PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA | If there is a rap against the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it’s this:
In good years, the weather is only lousy and it can sometimes take close to six hours to play 18 holes when there are two pros, two amateurs, a decent crop of rough and television cameras involved.
None of which applies this year.
At least not so far.
If you’re looking for perfect, the past few days on the Monterey Peninsula come pretty close. The thermometer is nudging 70 in the afternoon, the wind feels like a ceiling fan in the den and a five-hour pace in Thursday’s first round allowed enough time for some needling between the pros and their amateur partners.
“You looking for your tee shot, Jimmy?” Phil Mickelson said to his partner, Jimmy Dunne, as the Seminole Golf Club president wandered among a few trees beside the 18th tee at Spyglass Hill waiting for the fairway to clear. “We haven’t hit yet.”
Earlier in their round, Rory McIlroy’s dad, Gerry, missed a medium-length birdie putt on a short, downhill par-3 and cast a glance at his son.
“Don’t look at me,” Rory said smiling.
The near perfect conditions led to a gush of low scores, none better than the 7-under-par 65s shot by Beau Hossler and Kevin Streelman. But there’s two more days of mix-and-match tee times among three courses before everyone comes together Sunday at Pebble Beach when more soft sunshine is forecast.
For all of its natural beauty, this is not an easy place to hold a golf tournament. Shuttling players and fans among three courses on narrow roads running through a magnificent forest presents challenges. But when there are days like Thursday and the promise of a few more, it’s even hard to complain about putting on poa annua greens late in the day.
“It’s hard not to enjoy this walk around Monterey Peninsula,” Streelman said after deconstructing the formerly fearsome Spyglass Hill.
It didn’t hurt that he was playing in the midst of an NFL all-star game, paired with Arizona Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald in a group that included Jerry Kelly and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“They just love golf so much,” Streelman said.
On days like Thursday in a place like this, it’s easy to love.