This week’s U.S. Open, the 100th US National Championship, is the fourth to be played at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Jack Nicklaus won the first at Pebble in 1972, followed by Tom Watson (1982) and Tom Kite (1992).
Payne Stewart won last year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, becoming the 19th player to capture two or more Opens. Earlier in the season, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, Stewart earned his 10th PGA Tour title. He died at the age of 42 in an October plane crash and will be remembered this week.
Nicklaus, making his 44th consecutive appearance, with a record 35 cuts made, will replace Stewart in the traditional Thursday-Friday grouping of winners of the previous year’s U.S. Open, British Open and U.S. Amateur. Nicklaus’ first start came as an amateur in the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness.
But Paul Lawrie will not be at his side for the event, having to pull out with a groin strain.
And Nicklaus, who also won in 1962, 1967 and 1980; Watson and Kite, the 156-player field includes six other past champions: Ernie Els (1994, 1997), Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990), Lee Janzen (1993, 1998), Steve Jones (1996), Corey Pavin (1995) and Curtis Strange (1988-89).
Pebble Beach, which plays to a par 72, will be at 71 this week. The second hole, normally a 502-yard par 5, will be a 484-yard par 4.
But this week, Stewart will overshadow some undoubtedly good golf. The legendary Payne Stewart will be the focus of much attention this week.
Stewart, who also won the 1989 PGA Championship, topped Scott Simpson in a 1991 playoff at Hazeltine National for his first U.S. Open title. Last June’s victory at Pinehurst No. 2 made Stewart the 19th player with two or more Open titles. His immediate predecessors, Ernie Els in 1997 and Lee Janzen in 1998, both are two-time winners.
Janzen’s victory two years ago at the Olympic Club was by one stroke over Stewart, whom he also defeated by two strokes at Baltusrol in 1993.
This is the fourth Open to be played at Pebble Beach. Nicklaus won his third of four U.S. Open titles there in 1972. He then fell victim to Tom Watson’s 17th-hole chip-in in 1982, one of his four runner-up finishes (also 1960, 1968 and 1971). Tom Kite was the winner of the third Pebble Open, in 1992.
“The Golden Bear” and the 100th U.S. Open will be commemorated simultaneously by the U.S. Postal Service, which will issue souvenir envelopes for each on Wednesday (June 14) at the Pebble Beach Post Office.
A record 8,457 entries were received. Among the qualifiers is Shigeki Maruyama of Japan, who shot a 13-under-par 58 on June 5.