Beauty and the Beast at the Beach

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Pebble Beach is both Beauty and Beast.
 
The imagery and the history lead to the former; the tumultuous weather and unpredictable greens leads to the latter.
 
Whichever one of the two faces players choose to look at determines their participation in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
Tiger Woods sees the Beast; even though Pebble has beautifully marked his resume.
 
He came from seven strokes behind with seven holes to play to win the 2000 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and later that year captured his first U.S. Open title at the same venue by a record 15 shots.
 
Woods returned in 2001 and 2002, failing to crack the top 10 on both occasions, and decided he had had enough. He skipped last years event and is doing the same this time around.
 
You walk off the golf course saying you can never make a 1-foot putt, he said earlier this year.
 
Pebble Beach isnt on the U.S. Open rotation through 2009, which means it could be a while before Woods returns to the Monterey Peninsula. Asked if he would return anytime soon to compete in the annual Pro-Am, Tiger replied, That depends on the greens.
 
Woods isnt the only player perplexed by the erratically bumpy putting surfaces.
 
David Duval, at the height of his popularity after winning the 2001 British Open, said he would bypass the 2002 Pro-Am because he was tired of hitting it a foot from the hole and not knowing if Im going to make it.
 
He returned in 2003 to miss the cut and is absent this year.
 
But others focus on the Beauty ' the picture-perfect views of the Pacific backdrop and the lore of the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
 
If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach, Jack Nicklaus has said.
 
Davis Love III, for one, will always see the attractive side.
 
Love snapped a near three-year winless drought by winning the Pro-Am in 2001. And after going winless in 2002, he prevailed again at Pebble last season. That was the first of four official wins in his best-ever campaign in his 18 years on the PGA Tour.
 
Love is the defending champion, but that doesnt make him the favorite to win again.
 
There have only been five players to successfully defend their title in the 62 years of this event. Mark OMeara was the last player to win back-to-back; doing so in 1989 and 90.
 
OMeara has won this tournament a record five times (1985, 89, 90, 92 and 97).
 
Still, the pre-tournament favorite may well be Phil Mickelson.
 
Mickelson, winless on tour in 2003, started this season by winning his debut at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and nearly making it two in a row at the FBR Open, tying for seventh.
 
He won in 1998, and narrowly lost to Love in 2001, finishing tied for third.
 
Vijay Singh, the 2000 and 2001 runner-up, is also in the field, as is Masters champion Mike Weir.
 
Singh has 11 consecutive top-10 finishes on tour, dating back to 2003.
 
There are three courses in the rotation this week. Players will play Pebble Beach Golf Links (par 72, 6,816 yards), Spyglass Hill (par 72, 6,862 yards) and Poppy Hills (par 72, 6,833 yards) each over of the first three rounds.
 
A cut is made after 54 holes to the low 60 professionals and ties. They will play Pebble Beach in the final round.
 
Each of the 180 pros has an amateur partner. All of the amateurs will play the first three rounds, with a cut to the low 25 teams and ties competing in the final round.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am