While the cameras train their attention on those spellbinding holes on the Pacific, the US Open might be decided on this unheralded bunch. We put them under the microscope
When you can train your lens on golfing nirvana, with the waves crashing off the rocks and our heroes pixelated against the Pacific, why would you waste precious air time on a straightaway uphill par 4?
That’s the contrast at Pebble Beach – the sheer magnificence of the Monterey Peninsula against the perceived mediocrity of what counts as the meat and drink of this US Open venue.
It’s a paradox, all right. Give me the choice and I’ll watch the players hitting off 7 and driving 18 all day long.
But these unheralded holes are likely to have just as big a say in who lifts the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
So I went out, took in some of those that might have to fight for as many fetching portrait shots, and tried to assess what impact they’ll have on this week’s tournament.
1st, Par 4, 380 yards
‘I want to see everyone hit an iron off the 1st tee’, said no one ever, but if you like your majors to go off in a firework display of bludgeoned drivers then you’re going to be disappointed at Pebble Beach.
I suppose Brooks Koepka, in yet another show of sheer defiance, might just unleash the big dog and try and cut off the tight corner of this left to right dogleg.
He’ll probably be on his own. Most of the field are going to go slow and steady if practice has been any guide.
I watched Justin Rose and Danny Willett tee off and neither went anywhere near their headcovers.
There’s really just no point in getting adventurous. The bunker on the left will swallow anything a bit long and those who leak it a touch right will find their approach to the green blocked.
It’s a bit of an underwhelming start, in all honesty, but once you get off the tee the approach to a small green – sloping from back to front and with a couple of very large craters lurking on the right of the putting surface – does at least start to get the adrenaline flowing.
2nd, Par 4, 516 yards
Yes, this is the US Open and, yes, the fairway really is that wide. But although it looks pretty benign from the tee, this hole packs a proper punch the closer you get to the green.
Dustin Johnson all but ruined his US Open hopes here in 2010 when taking a treble bogey on his way to a final round 82.
At 516 yards it’s may be more than just a short iron on approach for everyone apart from the big hitters.
A pair of trees guard the route to the green and the cross bunker really looks the part, although it shouldn’t come into play.
After the anodyne beginning, it feels like a noticeable step up. The narrow entrance, large bunkers and undulating green means the field will need to be careful to miss in the right spot.
3rd, Par 4, 404 yards
This is Pebble Beach, right? Where is the beach? You get a glimpse of what’s to come from the ocean for the first time here but, once more, you’ve got to hit a pretty wide fairway before threading your approach through yet another tight entry point.
Aesthetically, I quite like the look of the start – I’m a bit of a fan of large bunkering that’s covered in fescue and I enjoy the challenge of trying to hit a small green – but I also accept the accusation that it’s a fairly repetitive beginning.
11th, Par 4, 390 yards
You’ve just spent the last hour or two rolling round the ocean, awed by the clifftops and craggy outcrops. You’ve stiffed it on 7, cleared the chasm on 8 and hugged the coastline on 9.
Then you come to the 11th and it feels like a bog standard par 4 that just gradually saps all the strength out of your legs. After all the thrills, the change of pace is a bit disconcerting.
But the competitors will have to focus hard. While the fairways at Pebble are generally relatively easy to hit, this one is not.
Less than half the field found the short stuff from the 11th in 2010. Even with rough that’s described as ‘clumpy’, rather than uniformly brutal, no one wants to try and carve their way out of a thicket.
The theme at the green continues – small, plenty of contours and an entrance that’s yet again on the small side. Are you noticing a theme?
12th, Par 3, 202 yards
This was the second toughest green to hit in regulation when Graeme McDowell came out on top and it’s easy to see why.
200 yards probably isn’t much more than a 7 for most of this field (I’d have to go in with a hybrid) but you’ve still got to be very accurate.
The green is only 23 paces deep and the bunker in front guards most of the surface. The two bunkers behind gather anything that goes long and may well come into play as conditions get firmer at the weekend.
There’s barely a seagull in sight but these two pretty difficult holes could easily have as much impact on the overall result as the 17th and 18th.
14th, Par 5, 580 yards
Of all the holes that sum up the contrast at Pebble, the 14th is the only one that left me really disappointed.
I want to say something constructive about it but it just feels relatively featureless and relentless. That’s even taking into account the slight double dogleg that comes into play as the players approach the raised green.
It’s power relies on its length. Even in the modern game it was the third toughest hole nine years ago.
It’s the start of the final flourish and, as a genuine three shotter for most, that means it’s probably going to have a big say in how it all turns out. But I really feel it shouldn’t.
Agree with me or have I got it badly wrong? Have your say in the comments or let me know by tweeting me. Keep up to speed with everything from Pebble Beach on our dedicated US Open website, or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.