PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Two hybrids and an iron.
Those were the implements of choice for Deane Pappas, Gary Woodland and Paul Sheehan, the members of the first group at 7 a.m. Thursday on the No. 1 tee at Pebble Beach GL.
With the fairways running inordinately fast and cut down around bunkers and off the ledges of the cliffs, you can expect a U.S. Open examination driven by a lack of drivers. In this era of power and the search for more distance, this national championship will be a study in precision and extreme caution.
"This is going to get a lot of business this week," Davis Love III said, fingering his 2-iron, which is only occasionally in his bag throughout the season. "I expect the same out of a lot of guys. Even on holes like No. 2 [505-yard par-4], with the fairways running like they are you can hit an iron and watch it roll out 25, 35, even 40 yards. There's just not a lot of reason to hit driver on a lot of holes."
Asked if he was worried that the setup has taken driver out of the hands of the contestants, Mike Davis of the U.S. Golf Association, the man charged with monitoring the playing conditions, seemed nonplussed. "This week is more about the strategy of how to get yourself around the course. You know you're going to have a firm course for all four days, so it's a different kind of U.S. Open, almost like a British Open," Davis said. "The ground matters here. That's kind of the point. We're accentuating gravity this week. Where is gravity taking the golf ball. We don't get that many times, and we want to take advantage of it. If that means they hit more irons to keep themselves out of trouble, so be it."
-- Dave Shedloski