PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A greedy haze shielded the sun, with temperatures hanging in the mid-50s. Wednesday at Pebble Beach was a little chillier than Tuesday, but a good barometer of what to expect for Thursday and beyond.
The US Women’s Open field of 156 has spent the last few days doing their preparations: chipping over and over again from the greenside rough, testing out putting speeds and slopes for possible hole locations. Growing accustomed to the fairway intricacies and the exacting targets.
And trying not to be overly awed by the environment.
World no. 1 Jin Young Ko arrived in the area on Monday – of the previous week.
“I heard a lot of stories from this golf course, and I watched Tiger win the US Open, and Gary Woodland, he won the US Open, so I watched everything,” Ko said. “Yeah, I’m really excited to play this golf course. I really wanted to play this golf course.”
And so she has, a few times last week and a few times this week. She also soaked in the beauty and enjoyed another reason for the early arrival.
“I wanted to eat oysters in San Fran,” she said.
The men have played a US Open at Pebble Beach on six occasions. Tiger Woods’ 2000 romp is inarguably the most dominant major performance in men’s history. Woodland won the most recent US Open on the Monterrey Peninsula in 2019.
Ko, like most others in the field, was only familiar with Pebble Beach from what she saw on a screen. Lydia Ko said she watched ’19 Open highlights for some insight. Nelly Korda recalled playing a digitized version on a video game.
They’ve now seen it, and felt it.
This is their stage. Thank you.
For 18 months, golf talk has been dominated by overly dramatic men, with their greed and their grandstanding and their general gaudiness.
The These Guys are Good guys vs. the Pretty Not That Good guys who are now, supposedly, the Not Really That Bad guys.
But, if the men wouldn’t mind, it’s time to cede the spotlight – at least until next week, when Tour brass appears before Congress to discuss its dealings with the Saudis.
Not to get overly dramatic, but this is a massive week for the women’s game. It’s their biggest event, with an $11 million purse, on one of the world’s most notable and recognizable courses.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m here, because I think it’s really special,” said three-time US Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam, who accepted a special invitation to compete.
“I’m sure other players have said the same thing, but I think when we get a chance to tee it up on these iconic, historic pedigree courses, it elevates the event in so many ways.”
Full-field tee times from the US Women’s Open
Sorenstam, who has made more history than any other female player alive, noted that playing a major at a place like Pebble immortalizes special moments.
She cited Tom Watson’s chip-in at the ’82 US Open. Juli Inkster, a two-time USWO champ but here in a ceremonial role, also recalled Jack Nicklaus’ 1-iron on No. 17 in ’72 and Tom Kite’s chip-in on the seventh hole in ’92.
“I’ve always said that, you know, women like history, too, and maybe we can start to make history on some of these courses that other people fly around the world to play,” Sorenstam said.
Added Inkster, “I think the women deserve this, to be able to play these iconic golf courses and have their games challenged just like the men.”
This version of Pebble Beach will play to 6,509 yards and a par of 72, on the card. That will vary, round to round, depending on where the USGA sets tees, and players will also have to take into consideration the elemental factors.
By comparison, the 2019 US Open was listed at 7,075 yards at a par 71. The difference being the second hole, which was a 516-yard, par 4 for the men and will be a 509-yard, par 5 for the women.
Mina Harigae, who grew up in the area and is one of the few players with previous experience at Pebble, described this week’s rough as “gnarly”.
“It’s not a resort golf course anymore,” she said. “This is championship golf.”
The gnarly rough of which she speaks isn’t reserved for the graduated cuts along the fairway.
“Around the greens there are some really nasty lies, especially around the bunker edges. You might not even have a stance,” Sorenstam said. “I would say it puts a premium on your iron shots.”
Shannon Rouillard, USGA senior director of Women’s Open championships, said that there was no desire this week to add tee boxes or intentionally narrow fairways. The goal in course setup was “to let Pebble Beach be Pebble Beach,” which could include gusts up to 25 mph during the week.
It’s been a long time to get here. There hasn’t been a significant women’s event at Pebble in more than seven decades.
When asked on Wednesday, What took so long?, USGA CEO Mike Whan didn’t have a clear answer. But when asked, Why now?he was direct.
“If I had to really be honest with you, it’s probably because we asked in a significant way,” he said. To which Heidi Uberroth, the co-chair of Pebble Beach Company, replied during those conversations, Let’s make it four.
That includes women’s Pebble Beach Opens in 1935, ’40 and ’48.
Most here this week won’t be in the field for the next iteration. And the significance of staging a US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach will unfold in time.
But the women here, right now, have the opportunity to be part of – and possibly make – history.
As Jin Young Ko said best, “My life is pretty good because I can play this place, so I think I’m a very lucky player in the world.”