PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Their working areas are among the most spectacular in the world. And yet golf pros sometimes concentrate so much on what goes on the scorecard, in effect they can’t see the forest for the tees.
They may not miss a putt, but often they do miss the views. Which makes Louis Oosthuizen, the South African, both perceptive and somewhat different.
Oh, he can play. Oosthuizen has already won a British Open, and Thursday he was one three players who shot a 5-under-par 66 in the first round of this 119th U.S. Open.
But he seemed less awed by what was accomplished than where it was accomplished, at Pebble Beach.
Asked about a round that shared the early lead, Oosthuizen was almost uncaring, saying things like “I’m not even sure what the distance was,” about the shot he holed from the fairway on 11 for an eagle two, or “I didn’t get the distance on the second on the second shot,” when he birdied nine out a bunker.
Ah, but the glorious setting, the course that traverses the bluffs along Carmel Bay, the beach where people sit and dogs roam, the pine-laden knobs of Point Lobos across the water, the sea otters popping out of the surf — all that had Oosthuizen enchanted.
When someone asked him what adding the Open to his achievements would mean, the 36-year-old Oosthuizen was delightfully eloquent.
“I think just winning to me is sacred enough,” he said. “To be able to win a U.S. Open would be magical to me. It would be, I think, something that anyone would dream of, winning (a British) Open and the U.S. Open.
“I think Pebble is probably one of my favorite — if not the favorite — venue for a U.S. Open. You’re not going to beat the scenery, and everything about this golf course — and it’s just the weather we’re having at the moment — makes this week really special.”
The weather is just what anyone would expect on the Monterey Peninsula this time of year, “June Gloom,” overcast skies and enough wind to make the course testing, if not overly so — as the better rounds indicate.
One is hesitant to go overboard, and that has nothing to do with the yachts anchored near the 17th hole, but things were done perfectly by Samuel F. B. Morse, who helped develop the area and conspired to have Jack Neville and Douglas Grant create the course.
No hot dog stands, no amusement parks, just the land nature created, embellished by a golf course that seems to fit it perfectly. Along the edge across the water, yes, there are homes — mansions — that run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But even they are unobtrusive, tucked among the branches.
Even a non-golfer would be impressed. A golfer might be awed.
Asked if he could savor the surroundings, Oosthuizen, referring to the practice rounds said, “Tuesday and Wednesday were the days to do that.”
It was unseasonably warm here on Tuesday, with blue skies and a temperature in the high 70s.
“I don’t think you can get a better day for golf than Tuesday,” said Oosthuizen. You’d have to think Thursday wasn't bad, with that eagle, four birdies and only one bogey. But he meant the overall experience.
“I was out there Tuesday,” Oosthuizen said. “I looked like a tourist, taking all the pictures on my phone, and forgot I was playing a practice round. But yeah, that’s what this place does to you.
“When you get around holes like 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and then finish it off with 17 and 18,” he said about the holes adjacent to the bay, “it’s just different to any venue you’ll ever play.”
But still it has to be played, and with that eagle, four birdies and only one bogey, Oosthuizen’s golf matched the view.
“I think the golf course was set up for really good scoring in the morning,” he said.
Good scoring and great views — hard to beat. And on Day One of the U.S. Open, no one did.