A look at some of the anniversaries this year at the U.S. Open:

100 YEARS AGO (1919)

The U.S. Open resumed after a three-year break because of World War I, and Walter Hagen prevailed after a night on the town in Boston with Al Jolson and plenty of champagne. The 1919 U.S. Open at Brae Burn is more frequently referenced for the collapse of Mike Brady. He opened with rounds of 74-74, and then built a five-shot lead going into the afternoon 18. Brady stumbled to an 80 to lose the largest 54-hole lead in U.S. Open history. Hagen caught him with a 75, and then beat Brady by one shot with a 77 in the 18-hole playoff. Brady, who also lost in a playoff in 1911, never won a major.

75 YEARS AGO (1944)

The U.S. Open was not held for the third consecutive year because of World War II — only the PGA Championship was held that year. Even so, golf still managed a schedule of 23 tournaments. Byron Nelson played several events in support of war efforts. One held during a typical U.S. Open week was the New York Red Cross Open at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York. Nelson won with a score of 13-under 275.

50 YEARS AGO (1969)

Orville Moody remains part of U.S. Open history as the last player to win after going through local and sectional qualifying. He was three shots behind Miller Barber at Champions Golf Club going into the final round. Moody closed with a 2-over 72 while Barber fell apart with a 78. Moody held on to win by one shot over a pair of major champions, Al Geiberger and Bob Rosburg, and Deane Beman, who later became PGA Tour commissioner. Moody, a 14-year veteran of the Army known as “Sarge,” never won another PGA Tour event.

25 YEARS AGO (1994)

Arnold Palmer played in his final U.S. Open at Oakmont near his home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The tearful farewell when the King missed the cut gave way to a new star in golf — Ernie Els, a 24-year-old South African with a pure swing. Els had the 54-hole lead and closed with a 73, setting up a three-way playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts. Montgomerie wore all black in the suffocating heat and shot 78 in the playoff. Els and Roberts each shot 74 and went overtime, with Els winning on the second extra hole. Curtis Strange became the first player to break par all four days at a U.S. Open without winning. He missed the playoff by one shot.

20 YEARS AGO (1999)

Payne Stewart won the first U.S. Open played at Pinehurst No. 2 with a 15-foot par putt and a thrust of his fist that was memorialized in a bronze statue after he perished in a plane crash later in the year. This was as much about Phil Mickelson, carrying a pager with a pledge to withdraw if his wife went into labor. Mickelson thought the U.S. Open was his to lose until he bogeyed the 16th to fall into tie, and Stewart hit 6-iron to 3 feet on the par-3 17th for a birdie to take the lead. Stewart missed the fairway on the 18th, however, laid up and hit a lob wedge to 15 feet. Mickelson could only watch as Stewart made the par putt for his second U.S. Open. Mickelson’s oldest daughter was born the next day.

10 YEARS AGO (2009)

Lucas Glover won his only major on a Bethpage Black so soaked with rain that it took five days to get in 72 holes, and even then it came down to the wire. Mickelson, a runner-up at Bethpage Black in 2002, had another chance until missing a short par putt on the 15th. Hunter Mahan looked like a winner until his shot hit the pin on the 16th and caromed away. David Duval was back from a slump and was tied with two holes to play until an untimely bogey. Glover played a steady hand, closed with a 2-over 72 and won by two shots over Mickelson, Duval and 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes, who shot 76.

— DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The stage is set for what should be the ideal U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, perhaps the most popular of all U.S. Open courses with its magnificent Pacific coastline and small greens, with its history of high drama and great champions.

The fairways are roughly the same width as always at Pebble. The rough is lush and penal. The forecast is good.

“I don’t think I’ve seen the golf course in better condition,” said John Bodenhamer, the senior managing director of championships for the USGA.

So what could possibly go wrong?

Based on the recent run of U.S. Open mishaps, that’s a question that lingers for some of golf’s best players.

And the USGA can only hope it has the answer.

“I think the U.S. Open has been in the past one of the most respected majors as far as the test you’re going to face — fair, hard, a good test of golf,” Rickie Fowler said. “I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of guys who say it’s been a true test. Not all that stuff is coming together like it used to.”

Fowler is still relatively young, and he’s never passed the test at any major.

But he is not a lone voice on this.

Phil Mickelson is playing his 28th U.S. Open, with a record six runner-up finishes, and he’s praying for rain.

