HONOLULU - Ollie Nutt can’t recall how long it has been since there was so much interest and speculation in the field for the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - and that was after Tiger Woods announced he was playing.
Woods is set to play with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, although the pro-am pairings aren’t set until Feb. 7, the Tuesday of tournament week. Nutt, president and CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, said the tournament has been in touch with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and hopes to hear by the end of the week if he will accept an invitation to play.
Also expected to play is Tom Brady, who hopes to get New England back into the Super Bowl, which would be played the Sunday before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Nutt can more easily measure the interest in ticket sales than phone calls.
“This last week, after Tiger committed, we’re up 35 percent,” Nutt said Tuesday after hosting the tournament’s media day. “I think Saturday could be a sellout. We’ve been hitting 34,000, 35,000. We’ve set the maximum at 37,500, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we sold out. We won’t go more than that. We still want the spectators to have a good experience. And with the rotation of three courses, we know we can handle that number.”
Pebble regular and “Caddyshack” star Bill Murray stole the spotlight last year when he teamed with D.A. Points, who captured his first PGA Tour event. For now, the focus has shifted to Tiger and the quarterbacks.
Nutt said Romo and Woods have said they were interested in playing as partners. As for the speculation that Tebow would join the foursome if he played, Nutt said, “I don’t see that as likely.”
NAME GAME: You’ve heard stories about players who take time off and move up in the world ranking. How about the case of Michael Thompson, who moved up 52 spots after not playing one week?
It’s a true story - although it’s the product of confusion over his middle initial.
Thompson was coming off a rookie season on the PGA Tour in which he finished 98th on the money list to easily retain his card. He played in the inaugural Thailand Golf Championship at the end of the year and finished third behind Lee Westwood and Charl Schwartzel. When he looked at the world ranking, he actually dropped two spots to No. 183.
“I got back from Thailand and saw that I got no points,” Thompson said.
He called his agent, and before long the Tour and world ranking board were involved.
Thompson played his first PGA Tour-sanctioned event at the 2008 Masters, the year after he was runner-up in the U.S. Amateur. Because there already was a Michael Thompson in the ranking archives, he was assigned “X” as his middle initial. This is a common practice. He played the Masters, U.S. Open and Traveler’s Championship in 2008 as an amateur, and he tied for 28th in his pro debut that fall in the Texas Open.
When he earned his card, the tour entered him in the system using his proper initial - “H” for Hayes.
But the Michael X. Thompson remained in the system and was awarded the 12.8 points for a third-place finish at Thailand that should have gone to Michael H. Thompson.
There was no golf played the following week, but in the final world ranking of 2011, the points were restored, and Michael H. Thompson had gone from No. 183 to No. 131.
CITIZEN CARL: Carl Pettersson started his 10th season on the PGA Tour with a minor change: He’s now an American citizen.
He moved from Sweden to England when he was 10, then to North Carolina while still in high school. His father was an executive for Volvo. Pettersson never left, however. He played golf at North Carolina State, married a local girl, and settled in Raleigh to raise a family.
“I’ve been here for 20 years. My kids were born here. My wife is American,” Pettersson said. “I haven’t lived in Sweden since I was 10. I just wanted to do it because of my kids. And I feel American. It’s hard to say that because I know I was born in Sweden. But I played junior golf here, went to high school here.”
Pettersson said the process included fingerprints, a background check and a history test.
“And I got 100 on that, which I was proud of,” he said. “They had questions like when the Declaration of Independence was written, and some questions about the Constitution. I crammed it all in the night before, memorized it and then forgot it.”
POLICY BOARD: Ben Crane, Harrison Frazar and Scott Verplank are the nominees to be chairman of the Players Advisory Council. Voting lasts for about a month. The chairman eventually joins the policy board.
They are part of a 16-man PAC that was announced Tuesday. The other players are Stewart Cink, Jason Day, Ken Duke, Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Joe Ogilvie, Carl Pettersson, Justin Rose, Patrick Sheehan, Webb Simpson, Chris Stroud, Bo Van Pelt and Mark Wilson.
DIVOTS: The minor changes the world ranking board approved in 2010 now are complete. The new season began with 52 being the maximum tournaments that count as the divisor. … Johnson Wagner and Harrison Frazar were the only players to start the season with top 10s in the two Hawaii tournaments. … Only five winners of the Sony Open did not play at Kapalua the previous week in the 14 years since the Tournament of Champions moved to Maui. … Tom Pernice Jr. played the final round at Waialae with Kevin Chappell, who wasn’t even born when Pernice first played the Sony Open in 1986.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Steve Stricker has played the week after winning a PGA Tour event eight times in his career. His only finish in the top 10 was a tie for ninth in 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship.
FINAL WORD: “The PGA Tour, I mean, it’s the Nationwide on steroids.” - Jhonattan Vegas.