Aiming left of the tree in the 18th fairway used to be a daring line. Now it’s the only way to keep your tee shot in the fairway with a driver.
The ideal target off the eighth tee used to be a drive at the mustard mansion. Now, as 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am runner-up Paul Casey puts it, “You aim at the gentleman next to him, his nextdoor neighbor to the right. It’s a 15 or 20-yard shift to bring the cliff into play and the water into play.”
The rough at Pebble Beach isn’t swallowing ankles just yet — that doesn’t happen until May — but the width of the fairways is the same that the pros will be experiencing three months from now at the U.S. Open. The first fairway shriveled up into Hogan’s Alley, turning the benign opener into the third toughest hole at Pebble Beach during the 2019 AT&T.
“The fairways are what you notice immediately,” said Jordan Spieth, who was only 16 when the U.S. Open last came to Pebble Beach in 2010. “Our yardage books look a lot different from last year to this year.”
Spieth should hang onto this year’s book. It will come in handy this June.
“The rough lines and so forth are pretty much set, so the guys are getting a good glimpse of what kind of challenge is out there,” said Jeff Hall, the USGA’s championship director for the U.S. Open.
A yardage book from the 2010 U.S. Open should be just as handy. The USGA is setting up most of the golf course based on GPS mapping from the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The notable exceptions are the fairway at No. 11 — which hugs the left side to expose a better angle into the green — and the slightly enlarged greens at Nos. 9, 13, 14 and 17, which have all been renovated since 2010.
“We’ve adjusted maybe a yard or two here and there, but otherwise it’s the same,” said Hall, who will also send most of the oceanside fairways plunging over the cliffs without a buffer of rough to bail out errant shots.
Here’s a tour of the starkest differences between Resort play and the U.S. Open setup that is taking shape right now at Pebble Beach:
THE FIRST HOLE
The left rough line now cuts diagonally into the middle of the fairway bunker that used to be the preferred target line off the tee:
THE FOURTH HOLE
The rough now reaches the pot bunker that used to float in the left-center of the fairway (see below), meaning you can no longer play your tee shot away from the ocean and get away with it.
THE SIXTH HOLE
During the 2018 U.S. Amateur, many of the field’s longest hitters took a detour here, blasting tee shots into hardpan left of the cart path. This reinvention of the hole not only took the water out of play, but gave you a lie closer to the elevation of the green, allowing you to see the flag. The USGA has since grown out the rough left of the cart path to punish that philosophy, forcing players to take on the ocean.
Here’s what the hill on the sixth hole looked like before:
THE EIGHTH HOLE
Here are the two “neighbors” on the hill that Paul Casey had mentioned. The traditional target has always been over the white aiming rock toward the mustard mansion. Now you need to aim at the cream mansion, toward the marshal in the blue jacket.
Here’s a look from the top tee, where you have to steer your vision nearly 30 yards to the right to find the fairway:
Here’s how wide the eighth fairway played before U.S. Open prep:
THE NINTH AND 10TH HOLES
These two holes were (not surprisingly) the two toughest during the 2019 AT&T. The fairways haven’t been brought in much, but they do have bonus U.S. Open tee boxes hidden like Easter eggs. Above, you’ll see the 526-yard tee box at No. 9.
Below, you’ll see how far back the 495-yard tee box for No. 10 plays compared to what the field faced at the 2019 AT&T — a 49-yard difference:
THE 11TH HOLE
As the shortest par-4 on the back nine at just 390 yards, the right half of the fairway has essentially been eliminated.
Here’s the before:
And here’s the after:
THE 14TH HOLE
Even if you’ve resigned yourself to laying up on the longest hole at Pebble Beach, the slithering fairway makes your second shot much more demanding. Here was the underrated layup — which you still want to get as close to this challenging green as you can — before U.S. Open prep:
THE 15TH HOLE
It’s tough enough that this tee box aims you toward 17-Mile Drive. Now the rough encroaches an additional 15-20 yards, putting the put bunker practically in the middle of the fairway.
THE 18TH HOLE
By bringing in the rough an extra 10 yards, the only way to find the fairway is to lay up short of the tree, or split the uprights between the tree and the seawall.
Otherwise, you’ll be faced with this:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 8, 2019