Pebble Beach, June 18, 2000. Tiger Woods holes out for a closing 67 on the 72nd green. He wins the 100th US Open Championship by an incredible 15 shots. No player in Major Championship history has recorded such a margin of victory. His golf is irresistible, he’s a phenomenon and streets ahead of the nearest opposition. He proves it by going on to win the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews by eight shots then to take the USPGA Championship at Valhalla.
The Tiger who’ll tee it up with Ernie Els and Lee Westwood this Thursday at Pebble Beach is a very different animal to the one who bullied and ultimately blew away the field 10 years ago. Personal struggles have had a significant impact on his game and, save for his tied fourth place at The Masters, he has no form to speak of this year. Unusually, Tiger is not the outright favourite for this Major. Most bookmakers have him as joint favourite with Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson has a good chance as this is a course he’s enjoyed success on in the past – he’s three times been a winner of the Pebble Beach pro-am. “Lefty” has not played his best golf over the past few weeks but he always lifts his game for the Majors and is the only man who can complete the Grand Slam in 2010.
Mickelson will have a secondary objective – to take the World Number 1 position from Tiger. If he wins this week, he takes it no matter where Woods finishes. Mickelson will also move to the top of the pile if he’s second and Woods is outside the top four, if he’s third on his own and Woods is worse than 18th or if he finishes in a tie for third and Tiger misses the cut.
After Lee Westwood’s victory at last week’s St Jude Classic, hopes for his success, and European players in general, are high. Westwood has long been touted as a potential US Open winner and no player in the world can match him for form as this tournament gets underway. Luke Donald will have earned a good deal of confidence from his successful recent stint on the European Tour. He’s a straight hitter and an awesome scrambler so should fare well here.
With five players in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, British chances have never been better going into a US Open.
Pebble Beach Golf Links was designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant and opened for play back in 1919. It’s one of the world’s most recognisable courses, hugging the Pacific shoreline of the Monterey Peninsula. This will be the fifth time the course has played host to the US Open and the layout has a reputation for producing a worthy winner – past champions here are Jack Nicklaus (1972,) Tom Watson (1982,) Tom Kite (1992,) and Tiger Woods (2000.)
It promises to be a thrilling tournament and you can follow progress on Golf Monthly’s dedicated website.
Venue: Pebble Beach Golf Links, California
Date: Jun 17-20
Course stats: par 70, 7,040 yards
Purse: $7,500,000 Winner: $1,350,000
Defending Champion: Lucas Glover (-4)
Thursday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm
Friday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm
Saturday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30pm
Sunday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm
Woods, Mickelson and Westwood will be favourites, but who else might emerge from the pack?
Luke Donald – The Englishman comes into the event off the back of three excellent performances on the European Tour. He’s one of the best scramblers in the world – a key US Open skill.
Dustin Johnson – The American may not have shown spectacular recent form but he won the Pebble Beach pro-am this year and in 2009. It’s clearly a venue he enjoys and he’ll feel positive returning to the Monterey Peninsula this week.
Rhys Davies – He’s one of the European Tour’s form players and, arguably, the best putter in the world at the moment. He seems unshakeable and this could be the event he moves into the top echelon of players.
Key hole: 17th. A par 3 of 208 yards, it’s been the site of many dramas over the years. In 1972, Jack Nicklaus faced deteriorating weather when he came to the 17th tee and required a 1-iron to reach the putting surface. He struck it perfectly, hit the flag and was left with a tap-in birdie. The tournament was effectively won.
Then, on the 71st hole in 1982, Tom Watson famously chipped in from a seemingly impossible position in the thick rough beside the green. He did a lap of honour around the green an went on to beat Jack Nicklaus by two.
Skills required: Grinding. The secret to winning the US Open is to make fewer mistakes than the opposition. It’s important to accept that bogeys will occur but it’s vital to prevent them turning into doubles. The winner will be patient over the four days, will take the inevitable errors on his chin and bounce back from them.