How Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and others plan to attack Pebble Beach

The 119th U.S. Open got under way at Pebble Beach on Thursday, with Brooks Koepka seeking a third consecutive title.

Play began at 6:45am local time (2:45pm BST), with Sam Saunders – grandson of the great Arnold Palmer – hitting the opening tee shot on the first hole.

We take a look at how some of the leading contenders this week plan to conquer the unique challenge of Pebble Beach – a cliff-side course exposed to the elements and renowned for its narrow fairways and small greens.


Here’s how 5 players will attack Pebble Beach

Brooks Koepka

“I’ve said it the last time, there’s so much pressure. There’s so many guys that shoot themselves out of it just because it’s a major. They change their game plan from a normal week to this week, added pressure of I’ve got to play well this week.

“You never know what’s going to happen. Yes, it is a shorter golf course, but you’ve still got to find the fairway. You’ve still got to hit it close, and you still have to make putts. It doesn’t make it any different than any other golf course. Obviously the views make it a little different. But you’ve still got to go out there and execute.”

Rickie Fowler

“To me I look at Pebble as not necessarily a place that the more you play it you have an advantage, necessarily. It’s a pretty straightforward golf course. There’s only a couple of tee shots that are somewhat blind that you need to just make sure that you’re comfortable on lines. It’s pretty much right in front of you. Very small greens.

“I love that about it. It’s not very tricky. You hit it in a lot of the middle of the greens here, and you’re going to be in a good position. I’ve played well here. I had a chance to win.

“But how could you not like this place and get good vibes, especially the last couple of days with the weather we’ve had. [It] just makes you feel good. It’s a beautiful place.”

Jason Day

“You have to keep reinforcing positive things. And that’s what I need to do most, is just slowly keep reinforcing that — whether I’m going to get back to number one in the world or I am a good player. Hopefully over time that self-reinforcement of positivity will sooner or later go into my golf game and give me confidence. And I’m definitely guilty of that. I’m on the golf course sometimes and I’m thinking negative things. That’s human nature.”

Rory McIlroy 

“If you look at the length of this golf course, and it’s obviously not one of the longest golf courses that we play all year, but there’s so many approach shots, if you do drive it well, between sort of 130 and 150 yards, obviously there’s some approach shots that are much longer than that as well, but I just wanted to give myself every possible option in terms of yardages and shots that I could play.

“And if I’ve learned one thing about the U.S. Open overall these years, it is [that] your distance control has to be spot on. That was the reason for putting that extra wedge in. And I got a nice bit of practice with it last week [when winning the Canadian Open], and feeling good about the setup. I sort of started to think about the setup that I needed for this week a few weeks ago. I’ve played two tournaments with that setup, and it’s worked pretty well.”

Jon Rahm

“Where I grew up in Northern Spain, it’s somewhat similar to California. Very similar coastline and very similar golf courses. So I feel comfortable.

“And I think the second reason was growing up on poa annua, poa annua greens, it’s something that I’m comfortable on. I’m comfortable reading those greens. And more so than any other week I know that we’re going to miss putts. It just happens when poa annua comes. And it’s just hard to make them. Unless you’re Tiger [Woods] in 2000, you don’t miss a putt inside 6-10 feet. That rarely happens. If you can be patient and have a decent putting week, you’re definitely going to probably beat the average on the golf course.”