Follow The Challenge: They're Off!
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- All the players and caddies are miked, everyone is warmed up and we are about to start the third edition of the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge for real. It's an overcast day with a hint of a sprinkle coming down, but scoring conditions are ideal. The temperature is a comfortable 65 degrees and there is just a slight breeze.
(On the first tee, from left to right: Bubba Watson, Drew Brees, Ricky Barnes, Wayne Gretzky, Rickie Fowler, Mark Wahlberg, Peggy Ference, Corey Pavin)
Contest-winner Peggy Ference was first on the tee ahead of her celebrity counterparts Drew Brees, Wayne Gretzky, and Mark Wahlberg, and she spent much of the time speaking with coach/caddie Corey Pavin. She hit several smooth and straight shots with a hybrid before walking to the short-game area with the Ryder Cup captain. With the length she'll be facing playing from the tips, she will certainly have to be sharp around the greens.
Check back here often for hole-by-hole updates to see how all four players fare.
Hole 1, Par 4, 380 Yards: As expected, there were nerves on the first tee with only Peggy hitting the fairway. She took two out of a bunker, though, to make 7. But she had plenty of company on a hole that took more than 20 minutes and required three rulings.
Scores (overall): Mark Wahlberg 5 (+1), Wayne Gretzky 7 (+3), Peggy Ference 7 (+3), Drew Brees 7 (+3)
Hole 2, Par 4, 502 Yards: Gretzky hits the shot of the day thus far, knocking it on the green from 230 yards. The Great One exclaims, "Now we're playing!"
Scores (overall): Wahlberg 6 (+3), Gretzky 4 (+3), Brees 6 (+5), Ference 8 (+7)
__Hole 3, Par 4, 404 Yards:__Drew Brees, the low handicapper in the group, continues his sluggish start. The lack of a practice round really seems to be hurting him, especially in handling the rough. He's now 8 over through 3.
Scores (overall): Gretzky 5 (+4), Wahlberg 7 (+6), Brees 7 (+8), Ference 6 (+9)
__Hole 4, Par 4, 331 Yards:__Gretzky remains the low ball in the group by a healthy margin. The hockey legend nearly holes out his bunker shot for birdie, but settles for his second par.
Scores (overall): Gretzky 4 (+4), Brees 5 (+9), Wahlberg 8 (+10), Ference 8 (+13)
__Hole 5, Par 3, 195 Yards:On the first par 3 of the day, Drew Brees makes the first par by anyone not named Gretzky. It's a good hole for Peggy, too, as she notches her first bogey of the round.
Scores (overall): __Gretzky 5 (+6), Brees 3 (+9), Wahlberg 4 (+11), Ference 4 (+14)
Hole 6, Par 5, 523 Yards: Peggy finds the left rough on her tee shot and struggles the whole way. Wahlberg takes advantage of a cart path-aided drive that nearly takes out caddie Rickie Fowler's girlfriend. The result is his first par.
Scores (overall): Gretzky 7 (+8), Brees 6 (+10), Wahlberg 5 (+11), Ference 10 (+19)
Hole 7, Par 3, 109 Yards: The Great One continues his great bunker play, holing out for birdie from the left greenside bunker on the signature par 3. The guys take advantage of the course's shortest hole as Brees and Wahlberg make par.
Scores (overall): Gretzky 2 (+7), Brees 3 (+10), Wahlberg 3 (+11), Ference 5 (+21)
Hole 8, Par 4, 428 Yards: Gretzky goes from the best shot of the day to the worst with his tee shot on No. 8. After shanking one into the crowd, he re-tees and makes a 9. Brees makes a terrific par to take the lead.
Scores (overall): Brees 3 (+10), Gretzky 9 (+12), Wahlberg 5 (+12), Ference 6 (+23)
Hole 9, Par 4, 505 Yards: The ninth hole took a bite out of everyone. Brees' double bogey was the best score.
__Scores (overall): __Brees 6 (+12), Wahlberg 7 (+15), Gretzky 8 (+16), ), Ference 8 (+27)
Hole 10, Par 4, 495 Yards: After a crooked drive, Wahlberg rolls in a 15-footer to save par to grab a share of the lead. Gretzky matches him, while Peggy continues to struggle, making a triple-bogey 7.
