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US Open: Who is the Most Important Man in the Tournament? (Hint: It's Not Tiger)

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - MAY 09:  Aerial view of the 10th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on May 9, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images
Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 13, 2010

The most important man at the U.S. Open is not Tiger Woods. Nor is it Phil Mickelson. In fact, it is not a golfer at all.

It is not USGA National Director James Snow either. It's not anyone on the board at the club.

It is, in fact, a man by the name of Chris Dalhamer.

"Who?" you ask.

Chris Dalhamer (Doll Hammer) is the Certified Golf Course Superintendent at Pebble Beach.

Why would I call him the most important man at the U.S. Open?

For Starters, just listen to these comments made by USGA senior director of rules and competition, Mike Davis, talking at the U.S. Open Media Day:

"In my 20 years of coming to Pebble Beach, I have never seen the course in better condition. Pebble Beach is a true American golf treasure and it is very reassuring to know that Chris is overseeing it and the course preparations for the U.S. Open.

"He is a true gentleman and clearly one of the very best in his field anywhere in golf. I strongly suspect that Chris will present Pebble Beach in the most positive light for the 110th playing of our National Open."

This is not just your standard by-the-book comments Davis makes week in and week out. This is true admiration.

Dalhamer is a 13-year GCSAA member and has been in charge of Pebble Beach for five years. He has also been superintendent at nearby Spyglass Hill and Carmel Valley Ranch.

In high school and in college, Dalhamer worked on the maintenance crew at neighboring Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach. After graduating from Chico State University, he participated in an intern program and worked at Pebble Beach.

In 2005 he found himself back at the famed golf course, but now was the head man in charge. Almost from day one when he started at Pebble Beach he was thinking about the 2010 U.S. Open.

"That was the focus from day one," he told Golfdom Magazine. "What do we want to do in the next five years and how are we going to get there?"

So, is it crazy of me to call this man the most important at the U.S. Open? Well, no, because I'm not the only one saying it.

Mike Davis of the USGA believes it too.

"It's hard to say who is the most important person at the Open," Davis said at the U.S. Open Media Day, May 10 at Pebble Beach. "Obviously the players are the ones that make the drama, R.J. (Harper, Pebble Beach vice president of golf and championship director), you and your team have done a great job and so on.

"But in my mind the most important person at this Open is Chris. At the end of the day, it's all about this golf course and how it's presented, and if Chris does his job well, it really goes well."

GCSAAprovided the following information in their media release to their members with the conditions of the course heading into the open.

Davis and Pebble Beach co-owner Arnold Palmer have worked with Dalhamer to fine tune the golf course in preparation for the major. The small, sloping Poa annuagreens are smooth, firm, and rolling 12 feet on the Stimpmeter.

Dalhamer has implemented the USGA-preferred graduated cut to the ryegrass rough to increase the penalty the farther shots land off the fairway. The graduated cut ranges from one to three inches tall and is tailored to each hole, so short holes like No. 1, 15, and 16 have penal rough off the fairway, but long holes like No. 2, 9, and 10 have less rough immediately off the fairway.

Oceanside fairways on holes No. 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 were moved closer to the cliffs and there will be almost no rough between those fairways and the ocean.

Some of the green approaches were widened, and the fairways on holes No. 11 and 14 were reshaped to bring the bunkers more into play. Three bunkers were added to the right side of No. 3 fairway and four more were added to the left side of No. 15 fairway.

A large fairway bunker along the left side of No. 6 fairway was replaced with five smaller bunkers to narrow the landing area. The bunker sand is fluffier to increase difficulty. The wind, which is frequently a presence at Pebble Beach, could be a determining factor in the championship.

So when you're sitting back enjoying the Open next week on your hi-def TV, and you watch someone drain a 25-foot putt for a birdie, try and remember to give the most important man at the U.S. Open a quick thought.

I'm sure he would appreciate it.

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