The joys of a trip to Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open

As I walked all over Pebble Beach during the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday, I noticed a lot of interesting things.

Such as:

–The vibe at a pro golf tournament is different from that of any other sport, especially when it’s the first round of a major.

To me, it is one of the greatest aspects of our great game. Nobody cares who wins today … because nobody’s going to “win” today. Oh, certain players will jump to an early lead and set a tone for the week. They might even go on to win the tournament. But today is just an appetizer.

It makes viewing more carefree and enjoyable. You can camp out on a hole you like, you can tail along with your favorite players or you can just try to see as much of the golf course as you can.

Me, I prefer the latter while still getting a glimpse of players I want to watch. It’s a lot of exercise, which I consider another benefit of going to a golf tournament. I estimated that I walked at least seven or eight miles. By the end of the day, I was cooked.

–Tiger Woods is a popular guy.

That’s not exactly a revelation, I know, but this was the first time I’ve ever been at a tournament in which he was playing. I wanted to see what it was like.

The answer: Amazing. The mass of humanity following him was so large, the only way to get a glimpse was to go several holes ahead and wait.

It didn’t help that two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka was two groups ahead of Tiger, so the crowds were that much more massive. There were certain spots on the golf course – such as No. 4 – where it was so clogged, it turned into gridlock for about 15 or 20 minutes.

–The U.S. Open crowd is a bit more educated.

Not once all day did I hear the annoying “YOU DA MAN!” or some such that seems to accompany every shot on the PGA Tour. Yes, a few people said “Get in the hole!” as a chip or putt skittered toward the cup, but it was said more quietly and in the spirit of earnest rooting, not loudmouthed look-at-me-itis.

–Pebble Beach looks better than ever.

Again, not a revelation, but not every golf course ages well. Pebble is as close to golf perfection as we’ll ever get.

And if you hear a pro say a single word about what the USGA has done to it, just look at Thursday’s scoreboard with all those players under par. There’s not that much more the USGA can do to Pebble besides allow all that growth around the bunkers and greens and make the rough punitive.

The fairways are plenty wide enough. The greens were fast but fair – they were relatively soft and held a good shot. Maybe the USGA will employ some diabolical pin placements over the weekend, but those greens are so small, it hardly matters. It’s hard to have more than a 30-foot putt there. Your biggest concern is not being above the hole.

–Just wondering: Why do some women wear high heels to a golf tournament?

I see it every time. Did someone not tell them that you might have to walk a lot on bumpy ground?

I was pleased, however, to see that one of the fan-friendly additions to golf tournament viewing is making electric scooters available. I saw many, many people who were able to enjoy the tournament by utilizing them. Bravo.

–Trying to get all those people into and out of a compressed area is still an issue.

If you’re going to the tournament over the weekend, get there early. And I mean real early.

We arrived at the CSU-Monterey Bay parking lot a little after 9 a.m. and were impressed by all the buses that were lined up to take fans into Pebble Beach. We got on a bus right away.

It still seemed smooth when the bus got off Highway 1 and started down the 17-Mile Drive. But pretty soon we were in an endless line of buses and cars that didn’t move for long stretches, and before long there was a lot of grousing about who was doing the traffic control.

When we were released from our captivity after 11 a.m., it felt like one of those plane flights when all of the passengers are thrilled just to be on the ground again.

It wasn’t any better leaving. This time, the Highway 1 traffic was awful, topped only by the jam trying to exit the CSU parking lot. It felt like the same gridlock we had experienced on the fourth hole.

–But don’t let that stop you from going (assuming you already have tickets).

Any golf major is a great experience, but the combination of the U.S. Open and Pebble Beach make it even better. Just be aware that a lot of people have the same idea – and want to see the big names, too.

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