DUBLIN, Ohio – Their hand-wringing was without cause.
Well, mostly, anyway.
Several players in the field at the Memorial Tournament expressed concerns about rumors they'd heard about practice-round access next week at Pebble Beach, which will host the U.S. Open starting June 17. One major champion said he’d heard that players would be charged $490 per spot, apparently the going rate for civilians, and that it they wanted to practice alone, they would have to buy the whole foursome slot at a cost of nearly $2,000.
Not the case, the USGA insisted Saturday. However, there are some unusual obstacles the Open field will have to dance around while practicing, since Pebble Beach is probably the world’s most lucrative daily fee track and any closures means a big revenue hit.
Limited guest play is being allowed through Tuesday, USGA rules and competition chief Mike Davis said Saturday from Pebble Beach, where he is fine-tuning the course. On Wednesday, Golf Digest is filming a mini-tournament featuring celebrities and an amateur.
“We asked the players that, if they want to play Wednesday, they stay as far away from the Golf Digest thing as they can,” Davis said.
On Thursday and Friday, it gets even more crowded, because a Pebble Beach-sponsored event is being held all morning, with a shotgun start, and players likely won’t have access to the course until after lunch. Davis said the USGA agreed to be more flexible on availability during the run-up week.
“Closing the course means the hotel is closed,” Davis said of the revenue bite Pebble would face. “But players will be able to play. I think that’s reasonable.”
At least when the Open-eligible players get to California, the weather ought to be decent. As an aside, unlike the downpour that hammered Memorial all morning and delayed the start of play several times before Saturday’s third round, Davis was standing on the sixth green at Pebble as he spoke on his cell phone and said the weather was glorious.
“Perfect,” he said.