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O’MEARA IS MASTER OF GOLF’S GRANDEST COURSE

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The name is synonymous with the grandest that golf has to offer - Pebble Beach. A golf course that is truly as majestic as its reputation, it will be the host this week to the U.S. Open.

And there is rapidly becoming a name that is synonomous with Pebble Beach. Mark O'Meara. Rarely in history has one player so dominated one golf course as O'Meara has Pebble Beach. Three of the past four years he has won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, held annually at the seaside course on California's Monterey Peninsula.Long before he moved to Orlando, O'Meara won the California State Amateur at Pebble Beach. And in 1985 one of his first PGA Tour victories came at Pebble Beach when the tournament still was known as the Bing Crosby Invitational.

"I know Mark O'Meara is chomping at the bit to get out there," said Payne Stewart. "Nobody in the world has had the record at Pebble Beach that Mark has."

O'Meara himself downplays the record, downplays his role as one of the favorites. For one thing, he knows his game isn't quite as sharp as it was in January and February when he was tearing up the West Coast. He had made 15 consecutive cuts before missing the past two.

His victories at Pebble Beach have been against some of the best. His triumph in 1985 came by a stroke over Curtis Strange. In 1989 he birdied the final hole to nip Tom Kite by a stroke. This year he won in a duel with Jeff Sluman.

The victory over Kite stands out as one of the most gratifying of O'Meara's career.

"Tom was playing just ahead of me, so I could see what he was doing on the 18th hole," O'Meara said. "I knew what his score was when he finished, and I knew what I had to do to win. I had to make birdie on the hole - and it definitely is not the easiest hole in the world to try to birdie. But if I didn't, I knew we were going into a playoff. And I didn't want to go into a playoff with him because he is such a great competitor."

So O'Meara avoided that likelihood with a great approach that left him just 12 feet from the cup. Then came the putt, wobbling first to the left, then back to the right, then left again and finally straightening out to fall in for the title.

It was all part of a myth in the making, the one that says Mark O'Meara has to be a favorite every time he goes to Pebble Beach. It's a myth with which he is comfortable.

"Fortunately for me in my career, no matter what happens in the future, I guess I'll be known as the guy who can play Pebble Beach," he said. "I can't think of any golf course that I would rather be known for than to have had success at that place."