The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am gets under way this week. Just a year ago, the sun shined brightly and the smiles on peoples faces were even more luminous.
That, however, was a bit of an anomaly. This event has been wrought over the years with cold, wet weather. If lucky, the 62nd edition of the Pro-Am will only have to endure one of the two demanding elements.
Rain, which was absent for the Tuesday morning practice rounds, isn't expected to be a factor on the peninsula ' expected being the operative word. There will be a chill in the air, though; the mercury is expected to rise into the mid-50s as the week progresses.
Tiger Woods will be making his first start since the New Zealand Open. Woods also came from seven shots back to win the 2000 Pro-Am, though he did so over the final seven holes on Sunday.
In all, only seven of the top-25 ranked players in the world are in the field: Woods, Love, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Vijay Singh, Mike Weir and Jim Furyk.
Furyks appearance is a bittersweet one. The Pennsylvania native was hoping to be at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, cheering on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Alas, his team fell in last weeks AFC Championship game.
None of the European stalwarts are in attendance, save for Jesper Parnevik.
David Duval, who withdrew from last weeks Phoenix Open, due to personal reasons, is also staying away. He said at the beginning of the year that he loves the courses and doesn't mind the six-hour rounds created by the pro-am format, but doesn't like the greens, which often are left bumpy by soft spikes and wet weather.
'I'm just tired of hitting it a foot from the hole and not knowing if I'm going to make it,' said Duval, who had played in this event every year since joining the tour. 'You could hit it to six feet 72 times and shoot 12-over. That's the problem.'
One-hundred-and-eighty professionals will tee it up over three courses come Thursday; they will be joined by 180 amateurs. The amateur list includes the regular cast of characters: Clint Eastwood, Alice Cooper, Ray Romano, Kevin Costner, Samuel L. Jackson and Bill Murray.
Everyone will play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills over the first three days. A cut will be made ' for both the professionals and the amateurs ' following the third round. The low 60 pros and ties will qualify for the final round at Pebble Beach, as will the low 25 pro-am teams.
The purse is $400,000, with $720,000 going to the winner. The top pro-am team will take home $9,120.
For the fourth time in the tournaments history ' and the first time since 1972 ' the final round of the Pro-Am will be held on Super Bowl Sunday.
Footballs grandest game ' usually held opposite the Phoenix Open ' was pushed back a week after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Officials arent sure what to expect, in terms of televised ratings and fan attendance, but there is plenty of room for optimism. For the first time, the event has racked up more than $1 million in advance ticket sales. And, for now, the tournament is perfectly positioned as a warm-up act.
CBS will air the final round of the Pro-Am between noon and 3 p.m. PT, and the Super Bowl kick-off ' televised by Fox ' isnt slated until 3:18.
More so than the St. Louis Rams-New England Patriots match-up, Sundays Pro-Am audience will be determined by the caliber of players competing and the weather.
If the skies are sunny ' which they are expected to be ' and Woods, or one of the other big names can contend, officials could avert millions of eyes away from the Super Bowls pre-game coverage.