The Young are Restless

By Associated PressFebruary 12, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Pebble Beach is paradise for most, a burden for many.
Look beyond the playoff between Steve Lowery and Vijay Singh, two guys who have combined to play more than 900 events on the PGA TOURnd there were three rookies in the top 10 who might have been at Pebble Beach more out of necessity than desire.
Here's hoping they return next year, and many years to follow.
Along with its reputation for bad weather, bad greens and six-hour rounds -- only the latter was true this year -- the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is the one PGA TOURent just about any pro can play. Because it has a 180-man field, there is room for everyone from Q-school and the Nationwide Tour, even those who lost their cards and have limited status.
Not even John Daly needed an exemption.
But in speaking with players over the first month, one topic that came up far too often was Pebble Beach. The message from several young golfers who had secured their status on the PGA TOURs they no longer had to go. They sounded relieved.
That's a shame.
Few other PGA TOUR events have such rich heritage, lasting memories, spectacular views and a potential payoff beyond prize money.
This is where Arnold Palmer played off the rocks behind the 17th green, where Hale Irwin hooked a tee shot on the 18th that was headed into the ocean until it caromed off the rocks below and back onto the golf course. Johnny Miller went 20 years between victories. Jack Nicklaus won five times, including a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
Pebble is what produced the phrase 'Crosby weather,' so nasty at times that the tournament was canceled in 1996, postponed nearly seven months in 1998 and delayed in 1962 because of snow. That led to the famous line from Jimmy Demaret, who rolled out of bed at the Lodge, saw snow on the 18th green and said, 'I know I had a lot to drink last night, but how did I end up in Sun Valley?'
Bad weather hasn't been an issue since Tiger Woods won on a Monday in 2000, rallying from seven shots down with seven holes to play. Woods hasn't been back since 2002, and while his presence amps up the atmosphere wherever he goes, Pebble Beach might be the one PGA TOUR event that doesn't need him.
The main attraction is still the prettiest piece of property on the TOUR's landscape.
Inside the ropes can be appealing, too. Pebble has always been as much about relationships as birdies and bogeys, and while the cast of characters has changed over the years, perhaps no other tournament embodies the elements of the PGA TOUR, from corporate involvement to amateur participation to celebrity entertainment.
'Hey, Kev. Where's your tie?' Phil Mickelson said on the fifth tee Saturday to an amateur in the group behind him. 'Kev' in this case would be Kevin Costner, who for years went retro at Pebble with a tie that would have made Walter Hagen proud.
Scott Simpson gets asked more about longtime partner Bill Murray than that U.S. Open title he won in 1987.
Vijay Singh earned $954,000 when he won in 2004, and much more than that when he first played.
It was at Pebble Beach in 1994 that he first met Ted Forstmann Jr., his amateur, and they have been partners ever since. Singh wore a Forstmann Little & Co. logo on his shirt. According to a Golf Digest article in 2004, he earned more than $1 million from partial ownership in several companies with which Forstmann was involved.
Who knows where Joey Sindelar would be without a hamburger at Pebble Beach?
He was invited to lunch at a house owned by Jim Griggs, a businessman who for years headed the TOUR's Golf Course Properties board. They ate, socialized, hit it off, and Griggs told Sindelar to call if he ever needed anything.
'With my dad delivering mail and my mom driving a school bus, a sponsor was in order,' Sindelar said. 'I called him up and he met us in New York, and he sponsored me for three years.'
Even after Sindelar got his card and won twice in his second full season on TOUR, he said Griggs continued to sponsor him for the length of their agreement, imparting some business sense along the way.
'It's a book to tell you the kind things that guy has done for everyone in his life,' Sindelar said. 'Fabulous person.'
Davis Love III was introduced to Griggs as a rookie in 1986, and during the darkest chapter of Love's life, Griggs was among the first people he called. Love was in Kapalua for the Lincoln-Mercury International when he got word of a plane crash involving his father.
'I said, 'There's been a plane accident, but I don't know what's going on. Do you know someone who can charter a plane?'' Love said. 'When I got off the plane in San Francisco, he was standing there. He flew his own jet up there, and then he flew us home. He knew what was going on. Smart man.'
Pebble Beach can be about more than just golf.
'That's what we don't get about guys who don't come to this tournament,' Love said. 'You might get stuck with a celebrity and don't want to play with him. But you meet so many great people. And you're playing Pebble Beach.'
There's a long list of players who don't return because the greens are not as smooth as glass and they think it ruins their putting stroke. Others don't like the six-hour rounds of two pros and two amateurs, although how that's any worse than five-hour rounds among three professionals is a mystery.
Pebble Beach is not for everyone.
Those who rarely miss -- Love, Singh, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson among them -- see it as a privilege.
That's something every young player should remember.
Related Links:
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