As you know, I was at Pebble Beach Golf Resort, writing about my experiences playing golf (Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach) and the other activities happening at the Lexus Champions for Charity tournament. The trip was courtesy of Lexus, which has brought in myself and Shane Bacon as their bloggers to cover the event (hooray for new media!). Check out more info on the charity event that has raised more than $135 million. For more pictures and updates, follow me on Twitter and join the WUP Facebook page.
It’s true what many people say about playing Pebble Beach for the first time — the “awe-factor” of the experience is so intoxicating that it makes you practically blackout. Since I covered the US Open six months earlier, I had been recalling those great memories for a few days. I’d walked the course so many times that I had the layout memorized. I felt like I kind of knew it, but obviously, I also knew that I was going to be playing Pebble from a different vantage point in entirely different conditions.
If you asked me to compare which was better — watching and covering the US Open or playing it — that would be a tough call since both were really special in its own way. (I’ve been going through my posts from the US Open, which are bringing back some fond memories.) I had goosebumps when I watched Tiger fist-pump after draining putts on the 16th and 17th holes in the third round. Also when a misty-eyed Tom Watson doff his cap as he walked up to the 17th green on Father’s Day. And when I saw runner-up and relative unknown (in the US at least) Gregory Havret’s sweet swing.
On Saturday when I stepped up to the tee on our starting hole, the 18th, the double-trunk Cypress tree was the first thing I noticed. You know, the one that Tiger was near when he hit a slight cut to knock a 3-wood to ten feet of the cup on the 54th green. Our awesome caddie Josh, who accompanied Shane and I for all three rounds, gave me the line — “I want you to hit a draw just to the left of that tree.”
“The one with the two trunks,” I chirped, “Which Tiger was next to when he hit that incredible shot on Saturday at the US Open?”
There’s nothing like striping your first tee ball down the middle on your first swing at Pebble. Except when you basically top your second shot. And then hit your third into the front bunker. But minor details. Strangely, I remember more shots than usual — probably because there were so many atrocious ones.
We also had a minor casualty in the group. On the second hole, he and another caddie Matt (who was almost as awesome even though he said I was “too much stick for the caddie”) walked about 100 yards ahead on the left to spot our drives. Unfortunately, Josh was nailed in the foot by a tee ball. The morbidly humorous part was that it hit him because he tried to move out of the way. He said it was the first time he’s been pegged in his 11 years of caddying. I guess we just wanted to make sure he never forgot our group. Poor Josh. He toughed it out with an increasingly bad limp and said he was going to get it checked out afterward, but chances are he’s got a broken or fractured bone. (Hope it’s not too painful and you got good meds, Josh!)
Anyway, six-hour rounds normally make me want to gouge my eyes out, but I didn’t want this one to end. Usually, I’m counting down how many holes are left. I only did that on Saturday when I realized I didn’t want the experience to end. (At least we got to play 18 twice.) We’ve all heard people wax lyrical about the stretch from 6-9 (in my opinion, might as well throw in 5 and 10, too). Well, guess what? It lives up to the hype.
As if the beauty of the 6th and 7th aren’t already incredibly distracting, we played those in a ninesome. Funny enough, I’m pretty sure our new friend from the USGA suggested it. It was chaotic, but fun, of course, especially since we had a great crew. And it only made the first-time playing Pebble more unforgettable.
The 7th is so breathtaking that I missed the green from 85 yards. But I hit one of the best chip shots of my life from behind the green on the left to a back right pin. A caddie from the other group was bewildered that I managed to get the ball to stop, and deadpanned, “Is that wedge legal?”
Indeed, it is. It’s even got the new grooves that aren’t supposed to spin as much. (And then I raved about Scratch Golf wedges because I can hit shots that I couldn’t pull off when I actually practiced 8 hours every day.) I had a foot and a half to save par. My new USGA pal quipped, “The United States Golf Association deems that a gimme.”
Well, if the USGA says it’s okay, then I’ll take it.
On the 8th tee, Peter Jacobsen was kind enough to take a few minutes and chat with me about the hole, which he thinks has the best approach shot in golf. It’s true. I watched the pros hit into the 8th green dozens of times at the US Open, but you can’t even come close to understanding what a tough shot that is. Hitting over the chasm into a tiny green was extremely intimidating. Even if you hit a perfect tee shot as close as you can to the end of the fairway, you’re still left with 170-ish yards (I think) into the wind (at least on Saturday). I was thrilled that I was just short of the green in the short grass since there’s trouble almost all around the hole.
I have no idea what I shot. 80? Who cares? It doesn’t matter — I got to play Pebble Freaking Beach. Shane has the scorecard for his collection and I forgot to check after the round because I was still on cloud nine from playing Pebble for the first time. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve left it yet. Pebble is an incredibly special place and everyone walks away with a high. For me, it was the site of the first major I covered and the start of a six-month stretch that I couldn’t have scripted better. And to play Pebble for the first time as my last round of 2010 just seems fitting.
Oh, by the way, I failed to win that damn bow.
A big thanks to Lexus and everyone else for the opportunities.