__Scores (overall): __Brees 7 (+15), Wahlberg 4 (+15), Gretzky 4 (+16), Ference 7 (+30)
Hole 11, Par 4, 390 Yards: The wind is really picking up, making tough conditions even tougher. Brees and Wahlberg manage bogeys on a relatively -- emphasis on *relatively *-- easy hole to lead the way.
Scores (overall): Brees 5 (+16), Wahlberg 5 (+16), Gretzky 6 (+18), Ference 8 (+34)
__Hole 12, Par 3, 200 Yards:__The best hole of the day for the group, especially for Peggy, who rolls in a six-footer for her first par of the day, leading to hugs with everyone in the group. Brees and Gretzky answer with pars of their own, while Wahlberg settles for bogey.
Scores (overall): Brees 3 (+16), Wahlberg 4 (+17), Gretzky 3 (+18), Ference 3 (+34)
Hole 13, Par 4, 445 Yards: Wahlberg's bid to break 100 takes a major hit when he can barely advance his ball from the rough after a wild tee shot. It gets worse, though, when he hooks his fourth shot into someones backyard on his way to an 9. Gretzky doesn't fare much better with a 6. And when he walks off the green remarks "It's touch and go now."
Scores (overall): Brees 7 (+19), Gretzky 6 (+20), Wahlberg 9 (+22), Ference 7 (+37)
Hole 14, Par 5, 580 Yards: As if not difficult enough, the long par-5 14th is playing dead into the wind. Wahlberg and Gretzky managed to squeak out bogeys but Brees finds himself over by the merchandise tent. The triple-bogey for the quarterback allows Gretzky to regain the lead with four holes to play.
__Scores (overall): __Gretzky 7 (+22), Brees 8 (+22), Wahlberg 6 (+23), Ference 8 (+40)
__Hole 15, Par 4, 397 Yards: The race for the low ball continues. __Wahlberg manages to get up-and-down for par, while Gretzky and Brees each make six. Peggy struggles to another 7.
Scores (overall): Wahlberg 4 (+23), Gretzky 6 (+24), Brees 6 (+24), Ference 7 (+43)
__Hole 16, Par 4, 403 Yards:__Mark Wahlberg makes bogey to remain tied with Gretzky while an 8 by Brees means he needs to par the final two holes to break 100.
Scores (overall): Wahlberg 5 (+24), Gretzky 5 (+25), Brees 8 (+28), Ference 5 (+44)
Hole 17, Par 3, 208 Yards: At the famed par 3, Wahlberg chunks his tee shot, advancing it no more than 30 yards en route to a double bogey. Gretzky hits the green, but has a lengthy birdie attempt and ends up three-putting for bogey. The Great One still has a one-shot lead heading into the final hole. Brees had a chance to get up and down out of the bunker for par but missed a four-footer, meaning he'll have to birdie the last to break 100.
__Scores (overall): __Gretzky 4 (+26), Wahlberg 5 (+26), Brees 4 (+29), Ference 5 (+46)
Hole 18, Par 5, 543 Yards: Well, it wasn't pretty, but it's over. With a fairly routine par, Wahlberg comes in a 97, while Gretzky stumbles down the stretch to make 8, with his final score matching his famed uniform number, 99. Brees' triple-bogey gives him a 102 and Peggy closes with a seven for 119. Wahlberg's 97 is the highest score by the Open Challenge winner.
__Scores (overall): __Wahlberg 5 (+26), Gretzky 8 (+29), Brees 7, (+31, Ference 7 (+48)
__Post-round update:__It would be impossible to have to tabulate this many strokes without a scoring error, and we've got one. Although Gretzky actually made a bogey 6 on the par-5 14th, he signed for a 7, which means he actually won't be credited with a 99 but an even 100. It's not exactly a gaffe of the Roberto De Vicenzo extreme, but it does eliminate the tidy storyline of No. 99 shooting 99.
Post-round update No. 2: Another scoring gaffe shows Ference actually fared one stroke better, posting a 118. She shot 62-56.
__Final Scores: Mark Wahlberg: 97, Wayne Gretzky: 100, Drew Brees: 102, Peggy Ference: 118