You cannot take a divot out of greatness at very many places. You cannot sing at the Met or whip up a little something in the back at Spago, but you can come to Pebble Beach, the world's greatest muni course, and snap-hook a few souvenirs to the sea lions, just like Jack and Arnie. In fact, Jack Nicklaus once said that if he had only one round left to play, he would play it at Pebble Beach. Basically, if you haven't played Pebble Beach, you're just practicing.
Every 10 years the USGA comes to its senses and to Pebble Beach, and brings the U.S. Open with it. Pebble Beach Opens are where legends go to prove it. Twenty years ago Nicklaus was the best player in the game. He came to Pebble and won. Ten years ago Tom Watson was the best player in the game. He came to Pebble and won. Today Fred Couples is the best player in the game, but if he wants to come to Pebble and win, he'll have to go through Mark O'Meara. Couples and O'Meara turned pro on the same day in 1980, but Couples is 0 for life at Pebble while O'Meara has won there five times—four AT&Ts (né Crosby) and one California Amateur title. Only Nicklaus, with three Crosbys, an Open and a U.S. Amateur crown, can match that.
The 1992 U.S. Open starts Thursday, June 18. Who better to ask how to win it than O'Meara? You taking notes, Fred?
Number 1—373 yards, par 4
What with that wild fluttering of butterflies in your stomach, you will absolutely, positively shank your first shot of the day. This is why it is essential to hire Dawg as your caddie. The 45-year-old Dawg (so named for constantly juggling at least three girlfriends) does not allow mulligans off the number 1 tee. However, he does allow "breakfast balls." Dawg is not totally without civility.
Unfortunately, tournament players bring their own caddies and therefore do not know the pleasures of breakfast balls. One morning, in the 1987 state amateur final, one of the combatants hit a weed-whacker of a drive, bounced it off a cart-path curb, from which it ricocheted high and right and fell directly down a chimney at one of the nearby hotel condos, clattering madly as it made its way down the flue. The young man went on to lose, but the renters of the condo were impressed. Boy, that's some wake-up call they have here, huh, Gladys?
"I like to hit a little draw into the hill there," O'Meara says. "And you don't want to lose your second shot to the right. The rough is going to be long around the greens for the Open."
Number 2—502 yards, par 5
The only hole at Pebble Beach that would be right at home at the Dubuque Country Club. Dull as C-SPAN2. No crashing surf. Most pros reach it in two. "If you hit anything onto the front of the green," says O'Meara, "you're guaranteed a 4."
Number 3—398 yards, par 4