US Open Diary
Pebble Beach is unique among major championship venues and not just for its rugged beauty or supreme test of golf.
This stretch of 17-Mile Drive on the central Californian coast is perhaps the most unlikely setting for a leading sporting attraction. Immediately inland from the course the area is heavily wooded and space is at an absolute premium.
Every nook and cranny is taken to provide the Championship with its infrastructure. It's like packing your car for a camping holiday, with bits and bobs placed around the vehicle in whichever area they fit best.
As a result the media tent is a good 15-minute hike from the 18th green, parking is spread far and wide and an intricate bus system brings spectators, officials and volunteers to and from the course.
And no one minds the inconvenience - well ok, we in the media moan a bit but only because the extra hikes put deadlines in jeopardy - and the reason is this breathtaking course.
It is truly stunning. The first three holes are fairly unremarkable as they wend their way through the exclusive homes that line the fairways, but then you come to the short par-four fourth and from there it turns into a blockbusting spectacular.
The par-five sixth features a huge elevation to the green that television will not be able to do justice to, while Stillwater Cove takes a substantial bite out of the terrain. Then comes the tiny seventh that veers steeply downhill to a minuscule green on the water's edge.
The seventh hole is the shortest but one of the most spectacular. Photograph: AFP
It may play less than a 100 yards at some stage this week - the hole measures 106 yards in the first round - and this is one of the great par threes of the world.
The course then stretches around Carmel Beach with a succession of unforgivingly demanding holes shorn of rough to prevent errant balls from heading towards the ocean.
It then swings inland for the homeward journey. The 14th has an impossibly small plateau green, the 16th a cunningly low-lying putting surface. Across the course the rough is shorter than usually associated with a US Open, apart from around the bunkers, which boast Denis Healey-like eyebrows of unkempt long grass.
Walking the course on the eve of the Championship we stumbled across Tom Watson on the ninth tee. What a treat it was to see the old master unleash a beautifully judged drive, drawn into the cross breeze before splitting the fairway. In these fast, firm conditions the 60-year-old is plenty long enough.
Tom Watson won at Pebble Beach in 1982 and knows the course well. Photograph: Getty
And as this blog noted at the beginning of the week, we will always remember Watson for the 17th where he chipped in for birdie to win here in 1982. It's a fabulous hole, the grandstand is set to the right and you may not see it on TV, instead you will see an unencumbered putting surface in isolation.
Then there is the last, with the ocean that swallowed up Phil Mickelson's ball in the first round, all the way up the left. A brilliant closing hole which has the capacity to turn the destiny of the title come Sunday afternoon.
Logistically, this may be a challenging venue, but the course more than makes up for those shortcomings and it is little wonder that the USGA have already earmarked Pebble Beach for the 2019 US Open when the course will celebrate its centenary.
Watson, meanwhile, is playing the generation game over the first two rounds as he's paired with Rory McIlroy, 21, and Ryo Ishikawa, 18. When he saw the pairings Watson said he "started adding up the ages. Their combined age is 39, and I'm 60. I've got them by 21 years".
Therein lies one of the great attributes that golf can boast. It is a sport for all ages, shapes and sizes and in Pebble Beach it has the venue to demonstrate such qualities.