Changes prepared Pebble Beach Golf Links for 2010 U.S. Open

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

The hazards that make Pebble Beach Golf Links the most spectacular golf course in the land - the Stillwater Cove and Carmel Bay in the Pacific Ocean - will be in play more than ever at the 2010 U.S. Open June 17-20.

Pebble Beach Golf Links - hole 8 green
The views at the eighth green at Pebble Beach Golf Links can be distracting.
Pebble Beach Golf Links - hole 8 greenPebble Beach Golf Links - hole 9 greenPebble Beach Golf Links - hole 10 greenPebble Beach Golf Links - hole 6 bunkers
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Pebble Beach has been tweaked, massaged and molded into what the brass at the United States Golf Association hope is a tougher test of golf. The USGA, in consultation with Arnold Palmer, managing partner at the resort, has added new tees, trees, bunkers and slopes to the world's most famous course.

To say that Pebble Beach isn't the golf same course that Tiger Woods dismantled en route to a landslide 15-stroke victory at the 2000 U.S. Open would be true, but it wouldn't be entirely accurate. The changes don't deface the Mona Lisa of golf. They only enhance it.

"I think it looks a lot better. I think it's worthy of a U.S. Open," Brad Faxon said of the course during the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The fairways on Pebble's most dramatic seaside holes - the par-5 sixth and the par 4s at No. 8-10 - have been shifted toward the cliffs along the beach. Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, believes these new trouble spots will create some interesting scenarios. The firm and fast conditions expected in June could propel wayward drives to some unsettling lies or even out of bounds.

"You rarely ever saw players hitting their tee shots - or even thinking about it - into the ocean, but now the ocean has become very strategic," Davis has said. "It will make players really think and carefully choose their options. That's the way Pebble Beach used to be."

Pebble Beach always seems to up the ante on the heroics of the U.S. Open champion. Before Tiger's magical romp in 2000, it was Tom Watson's miracle chip-in in 1982 and Jack Nicklaus' 1-iron in 1972 that made golf history.

The PGA Tour pros are already talking about the tournament with anticipation. Many got their first look at the new layout at the AT&T Feb. 11-14.

"U.S. Open, Pebble, looking forward to that," Ernie Els said earlier this year. "I kind of enjoyed it the last time we were there. It was interesting to see how they set up the course. They were very scared of the course getting from them. They kept it very soft. If it gets firm, it can be quite interesting."

The "new" Pebble Beach Golf Links

The "new" Pebble Beach won't be significantly longer than the one a decade ago, although new tees have been added at holes No. 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 13 since 2000, stretching the layout roughly another 250 yards to 7,040 yards for the championship. Not since the 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills has a U.S. Open venue played so short.

The new tees on the 505-yard, par-4 ninth and the 495-yard 10th will dictate the driver for most players on two holes traditionally among the toughest on the course. Visually, the most noticeable differences come at the par-5 sixth and the par-4 15th holes, where new bunker clusters along the left side pinch the fairway.

Phil Mickelson believes the new lines of play make the course more challenging.

"It will be a very defensive course off the tee with so many fairways being cut in and brought over towards the water," he said after finishing in a tie for eighth at the AT&T. "No. 6 and 8 are good examples, No. 9, 10, 11 (too). These fairways now are so much tighter."

Traditionally, Pebble's defenses were unpredictable weather conditions and small greens that are hard to hit and even harder to putt. Newly shaved collection areas around the diabolical green of the par-5 14th hole dished out a trio of nines in the AT&T's final round. The Poa annua greens will run 11 to 11 1/2 on the stimpmeter - the slowest in any major since 2000, another statistical anomaly of playing at Pebble Beach.

The USGA's new emphasis on graduated rough - thicker rough further off the fairway - will add another element for players to consider, especially with the new groove rule that is in effect.

Davis could add spice to the finishing hole by moving up the tee box at some point, tempting some longer hitters to go for the green of the par 5 in two. Who can forget Mickelson's ill-fated attempt to hit driver off the deck trying to go for it during the 2001 Pro-Am? We could see a reprise if the situation arises again.

The weather will go a long way toward determining the score of the champion. The 109-yard seventh hole could play anywhere from a pitching wedge to 5-iron depending on the wind. Don't let Dustin Johnson's 16-under-par score to win his second straight AT&T championship fool you. The Pebble Beach that held everybody over par except Woods in 2000 could rear its fangs come June.

"If it's calm at Pebble Beach, you can score," Mike Weir said. "If it's windy, it's as tough as anything."

It seems the stage is set for another fantastic finish at one of the game's most historically dramatic theaters.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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