Back to the Beach


2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AmBubba Watson this. Bubba Watson that. For a guy who has competed in only four career PGA Tour events, Bubba Watson sure is receiving plenty of national attention.
Some of the focus is due in part to his tie for fourth in his first start as a rookie this year at the Sony Open. But more so, it has to do with his prodigious length ' the fact that he can hit the ball 398 yards, like he did at Waialae, and do so with a pink-shafted driver.
Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson is right where he wants to be this week at Pebble Beach.
Watson has even been called the future of golf by no less an authority than Tiger Woods.
The funny thing is, is that were is not for Jason Gores breakout season of 2005, Watson would still be languishing on the Nationwide Tour. Hed be little more than a tall tale, an urban legend told by many but witnessed by few.
Watson finished 21st on last years money list, which is one higher than what it usually takes to graduate from the secondary circuit. But because Gore won on the PGA Tour after having already received a promotion from the Nationwide Tour, he was put in a different exempt category, thus opening up an additional spot on the Nationwide money list.
Enter Bubba.
Had that not happened, had Gore not won the 84 Lumber Classic, then Watson likely would be sitting at home right now, getting ready for a trip to Australia for the Nationwides Jacobs Creek Open Championship next week.
Instead, hes right where he wants to be.
Even if I shoot 80, I'm still going to be happy, Watson said, because it's Pebble. All my friends want to play there; I grew up wanting to play there, so I'm looking forward to it.
Watson is in the field for this weeks AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, displaying an affinity for the host site than so many others used to share -- used to.
For a few years now, the AT&T Pro-Am hasnt attracted the top players like it once did.
In 2001, Woods was the defending champion at Pebble Beach. There were seven of the top 10 players in the world in attendance that year; the next year there were five; then three; then three again; and just four a year ago.
Once again, four of the top 10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field: Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Chris DiMarco.
No Tiger, no Ernie Els, no Retief Goosen, no Sergio Garcia, no David Toms, no Adam Scott.
But if the event is lacking in star power ' at least golfing star power ' youd never know it by looking down the list of past champions.
Since the event was cancelled in 1996 due to inclement weather, the honor roll reads, in order: Mark OMeara; Mickelson; Payne Stewart; Woods; Davis Love III; Matt Gogel; Love; Singh; Mickelson.
Gogel aside, thats two current Hall of Fame members; two certain, future Hall of Fame members; and two possible Hall of Fame members on its victory list.
Even the list of runners-up during that nine-year stretch is impressive, including the likes of Woods, Singh (twice), David Duval, Mike Weir and Tom Lehman.
Here are five players ' Hall of Fame worthy or not ' who have a chance to add their name to this list.
Phil Mickelson
For the second straight week, Mickelson will try and successfully defend a title. He failed to do so last week in Scottsdale, tying for seventh at the FBR Open. As mentioned, Mickelson is a two-time winner of this event, capturing the Waterford Crystal trophy in 1998 and 2005. He also finished third in both 2001 and 2004. Following a three-month layoff, Mickelson will be making his fourth consecutive start. He has three top-10 finishes in his first three events of '06.
Vijay Singh
Much like Mickelson, his not-so-chummy buddy, Singh is in search of his first victory of the season. And much like Mickelson, he has had plenty of previous success in this particular tournament. Singh was the champion in 2004 and finished runner-up in both 2000 and 2001. Surprisingly, he missed the cut last year, one of four MCs on the season. That equaled his highest total in that ignominious department since 1995. Singh began the season with a playoff loss to Stuart Appleby in the Mercedes Championships. He has since finished sixth, T8, T24 and T20, including a pair of starts on the European Tour.
Jim Furyk
Furyk would certainly fit the mold of recent Pebble Beach champions: hes a major winner and could be a Hall of Fame candidate by the time his career wraps up. Furyk has played this event nine times and has three top-5 finishes. He has a pair of top-10s in his first two events in '06.
Rory Sabbatini
Sabbatini is a hit-or-miss guy in this event. He has played it six times, has three missed cuts and three top-15s. The 29-year-old South African is off to a great start to the 06 season. Hes finished T2, T10, T16 and T20 over the last four weeks.
Tim Clark
Clark has been a very popular pick to win a PGA Tour event over the last couple of season. As of yet, he is still winless in the States. That could change this week. The South African tied for fourth a year ago at Pebble Beach and tied for 10th in his previous appearance in 2003. He also tied for 10th at the Buick Invitational, his last start on tour.
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