Without rain, Pebble Beach could get ‘tricky’

Phil Mickelson tees off on the par-3 seventh hole on June 15.

Phil Mickelson tees off on the par-3 seventh hole on June 15.


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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – How tough will Pebble Beach play this week? It’s difficult to tell.

Pebble Beach has been the site of U.S. Open scoring records, but it doesn’t take much – namely, wind – for it to turn against the players.

Gil Morgan reached 12 under par in the third round of ’92 U.S. Open, and Tiger Woods won 10 years ago at a dozen under par. Morgan was the first player to reach double-digits under par in an Open, while Woods still holds the record for low 72-hole score in relation to par.

photo

Tiger Woods during Tuesday's practice round at the U.S. Open.

But if you look deeper, you see that Pebble Beach presents a stern test.

Morgan ended 72 holes at 5 over, eight shots behind winner Tom Kite. The final round was so windy that Kite hit 6-iron on the 107-yard seventh hole; only five players broke or matched par for the day, and 20 others failed to break 80.

Three over par was good enough for second place in ’00.

Phil Mickelson said he was “concerned” with the conditions at this year’s U.S. Open.

“In both those Opens (’92 and ’00) we had rain the first couple of days,” Mickelson said. “And so it was very scorable the first two rounds in ’92. And then the course got away and guys were shooting in the mid-to high-80s.

“It’s not supposed to rain this week, and that’s why I'm concerned.”

Pebble Beach’s small, undulating greens are hard enough to hit in normal conditions. They become near-impossible targets when you throw in a stiff breeze and firm conditions.

Even though it’s only Tuesday, Pebble Beach is already playing firm and fast, said Ernie Els, runner-up here in 2000.

“The fairways are running a bit more this year than they did in 2000,” Els said. “And I must say the greens are very firm. ... There’s a huge difference from the morning to the afternoon, when the poa annua really dries up. When you hit the brown patches, the ball really doesn’t stop on the green.

“So it could get a little bit tricky.”

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