PEBBLE BEACH — Jin Young Ko does not usually arrive on site for a major championship a full week week prior to the start of the tournament. Usually showing up Sunday night offers plenty of time to prep, to study the course and plot out a strategy with her caddie and coach. But something felt different about this year’s U.S. Open. Ko, the No. 1 player in the world, arrived in San Francisco on June 26, a full 10 days prior to the opening round.

“I wanted to eat oysters in San Fran,” she joked. “So I got here early.”

It was more than that, of course. Like so many of her peers, she understands what this week might mean for history. A U.S. Open at Pebble Beach tends to mean something big for the sport, which is why she played three practice rounds before the week had even begun.

“I heard a lot about the histories of this course,” Ko said. “I watched Tiger win the U.S. Open, and Gary Woodland when he won the U.S. Open. I watched everything. I am really excited to play this course. I really wanted to play this course.”

It’s possible Ko could have watched Woods’ victory 20 years ago, although she would have been all of 4 years old when he won by 15 strokes in 2000. But that performance, at this venue, has become such an important part of golf’s gospel, an entire generation of players feels like they saw it live, even those who most likely took it in on replay. That’s one reason why the USGA was determined to bring the Women’s U.S. Open to Pebble for the first time. If this course is going to continue to be a tentpole for American golf, then the best women in the world deserve to have their own piece of Pebble lore. Most of the best players had never even played the course prior to this week.

“I don't think you can compare this golf course to any tournament,” said Nelly Korda. “It's Pebble. Now I understand it, playing it for the first time. It’s iconic. It's amazing to see we're making these massive strides forward, not only with the increase in purses but the venues we get to play, the rich history that we just get to be a part of. I think that's our little piece of history, as well.”

The allure of Pebble was so strong, it even lured back two of the game’s icons – Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie West — into one final appearance. Sorenstam and Wie West were each granted a special exemption into the field, even though neither plays regularly these days as a professional.

Sorenstam won three U.S. Opens and 72 titles on the LPGA Tour, but she has only played Pebble previously as part of the Pebble Beach Pro Am. She was elated, even at age 52, when the USGA offered her a chance to tee it up here in a major.

“This is really a big test, as you know, for women's golf, but most of it is about the historic opportunity to come here and to showcase women's golf is just really, really special,” Sorenstam said. “It's such an iconic place.

Wie, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, had never even played Pebble before this year, but it seemed like a fitting place to make her official exit from the game. Wie West announced this is going to be her final tournament before she officially retires. She thought last year’s U.S. Open at Pine Needles might be it for her, but then she saw Pebble on the schedule, and it was too important to pass up.

“This has consumed so much of my mental space, preparing for this week and kind of looking forward to this week,” Wie West said.

Holding majors at courses with rich golf history, Wie West said, represents a huge moment of growth for the women’s game.

“It's been so amazing to see our major championships be held on amazing golf courses, Baltusrol, we have here at Pebble Beach,” she said. “I've talked a lot about that. Venues make a huge difference in uplifting our Tour, our game, and we need to continually be at this venue.”

Whether this U.S. Open will produce an iconic moment like Jack Nicklaus’ 1-iron into 17 in 1972, or Tom Watson’s chip in on 17 in 1982, is hard to predict, but the fact that the women finally have the opportunity to add to that history is on everyone’s mind this week.

“I think a lot of us have grown up watching the guys here and U.S. Opens, the AT&T Pro-Am and all that, so it's really special to be here for a U.S. Open,” said Leona Maguire. “It's one of our biggest events of the year, so I think we're all just enjoying the week. Pebble is one of those bucket list places for a lot of people, so for us to be able to play seven days in a row out here, it's something that I think none of us are going to forget for a long time.”