Even pros are excited at Pebble Beach


This is the first in an occasional series of golf articles by Fred Funk, a PGA Tour member from Laurel.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- There is more excitement than normal for the U.S. Open this week, simply because it is at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It's tremendous for everybody, including the pros. We played a regular tour event here in January, and even then the talk was about coming back for the Open.

There is just so much glamour and history connected with the place, and it's always in good condition. In January, though, Tom Watson -- who won here in 1982 when he chipped in on the 17th hole -- said it is in the best condition he has ever seen it -- the rough has had a chance to grow.

The premium is on ball-striking -- hitting fairways and greens -- because you won't get up-and-down a lot. Actually, though, you need more patience than anything.

This will be my fifth Open, but, so far, I have made the cut only once. That was at Oakland Hills in 1985, where I shot 287 and tied for 23rd place. I remember it not only for making the cut, but for finishing one stroke out of a tie for 16th, and a place in the Masters. The top 16 (and ties) in the U.S. Open automatically receive Masters invitations for the following year.

I know Mark O'Meara will get a lot of attention this week. He's had so much success here, it's like coming to his home course. However, that will mean extra pressure, too.

He won a state amateur title here and since turning pro in 1980, hehas won four tour events here, including the one last winter (the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am).

I wasn't playing that well when I went to Houston (Funk's first tour victory), but it was OK, and I'm really comfortable with that course. I'd done two tour qualifying schools there, and I had played in the tour event before.

I was able to trust my swing and that helped. And the last day (after taking the third-round lead with a 62), warming up, I started hitting balls and my swing was just in a groove.

One thing I noticed about the win -- the other players seemed genuinely happy for me. My background is different from most because I came to the tour late. I was 32 when I qualified the first time in 1988. It was a case of not giving up on a dream, and I think the other guys realized that and appreciated it.

No predictions for this week, but I feel good and intend to stay focused.

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