Pebble Beach more beauty than beast this week

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 11:49 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – In what Robert Louis Stevenson called “the most felicitous meeting of land and sea,” the sea was winning Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Jimmy Walker stood in the bunker next to the sea wall along the 18th fairway, soaking up the scenery. Every 15 seconds, waves crashed into the rocks and sent a spectacular splash of white surf some 15 feet high.

There was so much salt water in the front of the bunker that the father of Harris English said to Bob Estes, “Is this played as a waste area?” Estes smiled and pointed to the rakes placed neatly next to the sand. “No, these are bunkers,” he replied.

If the final day of practice for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was any indication, then this could be a special week.


Complete coverage: Tiger Woods | AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am


Not just because Tiger Woods is back at this event for the first time in 10 years. He practiced on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, which he had never seen. The last time he played, Poppy Hills was part of the rotation.

And not just because of the unique blend of amateurs from the world of Hollywood, sports and Wall Street. One group at Pebble featured San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, quarterback Alex Smith, retired lineman Harris Barton and Deutsche Bank Americas chief executive Seth Waugh.

There are times when the beauty of Pebble Beach makes a six-hour round tolerable.

No one was in any hurry Wednesday.

“If you have a bad experience here, it can feel like the longest week of your life,” Geoff Ogilvy said as he walked up the fourth fairway at Pebble, his head turned to the right to gaze at the sea. “If it’s a good experience, it’s enjoyable. And if it’s like this, it can feel like the greatest week of the year.”

It proved to be a tonic for Spencer Levin.

Only four days ago, Levin was poised to win his first PGA Tour event when he took a six-shot lead into the final round of the Phoenix Open. He found himself rushing, just wanting the final round to be over, and he kept dropping shots. A double bogey on the 15th hole doomed him, and Kyle Stanley rallied from eight shots behind to win.

Levin was heartbroken, which was to be expected.

“I was really bummed out Sunday night, pretty bummed out Monday,” Levin said. “But I got here, and then I was like, `Man, I get to play Pebble Beach today, so that’s pretty cool.’ It’s not like you’re going home and playing the muni in your backyard. `Wow, I’m at Pebble.’ So I didn’t think about it much playing out here.”

Davis Love III is making his 27th start at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

He was part of the washout in 1996 when the tournament was canceled because only 36 holes could be completed. He was there in 1998, when players had to return in August to get in three rounds and make it official. He won in 2001 and 2003 in good weather. He has been part of 54-hole events won by Payne Stewart and Dustin Johnson.

Even someone of his experience realizes this week is something special.

“I’ve never seen three golf courses in this good of shape,” Love said. “Guys that have played a lot this year said these are the best greens they’ve seen so far this year. You don’t usually hear that when you get to Pebble, Spyglass.”

The condition of the greens was one of the things that drove Woods away. Along with the occasional bad weather and six-hour rounds – it’s mostly a lot of standing around on the tees – there was a feeling that bumpy greens from 360 pairs of shoes eroded his confidence.

Then again, Woods is known to putt these poa greens better than most. It’s a skill to get the right pace on the medium-length putts, and having the confidence to drill the short putts.

“I think I’ve had my share of success on poa greens, just because the fact I grew up on it,” Woods said. “To come out here, popping it, it’s like second nature. My stroke does change. I don’t want it to change, but it does. It reverts back to how it was when I was a kid and how I putted. It’s worked out.”

The nasty weather – “Crosby weather” as it was known when Bing Crosby ran the show – can be overrated. After that bad patch of rain more than a decade ago (Woods won in 2000 on a Monday), there has been only one bad week of weather.

“I don’t think of this as a terrible weather tournament in history. Sure, we’ve had some rainouts. But I’ve seen a lot of nice days,” Love said. “It’s fun to play when it’s like this.”

The week will turn serious at some point, at least for the 156 players.

Woods is making his U.S. tour debut, having finished third in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship two weeks ago. It was a rare occasion when Woods had a share of the 54-hole lead and failed to win, yet considered it progress on what he hopes will be the road back to the top.

He is playing this week with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and they start the three-course rotation Thursday at Spyglass Hill. Woods played a practice round there on Tuesday and had never seen it so dry and fast.

D.A. Points is the defending champion, although no one could be faulted for overlooking him. Woods commands a lot of attention this week, and what made Points’ win so compelling last year was having Bill Murray – comedian, actor, longtime Pebble clown – as his partner.

Among those in the field are Phil Mickelson, whose season is off to a sluggish start, and Padraig Harrington, who has become a regular at this event. Harrington feels the conditions give him a slight advantage because it’s the kind of weather he played in Ireland. He might be one of the few guys disappointed this week.

For everyone else, it’s a week to appreciate.

“This is why we come here,” Love said. “To get days like this.”


Watch first- and second-round coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET.

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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm