Jack Nicklaus calls it his favorite approach shot in all of golf.

Johnny Miller says it's tied only with the second shot to the Road Hole at St. Andrews.

There are nine holes at Pebble Beach Golf Links where the ocean comes into play, but none is as dizzying, dramatic and demanding as the 428-yard, par-4 eighth.

The tee shot on the eighth hole at Pebble Beach is blind, similar to the Road Hole. But instead of picking a letter from the Old Course Hotel logo to launch drives over, players pick a room in one of the mansions on the distant hillside overlooking the 14th hole at Pebble Beach as their line.

The fairway for this year's U.S. Open has shifted some 20 yards to the right to bring the ocean even more into play.

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If pros hit their drives more than 230 yards, their tee shots will tumble off the biggest cliff on the course, just like always.

But now with the new fairway alignment, players can also hit their tee shots into the ocean if they flare their drives to the right, a result that can be aided by the left-to-right sloping fairway that runs right to the cliff.

But it's the approach shot that Nicklaus and Miller love so much.

The eighth hole is divided by a giant chasm, which creates a 150-yard carry over the Pacific Ocean to a treacherous green surrounded by three bunkers.

If pros are brave enough to drive it up to the "Danger: Steep Cliff" sign perched at the end of the fairway, they'll only have a downhill, 175-yard shot to a green with a false front and a bunker that guards the right half of the putting surface.


Two more bunkers sit behind the green and make for a nearly impossible recovery. The green is steeply sloped from back-to-front, but the toughest pin is a back-right location. That portion of the green is just 10 paces deep. And to the right of the green is more cliff.

Mike Davis, who is in charge of setting up the U.S. Open for the United States Golf Association, identified the eighth green as one of the slickest on the course.

"If it gets really windy and the green is running too fast, it could get away from you to all of a sudden," Davis said. "We don't want that. But it's easy to do because when you set it up that hard, it's easy to cross the line."

In 2000, the fairway was cut away from the ocean and to the left, creating more of a dogleg. But that angle was actually easier, as players could hit their second shots right up the throat of the green. With the fairway drifting to the right this year, pros will have a challenging angle, as that front-right bunker will cover most of the green — and they don't want to miss long.

"Now it's tougher than it's ever been because the green opens up from the left, so now you've got a tough shot the way it cants in there," said Miller, who will be in the broadcast booth for NBC.

Adding to the intimidation, when you stand over your shot and check the flag one more time, your eyes fall down the cliff before coming back up and returning to the ball.

While the first shot is blind, the second makes you want to close your eyes.

"It's one of the greatest and most dramatic shots in golf," Davis said.

In the 2000 U.S. Open, the eighth hole played as the second toughest with a stroke average of 4.534. It trailed only the ninth hole in difficulty, while the 10th was ranked the fifth toughest. The stretch of ominous oceanfront holes has been dubbed the "Cliffs of Doom."

"I think that stretch of Nos. 8, 9, 10 was already the hardest stretch in the game of golf," Miller said. "Those holes are going to make or break the championship. The winner of the U.S. Open is probably going to play those holes reasonably well. Those holes can eat you up."

Kevin Merfeld can be reached at 646-4457 and kmerfeld@montereyherald.com.

No. 8
·Yardage: 428 yards
·Par: 4
·What's new: Fairway has been shifted to right to bring ocean into play