pebble-beach-no-7

Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills…what more needs to be said? These are three of the most famous courses in the world and are all a combination of breathtaking scenery and ingenious design. While the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will be played on all three courses, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the closing three holes of Pebble, which in my opinion, are probably the best closing holes in golf with St. Andrews and Carnoustie.

The history here at Pebble is just outstanding: Jack’s 1-iron in the 1972 US Open on 17 that hit the flagstick and stuck a foot from the hole, Watson’s chip in to take the lead over the Golden Bear in 1982’s US Open, Tom Kite outlasting the field in a windstorm in 1992, Steve Lowery’s incredibly underrated shot from last year from a greenside bunker from 220 with a sidehill-downhill lie while going head to head with Vijay, and the take-your-pick from Tiger in 2000, be it the hole out at the pro-am to complete the comeback or the entirety of the 15 stroke win.

But back to the course…

Note: I had written this on Tuesday, but WordPress decided that it wasn’t worth saving and posting so it was all lost. Thanks, WordPress. About the course…I’m focusing on the closing stretch because everyone knows Pebble.

The 16th hole is a relatively short par 4 with a steep decline in elevation. The fairway sharply narrows from a reasonably wide long iron tee shot to a much thinner strip of fairway if you choose to go the fairway wood route. From there, your shot to a undulating green with bunkers protecting it is a vastly underrated shot in tournament golf. While it’s normally an easy short iron to the green, the wind is tricky to gauge, and considering the following holes, it’s crucial to post a good score as to avoid being forced to make up ground on what lay ahead. You might remember this green from Tiger’s US Open romp, where on Sunday, he sank a tough 12-footer to save par, keeping his goal of not bogeying a hole in the final round alive, and the intense glare that follwed.

When you get to 17, the first thing you see is a gigantic bunker protecting the Sunday pin position. The green is hourglass shaped and a dozen or so yards from the Pacific Ocean, leaving it exposed to the elements and making wind a huge factor. On Sundays, the traditional pin position is back left, and requires a long iron to a green that isn’t receptive at all, and considering the wind, simply FINDING the green requires a career shot. The hourglass shape of the green really makes this hole a beast, considering the logical miss is to the right, and there’s simply no green there to miss on, you’re looking at a tough bunker shot and a hard par.

18 is one of the most legendary holes in golf. Perched right on the Pacific Ocean, this hole forces the player to execute a variety of shots and rewards well played shots while punishing poor ones. A dogleg to the left, your tee shot needs to be a fade because a drive with draw spin will run off into the rough, or worse, due to the slope of the fairway. There’s a single cypress tree in the middle of the fairway, and it must be accounted for if you wish to TRY and reach the green in two, but considering you’re now facing an approach shot with a fairway wood from a hook-lie to a green that can only be held with a fade, it’s not exactly easy.

Since the sloped green is protected so well by trees and a large bunker, the most logical play is to lay up and wedge it close. Your third shot here is crucial because if you don’t get it close, the undulation of the green leaves you a rollercoaster putt that must be struck perfectly to score well. If you’re left or right, you’re dead, and if you leave your approach long, then you’re faced with an incredibly difficult pitch and run from a downhill lie. While 18 is a difficult hole, it’s arguably the most beautiful in golf as it’s roughly 500 yards of Pacific coastline that simply can’t be found in any other region.

Well, despite the fact that a bunch of amateurs will be hacking up this gorgeous track, it’s still a treat to the eyes and the pros always love playing here. If it were any other course, this event would go the way of the Bob Hope, a dying caricature unable to sustain its past glory, but Pebble negates that, and will be the real star this weekend. Anytime we get to see any of these courses it’s a treat, so let’s hope we get some good weather and Vijay and Phil in the final pairing. That’d be sweet.

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