This is the time of the year when, if you're rich enough, famous enough, connected enough or a combination of all three, you might get to play golf with a genuine, bona fide, world class, professional golfer.
For more than just one day.
I'm talking about the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The 'Hope' begins Wednesday and offers amateurs 72 holes of up-close-and-personal with the pros at this 90-hole event. The following week, the swells repair to the Monterey Peninsula where the lucky few get to go three rounds (four if their team makes the pro-am cut) with golf's household names.
This topic goes hand-in-hand with a question I get a lot: Who are the 'good guys' on the Tour. The short answer is: Most of them. There are a few who aren't such good guys. (There's a surprise: The makeup of the PGA Tour mirrors the makeup of society.)
This subject goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite late-night pub questions: If you had one more round of golf to play and you could pick your foursome's other three members (dead or alive) who would you choose? My answer changes all the time. Right now it would be Hootie Johnson, Martha Burk and St. Peter. Not long ago it was Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Mark Twain. Once upon a time it was Jack Nicklaus, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Hogan. Marilyn Monroe and JFK were in there one year, too. The key is to think eclectic.
Who would I choose to play a round or rounds of golf with among current touring pros? Word association:
All great picks in their own right. And that's just for starters. Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are obvious choices for obvious reasons.
But what about David Duval? Lots of people I know are quick to misinterpret his shyness as standoffishness. Make no mistake, David isn't perfect. But I have found him to be smart, and honest. If you have a chance to get to know him even a little bit you will appreciate that if you ask him a thoughtful question, you will get a thoughtful, frank answer. Ask him what he perceives to be a stupid question, however, and he will not suffer you gladly.
It's the opinion here, by the way, that Duval is going to have a big year. The Hope will mark his first start of 2003. Don't be surprised if he wins at the same tournament where he shot a stunning 59 in 1999. Duval took a deep breath after winning the British Open two years ago. He had won his first major. And the monkey was off his back. It was a huge relief. He needed to take a mental step back and exhale. He also needed to get his personal life in order. All signs now point to the 'real' David Duval returning to form on the golf course.
Meanwhile back at the fantasy ranch. Others who would make terrific pro-am partners include Paul Azinger, Tom Lehman, Harrison Frazar, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Brandel Chamblee, Jay Williamson, Len Mattiace, Brad Faxon, John Cook, Joey Sindelar, Pat Bates, Ben Bates, Frank Nobilo, Brian Henninger, Donnie Hammond, D.A. Weibring, Sandy Lyle. . . . The list goes on and on.
My all-Twilight Zone foursome would be Ken Green, Fulton Allem and John Daly.
Davis Love III sort of deserves his own category. He, too, will be making his 2003 debut at the Hope. Love really is the poster boy for what the Tour is trying to sell. He's a monster talent, a good family man, a terrific quote and a 'company' guy without being a puppet.
Who wouldn't I want to play with?
That's easy: Ty Tryon.
Nothing personal, Ty. I just don't like being called 'Mr. Hewitt.' Not even by my caddie.