“One hundred percent of the time, they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain,” Mickelson said, so bitter about a pin position at Shinnecock Hills last year that he swatted a ball with his putter as it was rolling off the green. “The rain is the governor — that’s the only governor they have. And if they don’t have a governor, they don’t know how to control themselves.”

Tiger Woods, a three-time U.S. Open champion, at times feels like even he recognizes it.

“The Open has changed,” Woods said. “I thought it was just narrow fairways — hit it in the fairway or hack out, move on. Now there’s chipping areas around the greens. There’s less rough, graduated rough. They try to make the Open strategically different. I just like it when there’s high rough and narrow fairways and, ‘Go get it, boys.’”

That’s why the USGA might face more pressure this week than any of the players.

It needs to get this one right.

Some of it has been out of the USGA’s control, such as the lack of wind at Erin Hills on a wide-open course designed for it. The fescue grass on the greens at Chambers Bay in 2015 was all but dead when the tournament started, and putting was severely difficult by Sunday. Jordan Spieth won when Dustin Johnson three-putted for par from 12 feet on the last hole.

Oakmont was a typical U.S. Open marred by a rules gaffe that led to Johnson and Shane Lowry playing most of the back nine while not knowing the score. The USGA waited until after the round to determine whether Johnson’s ball had moved on the fifth green. The USGA handled it by the book — it just didn’t account for the day of the week.

And then an ideal course at Shinnecock Hills changed on Saturday with a few new pins, a blue sky and more wind. The last 45 players to tee off couldn’t break par.

“It’s not lost on us, all that’s been said and written,” Bodenhamer said. “It’s incumbent upon us to have a great U.S. Open — not just this year, the next several years.”

Bodenhamer considered the list of U.S. Open champions at Pebble — Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Woods and Graeme McDowell — and suggested Pebble Beach needs little more than window dressing to be the test it’s always been.

There are a few changes. Rough has been restored left of the green on the par-5 14th, where in 2010 a shot that missed by an inch rolled for a mile — or so it seemed — and reasonable shots often rolled back to the players.

Bodenhamer said the fairways are slightly narrower than in 2010, and there are few instances of graduated rough, especially on the shorter par 4s.

This should be a typical U.S. Open.

Right?

“Golf course setup is not easy,” former champion Jim Furyk said. “We’re human. The golf course changes. Nothing is free of being able to screw it up. You’re dealing with a moving target. As critical as we are as players, it would be difficult to be on the other side and set it up.”

The problem in Furyk’s view is how the USGA has responded to it over the years. If anything is going to go bad in a major, the U.S. Open is the chief candidate. That’s the very nature of this major. It wants to live on the edge — players expect that — and invariably the line is crossed.

With so much negativity since 2014 — the USGA’s finest but forgotten hour, setting up Pinehurst No. 2 for men and women in consecutive weeks — there has been a growing disconnect between the USGA and the players it sees only once a year.

“Pinehurst, they did a good job,” Adam Scott said. “I recall being in the parking lot at Hoylake right after it and saying to Mike Davis, ‘That was a good U.S. Open, well done.’ Because I felt he needed that feedback. Obviously, it didn’t go the right direction since then.”

Davis, the CEO of the USGA who has been setting up the U.S. Open since Winged Foot in 2006, turned the control over to Bodenhamer, his chief assistant. Bodenhamer has kept an open mind as he listens to his staff (including agronomists), along with the superintendent and golf director at Pebble Beach, longtime Pebble Beach caddie Casey Boins, and several past U.S. Open champions including Woods, Furyk, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Hale Irwin and Curtis Strange.

“They’ve earned the right to talk about the U.S. Open,” Bodenhamer said.

The USGA also hired former PGA Tour player Jason Gore to be available to players for any questions or concerns. Top rules officials for the USGA have been at PGA Tour events more than ever to build better relationships.

The measure, though, is four days over Pebble Beach.

The goal is to present the toughest test of the year without it getting silly. For all the criticism, however, the quality of champions is strong — Brooks Koepka and Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose, Woods, McIlroy and Martin Kaymer.

And it’s difficult to argue with Koepka’s observation that “we’ve all got to play it. We’ve all got to deal with the same issues.”

One thing the USGA got away from is the moniker. Instead of the “toughest test in golf,” the blue blazers more recently have called it the “ultimate test.” It’s just semantics, but Bodenhamer had an even better definition that might give the U.S. Open a fresh start with an old style.

“The best way to describe it is what I grew up with: When you see it, you’ll know it’s a U.S. Open,” he said. “I think you’ll see that this year.”

