This week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links presents an intriguing test of golf, even for a star like Tiger Woods. The course is not long. At barely 7,000 yards, it is almost lilliputian by major-championship standards. But Pebble Beach’s defense (in addition to the potential of sketchy weather) is its greens, which are some of the smallest in professional golf. According to the course’s website, the average Pebble Beach green is just 3,500 square feet and the average green depth is just 26 paces. They also all slope from back to front, meaning placement of the approach shot could be a key to success, as missing a green deep is a bogey sentence. With that in mind, we take a look at the five players (four of them past major winners) in the field with the best proximity to the hole ranking so far this season, along with the irons they’ll be using at the U.S. Open.
Proximity to hole: 33 feet, 1 inch
Irons: Callaway X-Forged 18
When you’re a precision player, you tend to use precision instruments. That’s Jim Furyk and his Callaway X-Forged 18 irons. The clubs built off the company’s 2013 model with improvements such as including the progressive movement of the weight pad in the cavity back to aid trajectory, and a groove design aimed at better controlling spin on shots out of the rough. The shafts in the smooth-swinging Furyk’s irons are regular-flex KBS Tour 110.
Proximity to hole: 33 feet, 11 inches
Irons: Srixon Z 745
Keegan Bradley has been a fan of Srixon’s Z 745 irons for some time, including having them in the bag during his win at the 2018 BMW Championship. The cavity-back irons feature a tungsten weight in the toe of the 4- through 6-iron to assist off-center strikes, while the V.T. sole increases leading edge bounce and decreases trail-edge bounce for better turf interaction. Bradley’s irons feature Nippon Tour 120x shafts.
Proximity to hole: 34 feet
Irons: TaylorMade P7 TW
Tiger Woods blew away the field at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and was in the hunt again in 2010. His strong iron play being a primary reason. Those were when he played Nike irons, but now Woods is with TaylorMade, using irons he had a tremendous amount of input. The P7 TW are traditionally shaped, muscleback blade irons with a focus on feel, not forgiveness or distance. To achieve that feel required the use of tungsten to produce, in his words, a deeper feel. Woods’ irons have a slightly flatter sole radius and slightly more bounce (depending on the loft) compared to typical designs. In addition, the grooves on the P7 TW irons are narrower than typical designs, and there are more grooves on the face. The shafts are True Temper’s Dynamic Gold X-100 and the grips Golf Pride’s Tour Velvet cord.
Proximity to hole: 34 feet, 2 inches
Irons: Titleist 718 MB
When playing the U.S. Open, there’s no time to get lazy—something Chesson Hadley can appreciate. In fact, one of the reasons Hadley uses Titleist’s 718 MB irons is to keep his game sharp. “Sometimes I feel like you can get a bit lazy with more forgiving irons and these keep me from that,” Hadley told Golf Digest in 2018. “I’ve always been a muscleback blade guy. I just like the shape, the look. They look small and pleasing and just feel so good.” They also have a half-inch in length added to accommodate the 6-foot-4 Hadley.
Proximity to hole: 34 feet, 3 inches
Irons: Cobra King Forged CB
Jason Dufner recently changed to Cobra’s King Forged CB irons, and it likely wasn’t a change made lightly. Contrary to Dufner’s laid-back demeanor, he is highly analytical when it comes to his equipment. A facts-and-figures freak, Dufner routinely brings his own notebook to test sessions, jotting down copious notes with special attention paid to launch angle, spin rate, peak height and landing angle. "Looking at the data helps me become comfortable on the course," Dufner told Golf Digest several years ago. "Knowing my equipment is dialed in gives me an edge."