Jack Nicklaus stood waiting just off the 5th green. Tom Watson,
Tom Kite and Hale Irwin were waiting on the tee box, where
threesomes were piling up like cars on a foggy California
freeway. It was only 188 yards back to that tee, but with all
those legends on hold it was surely one of the longest walks that
David Gossett had ever taken. Unable to find his second-round tee
shot on the par-3 5th hole, Gossett had no choice but to trudge
back to the tee box and reload. When he finally walked off the
5th green, he left with a triple bogey. It was a bitter blow for
Gossett, the reigning United States amateur champion, who had
earned his title right here at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
At Pebble Beach during Open week, a demise like Gossett's was a
fairly common occurrence. The players referred to it as Taking
the 5th. Pebble Beach needed another killer par-3 the way it
needed another day of 30-knot winds, but the 5th, a new hole
designed by Nicklaus, has been punishing players since its
tournament debut in February 1999 in the AT&T Pebble Beach
The old 5th, a semiblind hole farther inland, was no cupcake. The
new millennium model, perched on the cliffs overlooking scenic
Stillwater Cove's placid teal water and barking seals, is one
part Cindy Crawford and two parts Hannibal Lecter: looks great,
but it will eat you up. Nicklaus warned that the new hole would
play tougher than expected, and he was right. While Gossett
was putting up that triple bogey, Nicklaus's score on his own
creation in his final U.S. Open round wasn't pretty either: a
double bogey. "I didn't hit a very good shot, obviously," said
Nicklaus. "But the ball hit somebody and bounced about 20 yards
left. I was so dead." Enjoy your round, Dr. Frankenstein?
The new 5th is where the original course builders wanted the hole
to be, but when the owner of that plot of land demanded $50,000
for the lot--an outrageous sum in 1916--the hole was moved inland.
The oceanfront lot finally became available after its longtime
owner, Mimi Jenkins, died in 1995. In a deal brokered by stock
trader Charles Schwab and car dealer Donald Lucas, the Pebble
Beach Company purchased the land for nearly $9 million. Pebble
Beach got its new hole and, in exchange, Schwab and Lucas got the
rights to build lavish homes overlooking it.
The new green is about the same size as the old one--although it
slopes severely toward the ocean--and has a similar bunker set up,
with two on the right and one on the left. "I didn't think it was
wise to take the smile off Mona Lisa," Nicklaus said.
The playability of the new number 5, however, is nothing like
that of the old number 5. With apologies to Nicklaus, this hole
is a bear. Only 30% of the field hit the green in regulation in
Saturday's breezy third round (chart, page G13). The Fearsome 5th
proved so difficult in the Friday- and Saturday-afternoon winds
that it was not unusual to see three groups on the tee waiting to
hit. Nicklaus and Gossett got caught in one of those traffic jams
on Friday. "I was with a couple of USGA guys who wondered why the
hole was playing so slow," Nicklaus said. "I said, 'It's because
you guys won't let it be played the way it was designed.'"
Nicklaus says that the area short and left of the green--the
obvious bailout area, since the cliffs are only five steps off
the right edge of the green--was intended to be maintained as
fairway so that a player could land a shot there and let it run
down the slope and onto the green. For the Open, that area
suddenly sprouted rough. Players who missed there (a majority of
the field) had a pitch from thick, unyielding rough to a firm,
unyielding green that sloped away from them. "Everybody is
missing the green left, and nobody has a shot, nobody can make
par," Nicklaus said. "You've got the cliff on one side and no
shot whatsoever if you miss it left."
Actually, Colin Montgomerie proved you could get up and down from
the face of the cliff. During Saturday's round, while still in
contention--for second place, anyway--he pushed his tee shot right.
Luckily, eagle-eyed hole marshal Steve Pieracci saw it land and
directed Monty to its precarious location on the slope. "He
must've been seven or eight feet down the slope," Pieracci said.
"You couldn't see his head. I didn't think he would play it."
Looking more like Indiana Jones on a dig than an Open contender,
Monty slashed a shot out of the brush and onto the green, 12 feet
from the cup. He made the putt for the Par of the Week--and
aggravated his sore wrist. "I really shouldn't have played it,
but I did," Montgomerie said. "I made a three. Amazing."
Predictably, the hole got panned. "Five was a nightmare," said
John Cook, who missed the cut. "It had a brutal pin, the wind was
blowing hard off the ocean, and you had a 25-minute wait to hit.
In three groups, there were only two balls on the green."
"When there are five groups standing on the tee, that's an
indication something is wrong," said Paul Azinger, who bogeyed
the 5th each of the first three days but birdied it on Sunday.
"The green is obviously flawed and needs to be redone. It's a
neat-looking hole, but just because it's sitting against the
ocean doesn't make it a good hole."
"Nobody wants to hang it out over the hazard and hook it into the
pin," said Steve Stricker, who had a bogey and three pars last
week at the 5th. "But if you cut it too much, you're in the
hazard, too. You've just got to strap on your helmet, step up on
the tee and try to hit a great shot."
Spectators might want to strap on helmets, too. Because of two
large oaks on the left side of the hole, fans standing there
couldn't see incoming tee shots, which is bad because they were
in prime bailout territory, especially when the wind blew off the
ocean. Terry Whitman was near the green waiting to watch her
husband, Ed, play the hole when Chris Perry's tee shot conked her
just above the temple. She was taken off in a first aid cart but
met Perry behind the 18th green to assure him that she was O.K.
The beaning was a bad break for Perry, too. The ball had caromed
left off Whitman's skull, across a cart path into deep grass near
the fence keeping outsiders away from Schwab's new house. Perry
had a restricted swing, needed two chips to get on the green and
eventually holed a five-footer for double bogey. "I didn't really
hit that bad of a shot," Perry said. "When I got down there and
saw where my ball was, I said, 'How'd it get over there? It
must've hit somebody in the head.'"
After his round, Perry signed his glove and hat and gave them to
Terry Whitman. He was relieved to learn she was not seriously
hurt. Carl Hart, Perry's caddie, jokingly told her, "You could've
caught it on the other side of your head so it would've gone onto
the green, y'know."
A man talking on a cellular phone was beaned by Nick Faldo, whose
ball came to rest across the cart path near a scoreboard. Faldo
then played a seemingly impossible pitch shot onto the green and
holed a six-footer for par.
Only two players, Carlos Franco and Lee Westwood, birdied the 5th
during the third round. Westwood, playing just behind Faldo, had
to make a 40-foot putt from the fringe for his 2, and it was
running like a bullet train when it hit the pin. "The par-3s here
play tougher than Augusta National's," Stricker said. "From the
tee, 5 looks impossible."
Bob Hope has called Pebble Beach "Alcatraz with grass." The
Fearsome 5th fits the description. Open competitors needed a GET
OUT OF JAIL FREE card the moment they teed it up.
As a quartet, the par-3s at Pebble Beach have always been among
the most difficult in golf, so it was hardly a surprise that they
were killers last week. Here's the percentage of players in the
Open who hit the green in regulation, how the hole played
in relation to par and where the hole ranked among the 18 in
difficulty (1st being the most difficult).
%GIR +PAR RANK
No. 17 19.0% .413 2nd
No. 12 25.0% .349 4th
No. 5 40.8% .175 8th
No. 7 73.9% .000 13th