McIlroy riding wave into Pebble Beach

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

"It is not lost on us that this is an important week, not only for golf, this is an important week for the USGA", said Mike Davis, the organization's CEO.

Of the first 12 players on the Pebble Beach course, nobody birdied their first hole.

Stewart Hagestad, a 28-year-old amateur who has played and worked in the Metropolitan Area and is playing in his third U.S. Open, has competed against Young for years.

Players have offered glowing practice-round reviews of the course this week. Yes, it is a shorter golf course, but you've still got to find the fairway. "I turned around and walked the other way".

Brooks Koepka could become the first man in 114 years to win the U.S. Open three times in a row.

The Northern Irishman has catapulted back to golf's top ranks with two victories on the US PGA Tour this year - at the elite Players Championship in March and last week's seven-shot win at the Canadian Open.

And despite the fact that McIlroy gave the Canadian fans what they wanted at the presentation, he is very aware that their opponents in the final, Steph Curry's Golden State Warriors are based just a couple hours' drive up the coast from Pebble Beach in Oakland.

After four years at which course conditions or rules controversies made headlines at their signature event, USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer acknowledged Wednesday that it was "critical" the US Open spotlight return to the players and their skills.

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Now, here we are, back at Pebble Beach and everything, for the time being, looks flawless. During the PGA Tour stop, it's the easiest of the event's three courses without wind, the toughest when it blows.

"It's only six rounds of competitive golf since the Masters, but that has given him plenty of feedback for what to work on leading up to the U.S. Open". That's true at most U.S. Opens - or used to be.

Koepka and Mickelson have the most at stake for this U.S. Open.

A grandson of 1960 U.S. Open champion Arnold Palmer was given the honor of playing the opening tee shot at the first hole.

"The majors that I ve won, I started every single one of them really well, rounds in sort of the mid-60s. And put it back in the bag and make sure the bag gets on the plane and goes to California". "And if I ever join that crowd - and the only way to do that is to win a U.S. Open - it would redefine my career".

Woods, however, declined to be drawn on whether that means he sees this week's tournament at Pebble Beach as a chance to close in further on Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles - or whether that's a target for him still.

McIlroy's victory in Canada made him one of the favourites for the title alongside defending champion Brooks Koepka, two-time AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am victor Dustin Johnson and Masters champion Tiger Woods.

But if Woods himself is not about to reveal any secrets as he tries to win the tournament for a fourth time this week, Jason Day and Jon Rahm have found different ways to achieve the next best thing. Hale Irwin and Woods, who won his last U.S. Open in 2008, each have three.

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