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Tiger Woods
When Tiger Woods was asked where the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links would be decided, he told the Los Angeles Times, "The 17th on Sunday. That'll be the hole."

Of course, NBC analyst Johnny Miller famously declared during the 14th hole of Woods' first round in 2000 that the championship was already over. Woods eventually smoked the field by 15 strokes, taking all the drama out of the 17th hole on Sunday.

But Woods had good reason to think the championship could be decided there.

Jack Nicklaus' 1-iron through the wind on the 71st hole of the 1972 U.S. Open smacked the flagstick, settling inches away for a championship-clinching birdie.

Ten years later, Tom Watson was tied with Nicklaus going into the 71st hole before chipping in for birdie, a shot that carried him to the title.

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After ducking inland for six holes, Pebble Beach climactically returns to the ocean for a dramatic finish. And while left side of the ocean-lined 18th lurks dangerously and will test any player protecting a small lead, it's the 17th that might decide the U.S. Open once again.

The 208-yard par 3 sits behind the fourth tee and across a road that leads to the Beach and Tennis Club. While the 17th hole plays just 178 yards during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, it will stretch out to its traditional 208-yard U.S. Open tees this week. In the 2000 U.S. Open, the 17th hole was the third toughest overall, playing to a stroke average of 3.436

"For us to go up to the next tee would be certainly a departure from the last time here," said Mike Davis, the USGA's Director of Rules and Competition.


"That wouldn't be wrong, but I doubt you'll see it unless we get some really strong winds. So much of this really has to do with what kind of predictions we get for wind."

Phil Mickelson would actually prefer winds into him for the tee shot, so that his golf ball will be slowed down enough to hit and stay on the precarious left side of green that is wedged between bunkers and just 17 paces deep.

"And there are a lot of times where these greens are unhittable, that you will not be able to keep it on the surface," Mickelson said. "There's nobody in the field, when the pin is to the left on No. 17, unless the wind is in, but if there's no hurt, there's nobody in the field that can hit the ball on the green. So you have to say, 'Well, where am I going to make par from? The front bunker? The back bunker?'"

The 17th green is shaped like a tipped over hourglass, with sand spilling out all around it. While the AT&T uses the exposed right side of the green for the first three days of the tournament, a back-left pin location is one of the toughest shots pros will face all year.

An expansive bunker guards the front of the green, and six more traps are scattered behind it. The ocean borders the left side of the hole and doubles as a beautiful backdrop.

"It's one of the hardest holes in golf if the wind is blowing," said Woods in 2000. "You have a long iron or a wood into the green and you have absolutely no bail-out area. There's nowhere to go. You need to hit the ball right there at the right spot and try to make par. If you make par, you know you're probably going to pick up a couple of shots."

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

No. 17
· Yardage: 208 yards
· Par: 3
· What's new: Using U.S. Open tee; goes from 178 for AT&T to 208 for U.S. Open