What is watching the action at Pebble Beach's iconic 7th hole really like? Steve Carroll picked a rather dramatic time to find out
The queue for the bleachers hasn’t moved in 20 minutes and I’m starting to panic. There are a lot of expensive properties in this part of the world but, right now, there isn’t anywhere hotter than the 109 yards of ocean views that constitutes the 7th at Pebble Beach.
No one is budging from their lofty perch. In fact those in the back row are looking down mockingly at the lengthening line starting to stretch back towards the 8th fairway.
All I can see in front of me, at the point where if they move any further forward they will start tumbling towards the Pacific, is a stout wall of bodies.
But this is no time to be a shrinking violet. Tiger Woods will soon be on his way.
I leave the line and approach the swelling mass that’s crammed in halfway down the hole.
There’s the faintest impression of a swing, caught briefly between the click of phone cameras and the moving of heads, and Brooks Koepka’s tee shot lands about 15 feet away.
Even reaching high onto my tiptoes I can barely make out that postage stamp green. Damn my 5-foot-9 body.
Koepka misses the putt, it’s one of his poorest efforts of the day, but Francesco Molinari drills his as I use the distraction to try and edge millimetre by millimetre through the crush.
“If you stand here long enough you’ll eventually find yourself at the front,” opines the baseball cap-cladded guy I’m literally rubbing shoulders with next door.
Eventually is no good, though. I reckon I’ve got about 10 minutes.
Ian Poulter’s arrived at the tee and the man Americans love to hate is decked out in red, white and blue.
This goes down well with the patriots on the other side of me, who break out spontaneously into the sort of awful cockney accent Dick Van Dyke employed in Mary Poppins.
‘Powlter’ curls in the birdie – a putt with quite a vicious break on it – and everyone roars from their wooden bench.
Making America Great Again might be the only thing that matters when it’s Ryder Cup week but here all anyone wants to see is a two.
Tiger has arrived. I know this only because the bleachers have suddenly bolted up and their heads are all craned to my right.
An arm has appeared in my back and then another. There’s the start of a shove as the rows behind me – we’re about seven or eight deep at this point – make one last ditch effort to get as prominent a look as they can.
The great man throws up a clump of grass. It’s like he’s waiting while those of us in the stalls jockey for position. There are no such worries for the hundreds in the balcony.
Woods takes his stance and, miraculously, the way clears just a fraction.
I’ve got a narrow view – between the left ear of one man and the comfortably proportioned chassis of a marshal – and I can see Tiger’s entire frame float his wedge at the ball.
We all lean left. His shot pitches close but catches the slope and rolls down towards the front of the green. There’s a collective groan.
But Woods knows how to put on a show for all of us theatregoers. His putt is a perfect pace, finds its target, and there’s pandemonium.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 13, 2019
The masses go nuts. Then Justin Rose powers in another birdie on his way to a first round lead and we all realise what a golden spell we’ve just enjoyed.
The bleacher bunch are once more aloft but now they’re streaming for the exits. Daniel Berger’s group gets to the tee and you can almost stand anywhere you like.
That was a crazy half an hour by the 7th at Pebble Beach.