Things Change But Pebbles Charm Stays

By Associated PressFebruary 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Tim Herron walked back to the sixth tee Wednesday morning at Pebble Beach and took in a spectacular view of the 513-yard hole, which stretches out toward the Pacific Ocean, rising along the rugged cliffs on the right side of the fairway.
Something didn't look right.
``Wow,'' Herron said. ``Look at those cliffs.''
Then it dawned on him. He never could see the cliffs so clearly because of a large cypress tree. But that tree is no longer there, wiped out by holiday storms. It should make the par 5 play easier, because any tee shot that strayed too far to the right was blocked by the tree. Players either had to go over or around it.
``You can see the whole cliff now, and it's pretty cool,'' Herron said. ``But it changes everything, especially on the second shot. That tree played with your head.''
The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will have a slightly different look when it gets under way Thursday.
Rain that deluged California six weeks ago also washed out a small section of the 18th fairway about 280 yards from the tee, making the landing area a little tighter. Plus, the two cypress trees replaced in the middle of the fairway were planted about 20 yards farther out than they were.
``I hit a drive where I used to, and it was 15 yards from the water -- not 25,'' Jim Furyk said.
But there are some things about Pebble Beach that rarely change.
One of them is the weather, and that's the good news. A tournament that developed a reputation for ``Crosby weather'' -- cold, rain, wind, rain, fog, rain -- looks as if it will be basking in sunshine for the fifth straight year.
And the field is eclectic as ever.
Because the three courses have room for 180 pro-am teams, the pros range from defending champion Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson to players like Steve Stricker, Garrett Willis and Tom Scherrer, whose only status on the PGA Tour is having won a tournament once upon a time.
Amateurs range from Hollywood stars (Bill Murray, Kevin Costner) to comedians (George Lopez) to athletes (Patriots coach Bill Belicheck, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice) to CEOs from Fortune 500 companies.
Another Pebble tradition over the last two decades is the type of name on the crystal trophy. Only three of the last 21 winners of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am have not won a major.
No other regular PGA Tour event has such a major list of winners over the last two decades. The next best is The Players Championship -- the fifth major -- with 16 of the last 21 champions having also won majors.
So many major winners at Pebble is no fluke.
``It's going to be a slow process of putting yourself in position and never really shooting yourself out of the tournament,'' said Mark O'Meara, a Masters and British Open champion who has won five times at Pebble. ``Then when the final round is played at Pebble, it's not like somebody is going out and shooting super, super low. A lot has to do with the fact the golf course can be a little intimidating at times.''
Furyk cited the quality of the courses -- especially Pebble and Spyglass -- and the size of the greens that require precision iron shots.
He was reminded of that during his practice round Wednesday with former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann. After negotiating a blind tee shot on No. 8, then an approach over a corner of the ocean, the green is about half the size as most he sees on the PGA Tour.
``It amazes me still how small these greens are,'' said Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. ``But it's a good golf course. And it definitely requires a lot of patience. I'd like to add my name to that list.''
It's an impressive list.
Davis Love III has won twice in the last four years. Mickelson won the longest Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in tournament history, in 1998, when it started in February and ended in August because of rain. Payne Stewart won in 1999, the last time rain cut the tournament to 54 holes. Tiger Woods staged his seven-shot comeback a year later.
Singh made it look easy last year.
Tied with Arron Oberholser going into the final round, Singh missed the first three fairways and made birdie each time, the cruised to a three-shot victory. It proved to be the start of an incredible year -- nine wins, nearly $11 million in earnings, and ending Woods' five-year reign atop the world ranking.
``It was just a good platform,'' Singh said. ``I just played really relaxed from there on and just played great. I think that was a key victory to my great season because it kind of relaxed everything.''
And that might be the biggest key of all.
The celebrities out for a good time also contribute to 6-hour rounds, and so many footprints around the hole on the small greens will making the putting surface as smooth as broccoli. It can get aggravating.
But the payoff is worth it.
Pebble Beach isn't a major, but it is teeming with tradition, and it's a chance to join a major roll call of past champions.
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”