The USGA will do everything it can to drum up drama and make the 18th hole at Pebble Beach reachable, bringing into play everything from eagles to double-bogeys.
The difference is that danger will not only lurk on the approach — like at Torrey Pines — but also on the drive.
The finishing hole at Torrey Pines was guarded by a large lake in front of the green. The 543-yard par 5 at Pebble Beach has an even bigger hazard — the Pacific Ocean — which runs along the left side of the hole. It is the only hole on the course where water is on the left.
"It's certainly one of the most exciting, most recognizable holes in all of golf, if not the most," Tiger Woods said.
But for all the dramatics of both the hole and previous U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach, the championship has never been decided on the 18th.
That might change this year.
While prevailing summer winds usually blow into your face, the USGA wants to give players the option to at least think about going for it in two. That means the tees might be moved up to entice players.
"Virtually everybody in the field can get home in two, but they've got to hit a perfect drive and a perfect second shot to do it," said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition.
Players have two options on the drive.
Or they can hit a driver, but they will have to keep their tee shots left of the two trees that now border the right edge of the fairway, forcing more carry over the ocean. The fairway also runs off the cliff, just like the other oceanfront holes.
To the right of the trees — which were moved 25 yards up the fairway in 2003 to tighten the landing area for today's player — is some of the thickest rough on the course. And to the right of that is out of bounds.
"If you want to play it as a two-shotter, you're going to have to execute off the tee, you're going to have to keep it close to the ocean, and we're not going to let you hit it off to the right in the rough," Davis said. "That's going to be the one place here at Pebble Beach that is going to be some gnarly ugly rough, that you think, 'I don't want to be in there.'"
The hole has been reachable for players in practice rounds. Woods has reached the green with an iron.
"The first time I played here I was either 12 or 13, somewhere in there," Woods said. "And I just couldn't believe how long it was. And now we're playing it with a heightening driver, irons in there. It's just how much technology has changed the game."
But Davis actually thinks technology has made the 18th a better hole over time because it has introduced more risk-reward.
"It's one of the classic and one of the greatest finishing holes in all of golf," Davis said. "What's happened over the years with technology and equipment, so many times is that kind of outdates holes or forces you to change holes. In the case of No. 18 at Pebble Beach, it's one of the times it's actually made it a better hole, at least for the world's best players."
A long fairway bunker runs along the seawall from 150 yards in, constricting the lay-up shot. The green is also protected by a towering cypress tree and two bunkers on the right. A giant pine guarded the green in 2000, but it died and was replaced by the cypress to balance out the hole.
At this year's AT&T, Dustin Johnson came to the final hole in a three-way tie, but piped a drive left of the trees and went for it in two. He put it in the greenside bunker, short right, but got up-and-down for the birdie and the win.
This weekend, the hope is a scenario like that can unfold again.
·Yardage: 543 yards
·What's new: Fairway shifted to left; trees in fairway moved up 25 yards;