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OH ME, OH MY, O'MEARA!
Rick Reilly
February 06, 1989
Mark O'Meara survived some of the toughest holes in golf to win the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
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February 06, 1989

Oh Me, Oh My, O'meara!

Mark O'Meara survived some of the toughest holes in golf to win the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

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Everybody has cried hosannas to the 16th at Cypress, the world's most beautiful triple bogey, the 231-yard par-3 that requires you to knock the ball over a good deal of the Pacific. The place gets so windy, players have knelt to putt. Three years ago Brett Upper was ready to execute his second shot off the beach below the green only to have a wave roll in up to his knees and wash away his ball. All right, Brett, I'm away. No, wait. Now you 're away.

However, the most underrated, underpraised, underwritten golf hole on earth must be the 431-yard, not humanly parrable par-4 8th at Pebble Beach. You play this hole with a driver, a three-wood and frogman's gear. You face an uphill drive to the precipice of a 100-foot sheer cliff. Then you have a 150-yard cavern between your ball and the next sighting of land. The itty-bitty green is flanked on the right by a bunker, the blue-green ocean and white beach, on the left by a bunker and in the back by another sand trap. Luckily, the putting surface only has slightly more turns than San Francisco's Lombard Street.

This is the most dramatic second shot in golf—and, if you're not careful, the fourth, sixth, eighth and 10th. For the pros, it's a four-or five-iron. For mere mortals, it's a three-wood and two novenas. And it's almost always into a crosswind. Are we having fun yet?

Hit your drive as close to the cliff as you dare, but too close can be dangerous. No fence protects you from falling off the cliff—or from throwing yourself off it. Legend has it that while playing on a foggy day two Japanese golfers never saw the cliff and drove their cart right over it. Pebble Beach officials say that only some unattended carts have rolled over the edge.

"There's a real majesty in that second shot," says Sandy Tatum, a former president of the USGA. "It awes people. It's 200 yards to a very small green, with absolute perdition on the right or over." But there is an upside. "If you hit a really good shot," says Tatum, "you can stand and admire it for a long, long time."

Unfortunately, playing this hole is like warming up for Ali by fighting Frazier, because, sooner or later, you have to face the 464-yard, par-4 9th. If number 9 were a pinball machine, it would read TILT, and worst of all, the tilt is all toward the drink. "The farther you hit your drive," says Hubert Green, "the worse shape you're in." Which is to say, if you hit a long drive, your second shot comes off a downhill lie. If you want a flat lie for your approach, you've got 210 yards to a green that's smaller than many Carmel bathrooms.

This assumes, of course, that you want to hit your second shot at all. The water is closer on the right than you think, with greedy little fingers of ocean pawing out to swallow your Surlyn-covered offerings.

Number 8 at Spyglass is easier than the 8th and 9th at Pebble—it only makes you feel as if you're playing up the side of a skyscraper. The hole is 395 yards long and, because the trees block the sun, 100% wet. To handle the change in altitude, it's best to bring your own Sherpa. Fuzzy Zoeller has been playing Spyglass since 1975 and has never parred the 8th hole. God forbid Tip O'Neill should play it.

By the way, if someone had awakened on Friday from a 30-year sleep and the first thing he saw was the leader board, he might have thought Vic Damone was still going strong and might turn up on Ed Sullivan next week. There was Jack Nicklaus, 49, only four shots behind O'Meara, who was leading after two rounds. There was Dave Stockton, 47, only one shot back. George Archer, 49 and previously presumed buried under a bunker somewhere, trailed by seven shots. Nicklaus hadn't won a tournament in three years, Archer in five years, Stockton in 13. Any minute you expected Herman Keiser to show up.

Stockton had a new swing on things, thanks to a healing back and a new guru-herbalist-scientist-channeler, Mac O'Grady, who, Stockton says, helped 10 winners on the Tour last season.

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