It's an instant game-changer.
But one eagle opportunity has been taken away from this year's U.S. Open, as the second hole will once again be converted from a par 5 into a par 4.
That leaves three par 5s on the course, which can be reachable in two with firm U.S. Open conditions, pending wind: Nos. 6, 14 and 18.
But there might be a fourth eagle opportunity this year, and that's the scenic 331-yard fourth hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
With so many players able to reach par 5s in two these days, the most exciting hole in golf has become the drivable par 4. And while the uphill fourth hole hasn't traditionally fit that billing — certainly not in wet AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am conditions, and not back in 2000 — that could change this year.
"We're a bit undecided on No. 4," said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of Rules and Competition. "We want to see how the weather conditions are, and how it matches up with certain hole locations. It is certainly something we've thought about."
During Davis' first year setting up U.S. Opens in 2006, he turned up the temptation on Winged Foot's 321-yard sixth hole. In 2007, Oakmont had a riveting finish to the course, highlighted by the 313-yard 17th hole.
And in 2008 at Torrey Pines, Davis moved the tees forward on No. 14 for Sunday's final round, making it just 267 yards, or 21 yards shorter than the par-3 eighth hole at Oakmont was in 2007.
"We really have been trying the last four or five years to increase the risk-reward on certain holes or certain shots to allow the guys to gamble a little bit," Davis said. "If they pull it off, they absolutely can make a birdie or eagle. But if they try it, and they're aggressive, and they don't execute properly, then they'll be worse off than if they had just played conservatively."
The fourth hole shares a back tee with No. 17, which moves across the road to stretch that par 3 to 208 yards.
But there are also tee boxes on the fourth hole spanning from the 256-yard red tees to the 295-yard white tees and the 308-yard gold tees. So there are options.
But trying to drive the fourth hole is the definition of risk-reward. One of the smallest and steepest greens on the course is surrounded by four bunkers, and the entire hole rests along the coastline. A shot just five yards wide of the green can tumble down a cliff.
"I was really surprised at the AT&T this year," said RJ Harper, senior Vice President of the Pebble Beach Company. "The young guys were pulling driver. No fear. Most guys were going left and a little short.
"I think the hole will be drivable anyway because of how firm the fairways will get."
For those who choose the more sensible route, the layup shot has been toughened as well. While it's only 200 yards to carry a cross bunker and land safely in the fairway, a pot bunker has been moved closer to the center of the old fairway, coming into play 100 yards out from the green.
The rough has been grown in from the left to start where that pot bunker is, cutting the new fairway nearly in half and pushing it along the edge of the ocean. A second bunker was also added in the left rough, short of the green, which constricts the landing area for players who hit driver.
"We really framed the left side so it's intimidating now," Harper said. "Guys could always afford to miss left. Not anymore."
Kevin Merfeld can be reached at 646-4457 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
·Yardage: 331 yards
·What's new: Pot bunker moved to the right to push fairway right and along coastline. Bunker added in left rough short of green.