Like many of the other amateurs in the field at this week’s U.S. Open, Russell Henley stepped on the grounds of the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time Monday.
Scheduled to play with Davis Love III, Henley got his first real test of one of the most famous golf courses in the world and arguably one of the two most notable courses in America alongside Augusta National.
Monday’s practice round with a local caddie likely provided an immense amount of knowledge of the course. So too will be the indispensable advice he received from Love, a player whom Henley has previously played with at his home course, Idle Hour Country Club. Love won at Pebble Beach in 2001 and 2003.
Love, who is friends with Henley’s short-game coach, Peter Persons, should be able to provide a wealth of knowledge about the wind-tattered course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
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“Davis is a great guy, and he’ll definitely be able to help out Russell,” Persons said. “I really believe the two will connect well, and Russell can just pick his brain.”
Persons and Henley had a crash course on Pebble Beach on Saturday. Persons, a former pro golfer who has played the course, planned to give Henley some notes and some insider tips.
Henley is scheduled to play with 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover today and will play with Brandt Snedeker, who finished third in the 2008 Masters, on Wednesday.
“I’m just going to be like a sponge and soak up everything people tell me,” Henley said. “It will definitely be a new experience for me, and I’m going to listen to anyone who gives me advice.”
Henley often plays courses he has never seen during the collegiate season. In that respect, he probably knows more about Pebble Beach from watching tournaments on television. In addition, when Georgia enters a tournament, Henley might get only get one practice round to get ready for the tournament. He has three rounds at Pebble Beach.
The biggest challenge at Pebble Beach, however, might not be learning the intricacies of the course. Henley will also be playing under U.S. Open conditions for the first time. The fairways are much narrower. The rough is much higher. The greens are much faster.
“Russell is long enough for the course,” Persons said. “Pebble Beach isn’t a long course; I didn’t hit it far, and I handled it.
“The problems come with the condition the course will be in. He hits it straight, so that’s good. But it isn’t so much about attacking each hole. It’s about staying out of the rough and finding out how to avoid letting bogeys become double-bogeys. It really is two different learning experiences he will have.”