The tournament was supposed to be the story, the 110th U.S. Open. The tournament, and the course, that great venue stretched upon the bluffs above Carmel Bay.
In golf these days, however, the story inevitably is Tiger Woods.
It was on Sunday. Tim Clark won The Players Championship, the kid’s first victory in 206 PGA Tour events. But he was second banana. Tiger withdrew because of spasms in his neck, and so that’s virtually all we heard about, all we read about.
It was on Monday. U.S. Golf Association and Pebble Beach officials gathered to preview the Open and allowed the media to test the course, which has been prepared to challenge the pros. But 2,500 miles to the east, Tiger was talking about the AT&T National in July, which benefits his foundation, and on demand talking about his neck injury.
“There’s zero connection,” said Tiger between the problem and the now historic Nov. 27 car accident, the one which turned his life upside down and inside out. Do we believe him? He had said the crash left him with a sore neck.
He also denied speculation he was splitting from his swing coach, Hank Haney. A few hours later, Haney said he had split from Tiger.
What’s real, and what’s contrived?
Someone asked me that. My answer is that the only thing I believe are the scores on the card. Who knows what’s happening with Tiger?
And he says even he doesn’t know whether he’ll be at Pebble, where 10 years ago, he broke every scoring record in the Open, shooting 12-under par, winning by 15 shots.
Pebble? “Hard not to get goose bumps when you drive in every day,” said Bill Perocchi.
As CEO of Pebble Beach Co., he’s biased. He’s also accurate.
Tiger? “I’m trying everything I can to get back as soon as I can,” Woods said. He’s credible. He’s also somewhat desperate.
Once again we return to the prescient observation by author and golf writer Dan Jenkins, who was asked 10 years ago after Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble, the British Open at St. Andrews and the PGA at Vahalla, what could stop him. “Only an injury or a bad marriage.”
Now Tiger has both.
Whether the fifth U.S. Open at Pebble has Tiger cannot be answered until June 17, when play begins.
It will have Tom Watson, who won here in 1982 and who has played in all four Opens played here and received a special exemption.
It will have defending champion Lucas Glover, who, from his home in South Carolina and a very poor Skype connection, said he hasn’t been at Pebble for the AT&T Pro-Am in several years.
It will have the smallest and slowest greens of any Open course, and fairways, such as holes 6 and 8, remodeled so they practically plunge over cliffs to the beach and rocks below.
“I’ve never seen an Open course in better condition,” said Tom O’Toole, chairman of the championship committee.
The changes were not in response to Tiger’s startling performance in 2000. That’s what we’re told.
“Remember,” said general chairman R.J. Harper, “155 players didn’t break par that time.”
And the one who did seemingly is breaking apart.