Pebble Beach Any Way You Slice it

By Associated PressFebruary 4, 2004, 5:00 pm
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The greens can be as rough as broccoli. The rounds can last as long as six hours, and that's assuming there are no delays from fog or rain, or both. It also depends on how many old ladies Bill Murray tosses into the bunker, how often Tommy Smothers does yo-yo tricks, and whether (Everybody Loves) Raymond Romano decides to play his next shot from the beach.
Worse yet, Tiger Woods stopped playing Pebble Beach last year, and he probably won't return until they rebuild the greens (forget it) or host another U.S. Open (count on it).
Ray RomanoDespite all that - or maybe because it - the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am remains an endearing fixture on the PGA Tour, and one of its most important tournaments.
It is one of the few that doesn't lose much luster when Woods stays home.
'He didn't play last year and we had record sales at the gate and our highest advance sales,' tournament director Ollie Nutt said. 'And our advance sales are 16 percent ahead of last year.'

No doubt, having Woods around adds some juice, and Nutt would love to have him back.
People still talk about that Monday afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula four years ago when Woods made up seven shots over his last seven holes and posted a 64, the lowest final-round score by a winner at Pebble.
Woods stopped playing because of the bumpy greens, and he's not the first to complain about them.
'You leave there thinking you can't make a 1-foot putt,' he said.
As for the weather, it can be spectacular (last year) or so nasty they call off the tournament (1996).
Six-hour rounds are no fun, although it's not so bad when players are paired with friends, as is often the case.
'If I was a consultant to this tournament, from a player's point of view, there are a lot of things I would do to make it better,' Brad Faxon said. 'But they don't need to do any of them to make this popular.'
Faxon tore ligaments in his right knee and missed the first month of the season. He decided against surgery, and worked hard to get back in time for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
It's his favorite tour event.
'There isn't a more beautiful place in the world,' Faxon said. 'I love this place when it's sunny, nice and warm. And I like it when it's tough.'
Faxon isn't sure what he'll get this week. His caddie, Tommy Lamb, heard the forecast was for cold and rain. A few minutes later, someone on the maintenance crew said it was supposed to be sunny the rest of the week.
No one ever said golf had to be played under sunny skies.
In the '62 Crosby Clambake, one round was postponed because of snow. Jimmy Demaret rolled out of bed in the Lodge, looked at the 18th green and said, 'I know I had a lot to drink last night ... but how did I end up in Sun Valley?'
Golf has changed so much over the years.
Tournaments are played on the TPC at (fill in the blank), designed to hold massive galleries. Hospitality tents seem to outnumber grandstands. Lawn mowers can cut a blade of grass to a fraction of an inch, and then rollers that move sideways make the greens even smoother.
Everything is so perfect.
That's not always the case at Pebble Beach.
Poa annua greens get bumpy this time of the year as seeds start to sprout. The greens are small, limiting the hole locations and increasing footprints. And when it rains, those prints can look like moon craters.
'It frustrates me when players grouse about the conditions of the golf course without checking the circumstances,' said Peter Jacobsen, making his 25th start at the AT&T. 'It has a tendency to rain here. And when greens get wet, I don't care if you're playing Isleworth, Augusta or Pebble Beach. It's going to be bumpy.'
What bothers Jacobsen more than griping about greens and weather is when players ignore the importance of the Pro-Am. Some of the CEOs playing this week are the reason $5 million purses are the norm, not the exception, and why there were 72 guys who earned more than $1 million last year.
'It's not like the amateurs are truck drivers, or people walking in off the streets,' Jacobsen said. 'If players would actually spend some time and look at these bios, rather than worry about their own stats, they'd realize these people are important.
'I would gladly give up one week a year to play with corporate CEOs that impact my tour to play 30 weeks worrying only about myself.'
Woods skipped Pebble last year while recovering from knee surgery, but that was a convenient excuse. He got tired of seeing 5-foot putts fishtail like a car skidding on ice, sending his confidence over the cliff.
He isn't alone.
Steve Flesch had such a tough time on the greens last year that he needed two months to rid himself of bad habits caused by trying to jam short putts into the hole.
Some don't trust the weather. Others don't like the marathon rounds.
No players should be criticized for skipping any tournament, especially if they think it hurts their game.
Just don't get the idea Pebble Beach can't survive without them.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
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    Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

    While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

    7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

    Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

    8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

    There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

    8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

    Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

    12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

    Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

    12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

    There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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    Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

    By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

    We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

    Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

    That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

    In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

    My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

    Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

    It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

    So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

    We hope it isn’t his back.

    Or his neck.

    Or his knees.

    Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

    Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

    Competitively, it’s all that matters.

    Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

    We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

    Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

    The game soars to yet another level with that.

    A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

    So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

    The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

    They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

    They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

    Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

    And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

    The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

    Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

    For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

    There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

    Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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    Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

    By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

    "Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

    Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

    Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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    Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

    Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

    A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

    The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

    "It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

    The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

    Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

    Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.