Q&A: Clampett has long history at Pebble

Bobby Clampett at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Bobby Clampett at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.


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Bobby Clampett has a long history at Pebble Beach. He grew up on the Monterey Peninsula and graduated from Robert Louis Stevenson High School in Pebble Beach, Calif. Clampett won two California Amateurs (1980, ’78) at Pebble Beach and competed in two U.S. Opens there. He tied for third in 1982, when he was a young phenom out of BYU, and improbably tied for 37th in 2000. The latter performance came after he had quit competitive golf and was working as a CBS commentator. He had to make it through sectional qualifying to get in the field, and was on the leaderboard after a first-round 68.

Clampett advanced through local qualifying for this year’s Open, but did not advance through sectional qualifying. Clampett, who is in his rookie season on the Champions Tour, spoke recently to Golfweek about his affinity for Pebble Beach:

What makes Pebble Beach such a good U.S. Open venue?

One of the beauties about it, it’s kind of an equalizer where it’s not all about length. Too much of the game today is predicated on how far you hit it, not on the quality of the shot that’s made. It’s one of the great attributes of Pebble Beach, that its maintained it’s integrity through all this change in technology and equipment.

Why is it such an ‘equalizer’?

The greens are the smallest of any in championship golf. When you have that, and you’re playing short irons into greens – which most of the par 4s are short-iron par 4s – it’s about the quality of the shot to get it close (to the hole) and hit the greens. If you move (the tees) back so that the average-length hitter is hitting a 5-iron into the green, and the long hitter is hitting a 9-iron, now you’ve taken that element of the quality of the shot out, and given the advantage to the long hitter.

Which hole provides a good example of that?

The eighth hole at Pebble Beach is one of the great par 4s of all time. The tee shot is about picking a line and picking a distance. It’s about control, trying to put the ball in the right spot. The second shot is all about accuracy and control, and placing the ball.

When I played there in 2000, in the second round I can still remember a back-left hole placement and hitting a 6-iron, and I knew if I landed that ball 8 yards on the green it would be over, but if I landed it 6 yards on the green it would be short of the hole. That’s how precise I had to be. I landed it exactly 8 yards on the green and it did go over. It was almost a miracle to get that up-and-down. If they made that hole 490 yards, then it would take all the specialness of that hole away.

What’s your favorite memory of Pebble Beach?

I call it the best shot I ever hit. It was on the 72nd hole of the ’82 U.S. Open. I had 247 (yards) to the front edge for my second shot, and I was trailing Watson and Nicklaus by three at the time. They were on the 14th hole. I figured if I could eagle 18, I might have a chance. Eighteen has always been, for me, especially in those days, a three-shot hole. I never attempted to go for the green in two. I had one of those original TaylorMade metal woods that I was using as my driving club, and I could hit it off the fairway. I went for it, and it rolled up that little gap between the bunker and the ocean, just short of the green. I nearly chipped it in.

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