Sandbagging at Pebble Beach


Eyebrows were raised higher than Phils Friday score at 14 last week at Pebble Beach when Billy Walters won the Pro-Am portion of the event. Walters, playing to an 11-handicap, contributed 34 shots to the record-setting, 72-hole winning total of 38 under carded by him and his pro partner Fredrik Jacobson.
Part of this scrutiny is the curse of winning a pro-am. Someone always wants to question the veracity of the winners handicap.
In this case, the questions might be legit. You see, Walters is a notorious and wealthy erstwhile golf hustler who Golf Digest once described as a 3-handicapper disguised as a 16.
The 62-year-old Walters, who now runs a sprawling Las Vegas business empire that includes ownership of several golf courses, told the magazine he once lost a $2 million bet. He also revealed he once made a 40-foot putt worth $400,000. And, he added, he once shot a 74 and got paid off, on the spot, by a guy who handed him a bag full of hundreds that added up to $550,000.
Needless to say, tournament officials are curious about the 11 handicap. Tournament director Steve Worthy told me they examine the amateurs handicap before play begins and, again, when necessary, after play ends.
We want everybody to be comfortable, Worthy said. To be sure and to be fair, Walters hasnt been found guilty of sandbagging yet.
But all of this is ironic, at the very least. Heres a guy'Walters'who once said he, probably won more money than Jack Nicklaus having his reputation checked for winning an event in which he didnt make a penny.
Its an irony probably not lost on Walters who is, by all accounts, many things to many people. None of those things is stupid. Hes a good guy, said one long-time Pebble Beach caddie this week. Pebble Beach caddies, by the way, have a long and deserved history of being good judges of character.
Walters, meanwhile, has a lot of friends in high places in Las Vegas. And he has an impressive record of civic contributions in and around that city. There were also, on record, three indictments against Walters for state money-laundering, all of which were dismissed, according to Golf Digest, before trial.
Players have until 5 p.m. (EST) Friday to commit to next weeks WGC-Accenture Match Play near Tucson. The official brackets will be released at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, the reason rookies Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Y.E. Yang, all of whom top-tenned at Pebble Beach last week, are not automatically in the Northern Trust Open is because the field was already full.
Contrary to popular belief, a top-10 doesnt automatically guarantee a player a spot in the next weeks event. It does earn that player a spot in the next event with open spots. In this case that will be the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya next week.

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