In many ways, what was once an intimate social get-together in a gorgeous locale is now the same as any other $4 million tournament where the winner pockets $720,000. Guys tend to get very serious when theyre playing for that kind of cash.
But in obvious ways, this is not like any other week on tour. In most weeks save for the Bob Hope, Ray Romanos not doing his best material with a club in hand down by the ocean. Bill Murrays not running a spectator through a sand trap. So serious money aside, over the next four days golf marries showbiz. And with America home gearing up for the Super Bowl, there are more casual viewers likely to tune in if they see Costner or Romano laughing it up on the links. Golf, people are reminded, is a cool game and a fun time.
Of course, many pros arent amused, put off by six-hour rounds, spiked-up greens and the famously foul weather. For goodness sakes it snowed here Monday, as it did 40 years ago. Last year brought 75 and sunny for an entire, blissful week. So the weathers capricious, to say the least. Either you deal with it, or stay home.
As for Tiger Woods, who knows what this trip to the peninsula will bring? We do know that each year hes brought considerable fanfare, from the 3-wood homerun to No. 18 in 1997 to the Gogel-popping hole-out at the 15th to the greatest runaway at a major ever to last years battle of the wounded knee.
Woods begins his first full-field event this year on the PGA Tour after a good-hit, no-putt effort at the Mercedes and a circus stop in New Zealand. Tigers a native Californian who enjoys the courses, weather and terrain the state has to offer.
Going back to his 6-iron dart that beat Lehman at La Costa in 1997 and through the history-making Open at Pebble, Woods has recorded some of his finest moments in the Golden State. Hes playing the first of four in a row in California and figures to answer the early salvos fired by Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson. Sergios not entered, but Mickelson is, with Davis Love III defending.
Meanwhile, rocker Huey Lewis partners with Peter Jacobsen, who received the first Jack Lemmon Golf Ambassador Award Tuesday from the California Golf Writers Association. For nearly two hilarious decades, Jacobsen was Lemmons Walter Matthau on the golf course. The man they called Lem died last year, but the legend lives on. All the competitors this week will display bag tags honoring the two-time Oscar winner. Jacobsen pointed out that Wednesday was also Payne Stewarts birthday. Jakes caddie this week is Paynes old looper, Mike Hicks. Its a great week, Jake mused, for reminiscing. That hasnt changed in the 65 wild, wet and wonderful years theyre gathered here to play.