Pebble Beach Any Way You Slice it

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The greens can be as rough as broccoli. The rounds can last as long as six hours, and that's assuming there are no delays from fog or rain, or both. It also depends on how many old ladies Bill Murray tosses into the bunker, how often Tommy Smothers does yo-yo tricks, and whether (Everybody Loves) Raymond Romano decides to play his next shot from the beach.
 
Worse yet, Tiger Woods stopped playing Pebble Beach last year, and he probably won't return until they rebuild the greens (forget it) or host another U.S. Open (count on it).
 
Ray RomanoDespite all that - or maybe because it - the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am remains an endearing fixture on the PGA Tour, and one of its most important tournaments.
 
It is one of the few that doesn't lose much luster when Woods stays home.
 
'He didn't play last year and we had record sales at the gate and our highest advance sales,' tournament director Ollie Nutt said. 'And our advance sales are 16 percent ahead of last year.'

No doubt, having Woods around adds some juice, and Nutt would love to have him back.
 
People still talk about that Monday afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula four years ago when Woods made up seven shots over his last seven holes and posted a 64, the lowest final-round score by a winner at Pebble.
 
Woods stopped playing because of the bumpy greens, and he's not the first to complain about them.
 
'You leave there thinking you can't make a 1-foot putt,' he said.
 
As for the weather, it can be spectacular (last year) or so nasty they call off the tournament (1996).
 
Six-hour rounds are no fun, although it's not so bad when players are paired with friends, as is often the case.
 
'If I was a consultant to this tournament, from a player's point of view, there are a lot of things I would do to make it better,' Brad Faxon said. 'But they don't need to do any of them to make this popular.'
 
Faxon tore ligaments in his right knee and missed the first month of the season. He decided against surgery, and worked hard to get back in time for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
It's his favorite tour event.
 
'There isn't a more beautiful place in the world,' Faxon said. 'I love this place when it's sunny, nice and warm. And I like it when it's tough.'
 
Faxon isn't sure what he'll get this week. His caddie, Tommy Lamb, heard the forecast was for cold and rain. A few minutes later, someone on the maintenance crew said it was supposed to be sunny the rest of the week.
 
Whatever.
 
No one ever said golf had to be played under sunny skies.
 
In the '62 Crosby Clambake, one round was postponed because of snow. Jimmy Demaret rolled out of bed in the Lodge, looked at the 18th green and said, 'I know I had a lot to drink last night ... but how did I end up in Sun Valley?'
 
Golf has changed so much over the years.
 
Tournaments are played on the TPC at (fill in the blank), designed to hold massive galleries. Hospitality tents seem to outnumber grandstands. Lawn mowers can cut a blade of grass to a fraction of an inch, and then rollers that move sideways make the greens even smoother.
 
Everything is so perfect.
 
That's not always the case at Pebble Beach.
 
Poa annua greens get bumpy this time of the year as seeds start to sprout. The greens are small, limiting the hole locations and increasing footprints. And when it rains, those prints can look like moon craters.
 
'It frustrates me when players grouse about the conditions of the golf course without checking the circumstances,' said Peter Jacobsen, making his 25th start at the AT&T. 'It has a tendency to rain here. And when greens get wet, I don't care if you're playing Isleworth, Augusta or Pebble Beach. It's going to be bumpy.'
 
What bothers Jacobsen more than griping about greens and weather is when players ignore the importance of the Pro-Am. Some of the CEOs playing this week are the reason $5 million purses are the norm, not the exception, and why there were 72 guys who earned more than $1 million last year.
 
'It's not like the amateurs are truck drivers, or people walking in off the streets,' Jacobsen said. 'If players would actually spend some time and look at these bios, rather than worry about their own stats, they'd realize these people are important.
 
'I would gladly give up one week a year to play with corporate CEOs that impact my tour to play 30 weeks worrying only about myself.'
 
Woods skipped Pebble last year while recovering from knee surgery, but that was a convenient excuse. He got tired of seeing 5-foot putts fishtail like a car skidding on ice, sending his confidence over the cliff.
 
He isn't alone.
 
Steve Flesch had such a tough time on the greens last year that he needed two months to rid himself of bad habits caused by trying to jam short putts into the hole.
 
Some don't trust the weather. Others don't like the marathon rounds.
 
No players should be criticized for skipping any tournament, especially if they think it hurts their game.
 
Just don't get the idea Pebble Beach can't survive without them.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
     
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