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Pebble Still Rocks

BEACH, CALIFORNIA | It’s part tournament, part lunacy and all delight, birdies and laughter in equal proportion, held at place so beautiful you don’t have to know a sand wedge from a sandwich to be enthralled. And from the reaction at times, many in the gallery don’t. What’s golf anyway, but a game, a long walk, spoiled or rewarding, which someone seeking a comparison said is much like a love affair? Unless you take them seriously, they’re no fun. If you do, they’ll break your heart. No hearts were broken at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. No bones either, although the manner Phil Mickelson tumbled when he was walking on the rocks alongside Pebble Beach’s 18th while looking for a ball clunked into Carmel Bay, you hesitate to think about what might have been. If the AT&T is not to be mistaken for The Masters, all well and good. This event was started back in the 1930s by a king of the entertainment industry – did you know that in 1947 Bing Crosby was the second-most popular man in America? – and if he has departed, his spirit lives on. “You know,” wrote Crosby, who died in 1977, “our event is sometimes described as a ‘fun’ tournament, a description I rather dislike, because it sounds too frivolous to me. I can’t deny, however, a great deal of fun takes place.” Whether you’re Brandt Snedeker and James Hahn, battling for the victory. Whether you’re a fan watching Bill Murray, with a mustache resembling that of William Henry Harrison and an outfit resembling that of an 1890 train engineer, stealing candy bars from spectators. Tiger Woods wasn’t here this time. He doesn’t like shifting from Monterey Peninsula’s Shore Course (par 70) to Spyglass Hill to Pebble Beach. He doesn’t like people in the gallery who might be termed “less than knowledgeable” of golf etiquette. He doesn’t like the historically wet weather, although the AT&T of 2013, after one night of rain, had blue skies, if slightly chilly (low 50s) temperatures. It’s not accurate to say it doesn’t matter if Tiger is a non-entrant. It does. But it matters less at the AT&T, where Brian Kelly, the Notre Dame football coach, and Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach, are in one foursome and where Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, former U.S. Open tennis champ Andy Roddick and quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo were in the field. So was 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, only a few days after losing the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens. Lee Westwood – who once said he didn’t want to play the PGA Tour but a few months ago, moved to Florida to, yes, play the PGA Tour – competed in partnership with his father, John. “You can see where he got his swing,” said John Westwood. “Copies everything I do.” Not everything, fortunately. Lee made the cut. Lee and John didn’t make the pro-am cut. Neither did former Secretary of State (and new Augusta National member) Condoleezza Rice, paired with Jason Bohn. Playing to a 17-handicap, the first round Rice hit a woman with her fourth shot on the par-5 6th, bloodying the bridge of the lady’s nose. The late president Gerald Ford had that move perfected. All the dreamers who believe they could outplay the celebs, well, listen to Roddick, who since retiring from the tennis circuit – he was three times a Wimbledon finalist, as well as a U.S. Open champion – plays golf three to four days a week. The AT&T was his first tournament. “I know enough about one sport,” said Roddick, a 6-handicap paired with John Mallinger, “when amateurs who only do something part time say they could be pro in this or that, it’s harder than you think.” The pros say the same thing. Snedeker had fine tournaments the previous two weeks before the AT&T. The trouble was at the Farmers Insurance Open Tiger was finer; same thing for Mickelson at the Waste Management Open. “It felt great to play well again at Phoenix,” said Mickelson. “I’ve just been a little off this week.” At least he managed to regain his balance (sort of) on the rocks of the sea wall adjacent to 18, if he wasn’t able to make anything better than a triple-bogey. “I got lucky,” Mickelson conceded. “I didn’t get hurt.” Mickelson is a four-time winner of the AT&T. His name is on plaques attached to the wall near Pebble’s first tee, reminders that that the AT&T, once known as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, produces wonderful memories as well as remarkable silliness. “This is a regular stop for me,” said the Irishman, Padraig Harrington. “I think good players see this as a week to enjoy more than just playing golf. I enjoy the social aspect and camaraderie on the course.” Jordan Spieth, in only his second tournament as pro after a great amateur, career, was paired with Romo, the Cowboys QB, who he used to face in tournaments around Dallas. They led the pro-am standings after 54 holes. “It is a lot more fun than I expected,” Spieth said of the AT&T, “and I expected it to be a lot of fun.” Fore!


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