119th U.S. Open Lands at Pebble Beach

By Brady Kannon  () 

Pebble Beach comes around every so often on the USGA’s calendar for United States Open golf championships and when it does, it is usually for a milestone type occasion. It is absolutely one of the crown jewel golf courses world-wide and is the USGA’s most iconic go to venue. In the 119th edition of the U.S. Open, it will be the 100th year in existence for Pebble Beach Golf Links, located along the Monterey Peninsula, next door to Carmel, Calif., and about two hours south of San Francisco.

While Augusta National runs the Masters Tournament and the PGA of America hosts The PGA Championship, it is the USGA that puts on the U.S. Open. The USGA has come under fire in recent years for U.S. Open Championships in which the golf course has either gotten out of hand or has not produced the type of championship the players, the fans, or the organization has envisioned. The goal of the USGA is to make the U.S. Open the most stern test of golf of the season and for decades this meant narrow fairways, menacing rough, and lightning quick putting surfaces.

Pebble Beach should produce exactly this and if it does, it should restore this championship’s reputation after having gone through a rough patch for the last 4-5 years. Pebble Beach is also home to The AT&T Pro-Am, played in early February on the Tour schedule. It makes up two of the four rounds as Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are also a part of the 3-course competition. For this tournament, Pebble plays as a Par 72 course at roughly 6,800 yards. For this year’s U.S. Open, it will be set up as a Par 71 and will stretch to over 7,100 yards. This is still relatively short by Tour standards, but with the nasty rough and narrow fairways, it still should produce a test of golf that all concerned will be pleased with. One major defense of Pebble Beach is the size of its greens, about half the size of your average PGA Tour greens, so hitting them in regulation will be paramount to a player’s success this week. As will Scrambling - for two reasons - because the greens are so small, they will be hard to hit on approach, and if and when they are missed, one will find very penal rough to deal with in attempting to get one’s ball onto the putting surface. See the video Patrick Cantlay posted to his social media account last week..

Once on the surface, players will be asked to negotiate a Poa annua turf species with the putter. It may be the toughest of all types of grass to putt on as it is spongy, can get bumpy, and thus produces typically a less than true roll compared to the likes of Bentgrass or Bermuda, which are typically firmer, flatter turf surfaces. Where other types of grasses don’t necessarily separate the field much, Poa annua has its putting specialists and other players that find the surface extremely difficult to figure out.

The weather this week at Pebble Beach looks to be about perfect. Temperatures in the low 60s and winds ranging from 9-to-11 MPH, should produce optimal scoring conditions.

FULL TOURNAMENT HEAD TO HEAD MATCH UP

Henrik Stenson (-110) over Gary Woodland

Stenson has never played the AT&T Pro Am at Pebble but he has a very solid history at U.S. Open championships. Largely in part to his supreme ball striking, tremendous accuracy off of the tee, and his prowess for hitting greens in regulation. Woodland is a long hitter but ranks 64th in Driving Accuracy to Stenson’s 6th. Stenson is also No. 1 on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach but a big separation comes around the greens where Woodland struggles not only with the putter but in Scrambling as well. I also feel that with Pebble being a links type of golf course, Henrik Stenson will have an advantage as a British Open Champion. I would probably make Stenson a -125 or -130 favorite here, so getting a pick ‘em is a nice price in my opinion.

TO WIN THE U.S. OPEN

Dustin Johnson (7/1)

In many shops, DJ has emerged as the betting favorite and it is hard to argue. He has finished 2nd in each of the season’s first two majors. He has won the AT&T at Pebble twice and finished Top 10 another six times. In four out of the last five U.S. Opens, he’s finished Top 5. When the U.S. Open was last held at Pebble in 2010, he held the 54-hole lead before going on to shoot 82 on Sunday. With his success at this course, this championship, and some unfinished business left on the table, I see no reason that Johnson won’t be a serious factor.

Patrick Cantlay (16/1)

Patrick Cantlay grew up in Southern California and attended UCLA. Because of this, he has great experience at coastal golf courses and on Poa annua greens. He’s finished Top 10 in both of the majors this season, including 3rd at Bethpage Black last month, which also features Poa annua grass putting surfaces. He is No. 1 on Tour in Scrambling and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. He also arrives with confidence, having just won The Memorial two weeks ago.

Jim Furyk (125/1)

It is hard to imagine someone at Furyk’s age (49) winning their second U.S. Open, but he’s having the best season we’ve seen out of him in many years and he is the quintessential U.S. Open type player; hit it straight, hit greens, don’t make big mistakes, and grind out par after par. He’s played the AT&T at Pebble 19 times with five Top 10 finishes and was 14th this year back in February. In addition to his U.S. Open victory in 2003, he’s placed Top 10 another six times. He’s 7th on Tour in Greens in Regulation, 8th in Scrambling, and 4th in Putting Inside of 10 feet.

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