Sun Stars and Phil at Pebble


2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- As anniversaries go, this is one the PGA Tour would like to forget.
It was 10 years ago at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am that Jeff Maggert took a one-stroke lead into the weekend and never hit another shot. Rain pounded the Monterey Peninsula, and with one hole at Spyglass Hill under water and a bleak weather forecast, tour officials felt their only option was to cancel the tournament.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is hoping for another family celebration on the 18th hole Sunday.
It remains the only time in the 69-year history of the tournament that no one left town with a trophy.
That was but a distant memory Wednesday, when a morning sky still speckled with stars gave way to a horizon of orange and blue as the sun climbed over the most picturesque peninsula in golf.
'Is this not the most beautiful hole in golf?' J.L. Lewis said as he stood on the 18th tee, watching the turquoise surf crash into the rocks, blending the white spray with the green grass and cypress trees.
Phil Mickelson is the defending champion when the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am gets under way Thursday, a tournament known for its mix of celebrity and CEO amateurs, six-hour rounds, bumpy greens with 360 players spread over three courses, and a strong roll call of champions -- 20 of the last 25 have won majors.
Weather is no longer a topic, except to marvel at it.
'I think '01 was the last time I played here,' Chris DiMarco said. 'This is the second time I've ever seen the sun here, so that's good.'
The last time rain interrupted Pebble Beach was when Tiger Woods rallied from seven shots behind over the final seven holes to win in 2000. Woods stopped coming back two years later, frustrated by the greens, but Pebble Beach has such tradition it does fine without him.
Vijay Singh, who won two years ago, has not missed this tournament since 1994. Davis Love III has never missed Pebble Beach since turning pro, and he'll be making his 20th start this year.
Love was in the hunt in 1996 when the tournament was canceled. He was two shots out of the lead in 1998 when rain forced a six-month delay and Mickelson won in August. He was there when rain cut short the event to 54 holes in 1999. And he remembers the outcry that Pebble should move to a different spot on the calendar.
'This is the year we point to and say, 'See, we should always play,'' Love said. 'It can get good. The timing is right, right after football. This is hugely popular with the fans. It's the time of year to watch golf at Pebble Beach.'
The cancellation 10 years ago did bring change.
The PGA Tour didn't have a firm policy on how to deal with bad weather, treating each situation as it came up. The Houston Open in 1991 was rescheduled from April to October because of heavy rain. David Eger was the rules official in charge at Pebble in '96 when he made the call to scrub the event.
'This was the event that caused additional focus on the fact we did not have a set of standards, a set of guidelines, on how to operate in excessive weather,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour.
The policy was adopted in 1997 and takes up four pages in the players' handbook. The priority is for 72 holes, even that means going to Monday. The Players Championship is the only event that is allowed to go until Tuesday.
But throw the book out to sea this week.
The forecast is for sunshine and temperatures in the '70s throughout the week, which should allow for great television no matter which name is atop the leaderboard or even if Bill Murray doesn't toss anyone into the bunkers.
The 180-man field is the largest on the PGA Tour, 60 players (and their amateur partners) spread over Pebble Beach, tough Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills for the first three rounds with the final round at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson wrapped up his victory early last year.
He opened with a 10-under 62 at Spyglass, the most difficult course in the rotation and reputed to be the second-toughest in northern California behind Bayonet, a municipal course up the road in Seaside. Lefty never let up, winning by four shots despite closing with a 1-over 73.
This is his fourth tournament of the year, and Mickelson has yet to finish out of the top 10, although his only chance to win came at Torrey Pines when he was tied for the lead through 13 holes until three straight bogeys.
He plays his best golf on the West Coast, and he knows what it takes at Pebble Beach -- patience with the pace of play, and on the greens.
'It's very difficult to putt the week of the AT&T,' Mickelson said. 'I accept the fact I'm going to miss putts. I try from 20 and 30 feet to die the ball at the hole. The closer I can leave it, I will be able to two-putt. You just have to accept the fact guys aren't going to make every putt.'
One thing Mickelson won't have to worry about is the weather. Ten years after its lowest moment, Pebble Beach seems to be associated with sunshine.
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