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Pebble's Past, Present Point to the Near Future

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. | It was the tournament linking distant past with immediate future, calling back days Bing Crosby crooned and Phil Harris joked, and also reaching toward the summer when the laughter stops and the struggle begins.

      It will be different this June at Pebble Beach. Different from the event that started as a lark 70 years ago by Crosby. Different when the U.S. Open settles down along a coastline so famous and familiar.

      Then there will be no goofing with the golfing by Bill Murray. No football tossing by Tom Brady. No interviewing by Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo in the middle of the par-3 17th.

     Then it will be hard-core, dead-serious this-is-one-of-the-majors golf.

     Not that the pros in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am weren’t intense about finishing first.

     Even Paul Goydos, despite his classic self-deprecation and professed ineffectiveness. Even Paul Goydos who, on the back nine Sunday, was still battling defending champ Dustin Johnson and surprising David Duval for the win–at least until he made a nine 14.

   Aging (he will be 46 the day the Open ends), relatively short off the tee (“I fully panic,’’ he quipped about being 30 yards behind Dustin Johnson, his partner the final round) and somewhat famous for his role in John Feinstein’s book “A Good Walk Spoiled,’’ Goydos tried to put everything in perspective.

     The Pebble played during the AT&T – along with Spyglass Hill and a renovated gem that had the pros enthralled, the Monterey Peninsula CC Shore Course – is not going to be the same as the Pebble used for the U.S. Open.

   “It’s going to be firmer and foggier,’’ said Goydos. Earlier in the week he was presented the Jack Lemmon Ambassador of Golf Award by the California Golf Writers. “It’s going to be totally different.’’

   The climate is crazy in central California. So perhaps are the people, Chances are the weather will be better in February – which most of this AT&T it was – than in June or July, when cold water and warm air create a layer of fog that often hangs for days.

   There was no fog for the AT&T and only an hour of drizzle on Friday. Otherwise, weather-wise, hours of sunshine offered inspiring views of what the author Robert Louis Stevenson called “the most felicitous meeting of land and seas in creation.”

   This prompted someone to ask Goydos whether players who skipped the AT&T because of the history of rain or because of the pro-am format, or both (hint, hint, Steve Stricker) watched the telecast and wished they were there on the bluffs above Carmel Bay instead of the couch.

   “I would think most of them,’’ was the Goydos response. “Yeah, it was a great week. The ocean was angry. For half the holes you get a pretty good look at it. It’s just amazing. What they’ve got here is God’s gift to golf.’’

   Four times previously the Open has been held at Pebble. Four times previously the guy who won was among the greats, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods. Four times previously the guy who won also had won the AT&T, or as it was called in its previous incarnation, the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am.

    Since 1936, a major and a regular PGA Tour event have been played on the same course the same year nine times, and four of those have been at Pebble, although the last was the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.

   “I think the biggest advantage in coming here this week for guys that don’t come here much,’’ said Goydos in his irreverence, “is figuring out where to stay and where the restaurants are. We’ve all watched Pebble on TV. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of mystery.’’

   There’s been considerable mystery about David Duval. Maybe it’s been solved. Maybe.

   He was runner-up in the ’09 U.S. Open, but when it appeared he might once more be the golfer who won the ’01 British Open, the one who was No. 1 in the world in 1999, before Tiger, Duval again faltered. He survived only one more cut the rest of the year and, finishing 130th, lost his playing privileges.

   He was a factor in the AT&T, however.

   “I feel like I’m playing well,’’ said Duval. He is 38 now, living in Denver.  “It’s difficult for a player, or me at least, to sit here and explain over and over again I feel like I’ve been playing well. I don’t feel I’ve gotten anything out of it for a long time,

   “Ironically, I feel my performance (in the Open) at Bethpage last year, was more reflective of how I was playing than the rest of the year was.’’

   Duval needed a special exemption to get into the AT&T to play Pebble. Off his finish at Bethpage, he’s already exempt for the next tournament at Pebble, the 2010 U.S. Open.

    He’ll be back in June. Bill Murray and Tom Brady will not. No comedians. No quarterbacks. No entertainment. Just golf. Just America’s national championship.


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