US OPEN – Report by Vice Captain Simon Grigor
As some of you know, I am just as much an avid golf watcher as I am a golf player. When I retired, I had two ‘bucket list’ golf spectating events I wanted to do. I achieved the first, a visit to the Masters at Augusta, in 2016, and I’d been waiting for the chance to do the second.
Like our own Open, the US Open uses venues on a rota basis. Pebble Beach had been the venue I’d wanted to go to, probably ever since I’d viewed on TV Tom Watson chipping in on the 17th to win his only US open back in 1982. It looked such a fantastic setting. It had last been used in 2010 (a British winner, Graeme McDowell) and it came up on the rota again in 2019. Plans were made!
Getting a ticket was way, way easier than getting one for the Masters. US Open tickets are put on general sale and I watched the internet for when that would happen, and leapt in at the appropriate time. Flights were booked and an AirBnb found about 25 miles away.
I arrived in San Jose, about 60 miles to the north, two days before the championship and found the weather incredibly hot, with the thermometer touching 100 degrees Fahreinheit. But the Monterey peninsular, where Pebble Beach lies, has its own micro-climate and the temperature there was a full 45 degrees less. Players had their mittens on while I had four layers on every day and on one, five. The shorts I’d packed stayed in my suitcase!
Transport arrangements were excellent. All cars parked at the California University campus and Greyhound-type buses shuttled you from there to the course. I arrived on day one to find the course looking every bit as beautiful as it does in photographs, and more. The Pacific was calm, the beach a beautiful bright yellow, and the little harbour inlets dotted with boats. On day one I made sure I walked the whole course, hillier than I’d imagined. At the day’s close there was a British leader too – despite the pressure of being paired with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose shot a 65.
Days two, three and four saw me spending a bit more time on specific holes, watching groups go through. My favourite? Probably the eighth. Players had to take a bit off their drives, to go as near as they dared to a massive cavern over the sea. The nearer they got, the ‘easier’ (ha ha) the second would be, to a tiny green, surrounded by treacherous rough and deep bunkers. On the Saturday I saw Francesco Molinari, going well at the time, probably lose his chance here as his second disappeared to the right of the green, not to be found, and he had a lonely trek back round to the tee side of the cavern to play a second ball.
Come the Sunday, Rose was still in contention, but he was now one shot behind leader Gary Woodland, a top-thirty player but one who’d not previously contended in a major. Just a bit further back lay two big guns: defending champion Brooks KJoepja, looking to win three US Opens in a row, and our own Rory McIlroy. Rory got off to a poor start and fell off the board immediately, while Justin stuttered around the turn. Kopka became the main challenger to Woodland but, despite his lack of major experience, it was Woodland who held on to claim the title.
Like some of our Open venues, you and I can play Pebble Beach. It ain’t cheap though! The basic green fee is $550. Add to that, $100 for a caddie. And you’ll increase your chances of getting a start time massively if you stay at the resort on site. However, a room there costs upwards (and in some cases, considerably upwards) of $950 a night….. So, probably not the venue of our next GCGB Overseas Championship!
Captains Day – Hever Castle
Our next event is Simon Grigor’s Captains Day at Hever Castle Golf Club near Edenbridge in Kent on 15th August. The day consists of Simon’s drive in, coffee and bacon rolls on arrival 18 hole individual stableford competition with prizes for the winners and also Nearest the Pins and Longest Drive, and a 2 course meal for £58. As usual we will have a sweepstake to guess the length of Simon’s drive. He has missed the last few golf days so his driving skills are a mystery to most of us! I am sure you will want to support Simon and guests and friends are more than welcome. Please contact Kate in the office to book a place.
Bletchingley – 18th September
We will be returning to Bletchingly on 18th September which is near Godstone off the A22 in Surrey. Cost is £54 for coffee and bacons rolls, 18 holes golf and 2 course meal. Again, contact Kate in the office to book your place.