PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 17, 2010) -- I spent a couple of hours following Morgan Hoffman, who I have already written about this week (see blog entry and picture below). His shot making, and calmness made him look not just like an amateur playing one of the best rounds of the day, but someone whose goal, as he said in an interview earlier in the week, was to win the golf tournament.
After getting to 2-under at one point on the round, and making birdies on some of the toughest holes, No's 2, 8, and 10, Hoffman walked up the 14th hole at even par and hit a wonderful approach to the left-shelf pin to 10 feet, but missed the birdie. Two great shots on the 15th brought an easy birdie, if there is such a thing at Pebble Beach. A routine par on 16, followed by a bogey on 17 put Hoffman right where he would like to be on the 18th tee, at even par with a chance to make birdie on the par 5. That's when the golf gods took it all back.
His drive was down the middle, but blocked by the two trees that many people, (myself included) think don't need to be there. When trying to punch through, his shot caromed off the small pine and into the Pacific. A drop later, he hit his fourth shot towards the green with a long iron but wound up hooking it into the rocks. No second guessing, but it was an aggressive play. Now another drop, and hitting 6, into a plugged lie in the greenside bunker. Nothing he could do from there, his shot hit the tall fescue and rolled back. His next bunker shot (his 8th stroke if you've lost count) was a nice play that rolled 15 feet by on the slick green. Alas, the golf gods are cruel indeed, Hoffman sunk the putt, raised his hands to them, and then gave the ball to the ocean, never to be seen again. Except maybe by those otters that Tom Watson talked about on Wednesday.
Nobody else in the field, pro or amateur, will shoot 4-over 75 today or any day this week with a 9 on the card. Go get 'em tomorrow Morgan.
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Posted Thursday morning:
As I pulled into the Del Monte Forest this morning, I could see that the day was going to be exactly what the USGA and fans around the globe would want to see at golf's most famous destination. Clear skies, a little cool, breezy and not a stitch of fog in site. And as you can see from the scoring and TV coverage, rounds of golf like Mike Weir's are going to quite good indeed.
Some highlights from morning play:
More on Morgan (Hoffman that is)
Morgan Hoffman on Wednesday
Yesterday I commented on the way this young, but very experienced, player handled himself on the golf course. Today, I watched as he teed off No. 1 at 12:30 with Steve Wheatcroft from the Nationwide Tour and Rikard Karlberg of Sweden. He walked ahead of them by several paces, with his caddie and assistant coach at Oklahoma State by his side. The pair looked comfortable, confident, and while I didn't stay with them for long I'm not surprised to see that he was 1-under after 4 holes after a birdie on the tight and long par 4 2nd, which normally plays as a par 5. Hoffman is No. 32 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Men's World Rankings and I recommend keeping an eye on him this week.
Joseph Bramlett - his first major and California's only amateur in the field
Joseph Bramlett, after playing two practice rounds with Tiger Woods on Tuesday and Wednesday, ran into trouble on the 13th (he started on the back nine) hole today, where he suffered a quadruple bogey. He's hanging in there at 7-over with 2 holes to play. Look for him to settle down and come back with a solid round. read story>
Byeong-Hun (Ben) An
The 2009 US Amateur Champ didn't look comfortable, playing alone in a practice round on Wednesday. He was the first amateur in the clubhouse, posting an 8-over 79.
The Big Picture
It's easy to be an arm chair quarterback, but I can tell you this after walking the course, including some inside the ropes access on Wednesday. The course rating is probably 80 with a slope of 150. If you don't have a short game with these small targets and how many greens you're likely to miss, even when hitting it well, forget about shooting anything reasonable. And we wouldn't want the US Open any other way!
THE GOLF COURSE (Even par looks pretty good to me!)
You're going to hear about the changes all week, principally the fairway cuts which bring the edge of the fairway right up to the hazard on holes like No's. 4, 6, 8, and several others. Tom Watson said in his interview that the course is fast and firm, but he has seen the fairways much harder (in 1977 when there was a drought and he said there were literally cracks in them) and the greens, in a U.S. Open year, firmer (In 1972, when he said they were literally black and blue in color). My favorite comment from Watson's press conference,which I attended, was when he described the par 5 sixth hole. "Push the ball a little right there, and you're going to wind up down there with the otters." Watson, incidentally, has so many connections with the area that it would be tough to list them all, but he described his chip in in 1982 on the 17th and his many AT&T tournaments playing with his good friend, and former USGA President Sandy Tatum, as right there at the top.
We tried to grab some shots you don't see on the major websites and on TV - check out a photo gallery on Facebook here>