'Humming' wind packs heavy punch at Pebble Beach
Saturday, February 8, 2014
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Having played the back nine in level par to remain 4 under, Robert Garrigus stood on the first tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links and took stock of the calm.
“Perfect,” he said, nodding his approval at the lack of wind and the relative warmth halfway through his second round in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “Just perfect.”
Little did Garrigus know how quickly that would change – and how dramatically more difficult things would become. After making par at the first and birdie at the par-5 second, Garrigus stood on the third tee and felt the fury of Mother Nature – a buckling wind right into his face.
How much force did it pack? Consider that Garrigus, one of the game’s longest hitters, watched in disbelief as his 3-wood tee ball appeared helpless against the wind. “I hit 6-iron into No. 3,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve never hit that much there.”
Instead, the 390-yard third hole is often a pitching wedge or 9-iron for Garrigus, but on this day his drive went just 223 yards. It got only exponentially tougher, too, as the trip along the 331-yard fourth, 188-yard fifth and 513-yard sixth took the players into the teeth of a cold, hard wind that was accompanied by driving rain.
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Brutal? It was, but to Garrigus, the challenge was to maintain composure and embrace a task that rarely presents itself. Such as at the par-3 seventh, arguably the most picturesque and famous hole in all of golf? “I hit 8-iron,” said Garrigus, and he let that sink in for impact. Then he repeated it. “Eight-iron from 100 yards, and it was the most nerve-racking shot of the day.”
Hole after hole coming home, Garrigus measured a stiff, cold wind and grinded accordingly. That he ran off seven straight pars after the birdie at the second, came in with 35 for a 1-under 71, and settled for 5-under 138 and in a share of sixth, left Garrigus with a smile.
And just so you don’t think that he was embellishing the challenge, others came in right behind Garrigus to offer testimony to demanding wind.
“It started humming at the third,” said Andrew Loupe, one group behind Garrigus. “The fourth (hole) was brutal, and the sixth was a beast.”
By the time he got to 8 and 9, his last two holes, Loupe was thrilled to see the finish line. He had opened with a 63 at Monterey Peninsula on Thursday, but the round of 1-over 73 at Pebble Beach in miserable weather “is something I’m really proud of,” he said. “I really battled.”
Loupe said he hit 7-iron at the 109-yard seventh and was relieved to have played his second nine in even-par 36, especially after bogeys at 17 and 18. “It was borderline stressful out there,” said the PGA Tour rookie.
Two groups later, another unheralded name on the first page of the leaderboard agreed that it was a day to survive.
“It’s blowing out there, and it’s tough,” said Jim Renner, who shot 73 and at 5-under 138 is one of those tied for sixth. “It’s tough to judge the ball. It’s just a guessing game.”
By the time he got to the little seventh, the wind had softened just a bit, so Renner hit a 9-iron to about 15 feet. He made par there, then got through the par-4 eighth unscathed, but the 466-yard ninth was a different story.
“Just a beast,” said Renner, who flushed his drive 260 yards and still had 215 yards into a howling wind. “There’s just no bail-out area there, unless you leave it short.”
For the day, the ninth played to a field average of 4.558 as more than half the pros (28 of 52) made bogey or double bogey. Renner was no different, but his bogey had a silver lining to it: It meant his day was done.