Accuracy, not distance, crucial at Pebble Beach

Brooks Koepka hits a shot on the ninth hole overlooking Pebble Beach, where the US Open begins on Thursday.
Brooks Koepka hits a shot on the ninth hole overlooking Pebble Beach, where the US Open begins on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • A premium iron player will likely win this week's US Open, where Zach Johnson has almost as good a chance of prevailing as Dustin Johnson in the third Major of the year.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka deserves his billing as the favourite to become the first golfer in history to hold back-to-back titles in two Majors simultaneously, while Tiger Woods will no doubt capture the most attention.

The expert consensus, however, is that dozens of players, including Rory McIlroy, could win a wide-open tournament, much like in 2010, when then-37th ranked Graeme McDowell triumphed, one stroke ahead of the longest of long-shots in Gregory Havret.

Far more golfers are likely to be in the mix this time than at the recent PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, a beast of a layout which all but eliminated the shorter hitters from contention and it was hardly a coincidence that Koepka and Dustin Johnson finished first and second.

But Pebble Beach, which will play to a par of 71 at 7,075 yards, is considerably shorter.

Many of the fairways will be narrow while the rough will be old-style, thick and penal, placing a premium on accuracy off the tee.

"Driving distance is one of the least important factors at Pebble Beach," eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon said. "It opens the door for so many types of players, course knowledge is as important as any event they'll play in the US Open, really knowing where to place the ball on the greens.

"I'm not saying you're not going to see Koepka, Dustin and Rory contend. I'm just saying you'll see more (Jim) Furyks and Zach Johnsons than typical."

Major winners Furyk and Johnson are known short hitters.

Faxon, one of the best putters in the world in his day, believes the green contours at Pebble Beach are severe as there is "rarely a putt on any hole that you're not playing a ball two or three balls outside the hole on the shorter putts".



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2019, with the headline 'Accuracy, not distance, crucial at Pebble Beach'. Print Edition | Subscribe