___

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This Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the sixth and seventh holes of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/06/web1_123013457-30bb06f4f32547f0abfbadd56ebd72ff.jpgThis Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the sixth and seventh holes of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

This Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the seventh green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/06/web1_123013457-6571734ba3344dba88894442e589c895.jpgThis Nov. 8, 2018 photo shows an aerial view of the seventh green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open golf tournament is scheduled at Pebble Beach from June 13-16, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

FILE – In this June 18, 2000, file photo Tiger Woods holds the trophy after capturing the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. For all his feats, however, nothing compares with Woods’ 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the largest margin in major championship history. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/06/web1_123013457-ef2a2d9a8b3e4360bca424ef14d55871.jpgFILE – In this June 18, 2000, file photo Tiger Woods holds the trophy after capturing the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. For all his feats, however, nothing compares with Woods’ 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the largest margin in major championship history. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

By DOUG FERGUSON

AP Golf Writer

Key anniversaries for the 2019 US Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A look at some of the anniversaries this year at the U.S. Open:

100 YEARS AGO (1919)

The U.S. Open resumed after a three-year break because of World War I, and Walter Hagen prevailed after a night on the town in Boston with Al Jolson and plenty of champagne. The 1919 U.S. Open at Brae Burn is more frequently referenced for the collapse of Mike Brady. He opened with rounds of 74-74, and then built a five-shot lead going into the afternoon 18. Brady stumbled to an 80 to lose the largest 54-hole lead in U.S. Open history. Hagen caught him with a 75, and then beat Brady by one shot with a 77 in the 18-hole playoff. Brady, who also lost in a playoff in 1911, never won a major.

75 YEARS AGO (1944)

The U.S. Open was not held for the third consecutive year because of World War II — only the PGA Championship was held that year. Even so, golf still managed a schedule of 23 tournaments. Byron Nelson played several events in support of war efforts. One held during a typical U.S. Open week was the New York Red Cross Open at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York. Nelson won with a score of 13-under 275.

50 YEARS AGO (1969)

Orville Moody remains part of U.S. Open history as the last player to win after going through local and sectional qualifying. He was three shots behind Miller Barber at Champions Golf Club going into the final round. Moody closed with a 2-over 72 while Barber fell apart with a 78. Moody held on to win by one shot over a pair of major champions, Al Geiberger and Bob Rosburg, and Deane Beman, who later became PGA Tour commissioner. Moody, a 14-year veteran of the Army known as “Sarge,” never won another PGA Tour event.

25 YEARS AGO (1994)

Arnold Palmer played in his final U.S. Open at Oakmont near his home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The tearful farewell when the King missed the cut gave way to a new star in golf — Ernie Els, a 24-year-old South African with a pure swing. Els had the 54-hole lead and closed with a 73, setting up a three-way playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts. Montgomerie wore all black in the suffocating heat and shot 78 in the playoff. Els and Roberts each shot 74 and went overtime, with Els winning on the second extra hole. Curtis Strange became the first player to break par all four days at a U.S. Open without winning. He missed the playoff by one shot.

20 YEARS AGO (1999)

Payne Stewart won the first U.S. Open played at Pinehurst No. 2 with a 15-foot par putt and a thrust of his fist that was memorialized in a bronze statue after he perished in a plane crash later in the year. This was as much about Phil Mickelson, carrying a pager with a pledge to withdraw if his wife went into labor. Mickelson thought the U.S. Open was his to lose until he bogeyed the 16th to fall into tie, and Stewart hit 6-iron to 3 feet on the par-3 17th for a birdie to take the lead. Stewart missed the fairway on the 18th, however, laid up and hit a lob wedge to 15 feet. Mickelson could only watch as Stewart made the par putt for his second U.S. Open. Mickelson’s oldest daughter was born the next day.

10 YEARS AGO (2009)

Lucas Glover won his only major on a Bethpage Black so soaked with rain that it took five days to get in 72 holes, and even then it came down to the wire. Mickelson, a runner-up at Bethpage Black in 2002, had another chance until missing a short par putt on the 15th. Hunter Mahan looked like a winner until his shot hit the pin on the 16th and caromed away. David Duval was back from a slump and was tied with two holes to play until an untimely bogey. Glover played a steady hand, closed with a 2-over 72 and won by two shots over Mickelson, Duval and 54-hole leader Ricky Barnes, who shot 76.

— DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer