PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Crosby weather returned to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week and, let’s be honest, officials have dodged their share of forecast bullets in recent years. But clouds over the Monterey Peninsula are hardly the only concern for the PGA Tour following a less-than-star-studded West Coast swing and a WGC-Match Play marquee that will be a few leading men short of a full house.
A good match. Word this week at Pebble Beach is that this month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be the last played at Dove Mountain outside of Tucson, Ariz.
Dove Mountain, which ranked 51st out of 52 courses on the PGA Tour in a Golf Digest poll last year, has been public enemy No. 1 since the Match Play moved to the Ritz-Carlton course in 2009, and this is the final year of the contract between the circuit and the course.
According to various sources, the event seems poised to move to Harding Park in San Francisco in 2015. The public course hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and held up well in the match-play format, and is assured of drawing better crowds than the isolated Dove Mountain track.
As an aside, it hasn’t snowed in San Francisco since 1962.
Lefty’s right choice. The plan this season was to dial back the schedule in order to peak when it counts at the four majors, and when Phil Mickelson was slowed by an ailing back at Torrey Pines he would have been forgiven if he had checked himself onto the DL for the next few weeks.
But the West Coast, particularly the Tour stops in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pebble Beach, Calif., holds a special place on Lefty’s schedule; and as difficult as Friday’s conditions were, the four-time Pro-Am champion wasn’t second-guessing his decision.
Even when informed that Saturday’s forecast called for more of the same.
“More of this? Cool,” Mickelson smiled. “We’ve had a great run of weather the last six or seven years, so we certainly can’t complain. In fact, it’s sometimes a fun challenge to play out here. As the reigning Scottish and British Open champion I don’t really mind the elements.”
In an age devoid of athletic loyalty, it’s worth pointing out that Lefty did the right thing.
Tweet of the week: @JohnPetersonLSU “Sorry (Russell Henley), my canoe is full headed back into position.”
Peterson was referring to Thursday’s storm that halted play for nearly three hours. No one tell him that it’s a good day on the Monterey Peninsula when the rain stops.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Celebrity golf. No Bill Murray, no problem.
No one wants a steady diet of bad swings and canned jokes, but the combination of idyllic views of Stillwater Cove and celebrity personality makes this week’s Clambake a refreshing twist in the world of professional golf.
It’s also worth pointing out that the celebs have a surprising amount of appreciation and respect for their professional partners.
“This is my major,” smiled Kenny G, who won the pro-am portion of the competition in 2001. “I spend all year looking forward to this and I’m blown away every year by how good these guys are.”
Bing Crosby’s Clambake may not have the star pull it once did, but it still entertains.
On pace. Still not sure what took the powers that be so long to get up to speed on this issue, but at least the game’s rule-makers made it to the range-finding crossroads.
The U.S. Golf Association announced on Thursday that it will allow the use of distance-measuring devices at all USGA amateur championships and qualifying events starting in 2014.
The move was part of a broader initiative to identify the causes of and solutions to slow play, considered by some as the biggest issue facing the game. But if the power brokers really want to do something about slow play they should have taken a trickle-down approach.
For some reason the new rule doesn’t apply to the U.S. Open ... because slow play is not an issue at all on Tour.
Bracket busts. The deadline to crack the top 64 in the world golf ranking is Sunday and for some in this week’s field at Pebble Beach golf’s version of March madness is turning into a race against the clock.
Just three “bubble” players are in the Pro-Am field, with Kiradech Aphibarnrat likely safe at 66th in the world thanks to a collection of high-profile no-shows (see item below), while Bo Van Pelt (No. 73) and D.A. Points (No. 75) probably need top-five finishes to earn a trip to Dove Mountain.
Even more intriguing, Brooks Koepka’s tie for third last week in Dubai propelled him to 68th in the world, a spot ahead of roommate Peter Uihlein, who missed the cut in Dubai and dropped to 69th in the world.
As recompense, may we suggest Koepka volunteer to do the house dishes for a month to make up for his inadvertent slight.
Olympic concerns. No, Cut Line isn’t referring to the increasingly critical reports coming out of Sochi, but the continued languid progress at the Olympic golf course in Rio.
This week course architect Gil Hanse told the “Morning Drive” crew that the course will “definitely” be ready for the 2016 Games and confirmed that the newly announced Latin American Amateur will probably serve as the test event for the new layout.
All good news, but watching the amount of scrutiny coming out of Sochi it’s becoming increasingly obvious that golf will not get a second chance to make a solid first impression.
West Coast woes. Whether you blame it on appearance fees, the PGA Tour’s new wraparound schedule or the perils of putting on poa greens, this year’s Left Coast swing has been something less than must-see.
To put the West Coast swoon in context, the top five players in the world golf ranking have a combined four starts on the West Coast and next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship won’t pad the marquee.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 4 Phil Mickelson have already announced they plan to skip what is rumored to be the last Match Play at Dove Mountain, and No. 5 Justin Rose remains on the fence for the year’s first World Golf Championship depending on how things go next week in Los Angeles.
Lucrative appearance fees being doled out by European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai factored into the wanting West Coast swing, as does the new split-calendar schedule which gave players a chance to pad their FedEx Cup points last year in Asia.
Combined, however, the imperfect storm has given players a reason to skip the West Coast.