Pebble's reverse psychology: Let ams lure pros

By Will GrayFebruary 10, 2016, 9:55 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The Crosby. The Clambake. The AT&T, or perhaps just simply, “Pebble.”

Call it what you want, this week’s PGA Tour stop has a rich history. It boasts some of the best views in golf and invites players to tee it up along the game’s most storied patch of coastline – outside of Scotland, anyway.

But in recent years, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been dogged by other perceptions: namely a stale list of amateur participants, many of whom hacked their way across this little strip of paradise. It meant six-plus-hour rounds for the pros, surrounded by fans who often came more for the celebrity sightings than the golf occurring inside the ropes.

It led to this becoming one of the weaker events of the West Coast swing, as players flocked to locales like Torrey Pines and Riviera but avoided Pebble Beach in droves.

That trend, though, has turned around in a big way this week. Jordan Spieth headlines a field that includes six of the top nine players in the latest world ranking, and the winner will receive 54 OWGR points – six more than the tournament’s previous high and a stark contrast to the 38 points Phil Mickelson got for his win just four years ago.

Spieth’s fourth straight appearance here comes as no surprise considering his ties to the title sponsor, but it carries more weight as the No. 1 player in the world. He attributes the deeper field not to the top-ranked pros, but to a revamped celebrity list that includes his pro-am partner, Jake Owen.


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“I think a lot of it has to do with guys like Jake, guys like these other incredible celebrities,” Spieth said. “I think that the celebrities actually have kind of helped build this tournament.”

Tournament director Steve John agrees. His team always strives to recruit the best field, but they hit paydirt this year by turning their usual process on its head.

“It’s the best field we’ve ever had, and I think it just speaks to what the tournament has become,” John said. “We work hard year-round to get the best pros here, but what happened this year was we actually went out and recruited the best celebrities, and they brought their pros.”

That tactic quickly paid off, as actor Mark Wahlberg persuaded Bubba Watson to make his first tournament appearance since 2007. Singer Justin Timberlake will team with Justin Rose in the Englishman’s first appearance at Pebble, while baseball all-star Josh Donaldson got his friend and fellow Auburn alum Jason Dufner to make the trip.

“We’ve been trying to keep the celebrity and athlete field fresh for years,” John said. “That’s always been the goal, but this year we just stepped on the accelerator.”

Granted, nothing has changed about the tournament format that led to many players skipping the event. Participants still must shuttle across three different golf courses, and they’ll play the first three rounds in foursomes with amateurs of varying skill. 

But players like Jason Day have experienced regular success here despite those variables. The Aussie sees the game’s elite crop getting younger and younger, and he believes that trend has led to a revised stance on this event from many of his peers.

“There was a little bit of flavor lost with the players, I think because the guys were older,” Day said. “And now we have a young group of guys that enjoy hanging around celebrities, enjoying seeing people or seeing celebrities in the tent and getting to know them and talk to them.

“Trying to get Tiger Woods and Phil and all those guys constantly going back a few years is a little bit tougher because they’re older and they have a schedule to keep and families and all that stuff.”

While this week’s field has unprecedented depth, all signs point back to Spieth as he makes his first start in the mainland U.S. since the Tour Championship. He and Owen have become a regular duo here, and Spieth has embraced the tournament’s unique format.

“Even if the rounds are a bit longer because you have foursomes, you’re still having more fun,” he said. “You’re getting to kind of in a way feel like you’re playing a team event while still kind of grinding yourself. It’s hard to explain.”

There are a myriad factors to explain why so many top players have congregated this week on the Monterey Peninsula, and each would weigh those factors differently according to his preference. But the net result is a field that could produce a star-studded finish for pros, amateurs and fans alike.

Plus, the scenery isn’t exactly a deterrent.

“Maybe it’s just these courses bring out the smiles in everybody,” Spieth suggested. “But we have them.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.