Thursday, June 17, 2010
Awe was inspired. Jaws were dropped. Chokes were induced.
Much has happened across the four U.S. Opens Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted to date, between the 1972 victory that earned Jack Nicklaus $30,000 and the 2000 win that scored Tiger Woods $800,000.
As Pebble prepares for its fifth hosting—an event that will see some 95,000 hot dogs served alongside 180,000 beers (and 400,000 square feet of tenting erected and 4,400 tons of bunker sand added)—we take a look back at the 18 most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, choke-inducing moments of this classic within a classic.
18 Nathaniel Crosby, the sixth child of Bing, who founded the National Pro-Am at Pebble, finishes 59th—the lowest amateur—at the ’82 Open.
17 Oxnard, California, native Corey Pavin is the only amateur other than Nathaniel Crosby to make the cut. Thirteen years later, he wins the tournament (at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club).
16 Thanks to the unforgiving conditions of the course, the final-round scoring average of 78.8 in 1972 is the highest in the post-World War II era.
15 In 1972, Australian Bruce Crampton finishes second to Jack Nicklaus at the Masters. At the Open at Pebble two months later, Crampton is one behind going into the final round, but Nicklaus prevails. Again. Ouch.
14 On the third round of the 2000 Open, with the legendary Pebble winds roaring, South African Ernie Els finishes at 68, the only man under par all day.
13 In 1992, Gil Morgan becomes the first golfer to ever reach double digits under par in U.S Open history when he birdies the third hole during the third round. He eventually reached 12 under by the seventh hole before an epic meltdown pushed him out of contention and left him in a tie for 13th.
12 Portly duffer Andy Dillard makes a detour before the sixth tee to try to spot sharks in the bay during the 1992 tourney. Really. He finished tied for 17th, his only top-30 finish in a major.
11 After once vowing never to play another U.S. Open, John Daly shoots a terrible 14 (three into the ocean) on the 18th hole during the first day of play in 2000. He storms off the course after finishing at 12 over and withdraws from the tourney.
10 In ’72, Lee Trevino ties for fourth-place, remarkable because earlier in the week he was bed-ridden with bronchial pneumonia.
9 At the 1992 Open, Andy Dillard ties the record for most consecutive birdies (six, on holes 1-6) set by George Burns (no, not the comedian/actor) a decade earlier.
8 George Burns (again, not the comedian) sets the record for most consecutive birdies with six (holes 2-7) at the 1982 Open.
7 At the 2000 Open, some 40 golfers hit balls into the ocean off the 18th tee (don’t tell the California Coastal Commission) in memory of Payne Stewart, who was killed in a plane crash the year before. Stewart had previously won two U.S. Opens, in 1991 and 1999.
6 In ’92, on Pebble’s infamous “Cliffs of Doom”—oceanfront holes 8, 9 and 10—Gil Morgan, holding a commanding lead, proceeds to card double-bogey, bogey, double-bogey as a harrowing wind kicks up. He would end at 5 over. Though not the only player to get bitten by course conditions that year, his meltdown was certainly the most memorable.
5 In preparation for the ’10 tourney, Arnold Palmer aids in a hole-by-hole restoration. Four greens and 16 bunkers have been rebuilt or altered, 11 tees have been enhanced, six holes have adjusted, and the course has been extended to 7,040 yards.
4 Maybe Nicklaus should have waited before congratulating Colin Montgomerie on his first U.S. Open win. Tom Kite, fighting to stay upright on a slope in the course’s legendary winds during the 1992 Open, selects his 60-degree wedge and pitches his ball out of the grass and right into the 7th hole, helping lead the money leader to his first major title.
3 In 1972, Nicklaus makes one of the most famous shots in history. Hitting a one-iron against 40-mile-an-hour winds, it hits the flagstick and stops five inches from the cup.
2 In 2000, Tiger Woods wins by a 15-stroke margin. His four-day total of 272 ties the record for the lowest 72-hole score ever in the national championship.
1 Tom Watson edges out Nicklaus on the 17th hole at the ’82 Open when his less than stellar pitch, flying far too fast and landing too close to the pin, lands on the green and slams into the hole. That birdie tied it; another birdie on 18 steals the victory, and the crowd (minus Jack) goes wild.