The Young are Restless

By Associated PressFebruary 12, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Pebble Beach is paradise for most, a burden for many.
 
Look beyond the playoff between Steve Lowery and Vijay Singh, two guys who have combined to play more than 900 events on the PGA TOURnd there were three rookies in the top 10 who might have been at Pebble Beach more out of necessity than desire.
 
Here's hoping they return next year, and many years to follow.
 
Along with its reputation for bad weather, bad greens and six-hour rounds -- only the latter was true this year -- the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is the one PGA TOURent just about any pro can play. Because it has a 180-man field, there is room for everyone from Q-school and the Nationwide Tour, even those who lost their cards and have limited status.
 
Not even John Daly needed an exemption.
 
But in speaking with players over the first month, one topic that came up far too often was Pebble Beach. The message from several young golfers who had secured their status on the PGA TOURs they no longer had to go. They sounded relieved.
 
That's a shame.
 
Few other PGA TOUR events have such rich heritage, lasting memories, spectacular views and a potential payoff beyond prize money.
 
This is where Arnold Palmer played off the rocks behind the 17th green, where Hale Irwin hooked a tee shot on the 18th that was headed into the ocean until it caromed off the rocks below and back onto the golf course. Johnny Miller went 20 years between victories. Jack Nicklaus won five times, including a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
 
Pebble is what produced the phrase 'Crosby weather,' so nasty at times that the tournament was canceled in 1996, postponed nearly seven months in 1998 and delayed in 1962 because of snow. That led to the famous line from Jimmy Demaret, who rolled out of bed at the Lodge, saw snow on the 18th green and said, 'I know I had a lot to drink last night, but how did I end up in Sun Valley?'
 
Bad weather hasn't been an issue since Tiger Woods won on a Monday in 2000, rallying from seven shots down with seven holes to play. Woods hasn't been back since 2002, and while his presence amps up the atmosphere wherever he goes, Pebble Beach might be the one PGA TOUR event that doesn't need him.
 
The main attraction is still the prettiest piece of property on the TOUR's landscape.
 
Inside the ropes can be appealing, too. Pebble has always been as much about relationships as birdies and bogeys, and while the cast of characters has changed over the years, perhaps no other tournament embodies the elements of the PGA TOUR, from corporate involvement to amateur participation to celebrity entertainment.
 
'Hey, Kev. Where's your tie?' Phil Mickelson said on the fifth tee Saturday to an amateur in the group behind him. 'Kev' in this case would be Kevin Costner, who for years went retro at Pebble with a tie that would have made Walter Hagen proud.
 
Scott Simpson gets asked more about longtime partner Bill Murray than that U.S. Open title he won in 1987.
 
Vijay Singh earned $954,000 when he won in 2004, and much more than that when he first played.
 
It was at Pebble Beach in 1994 that he first met Ted Forstmann Jr., his amateur, and they have been partners ever since. Singh wore a Forstmann Little & Co. logo on his shirt. According to a Golf Digest article in 2004, he earned more than $1 million from partial ownership in several companies with which Forstmann was involved.
 
Who knows where Joey Sindelar would be without a hamburger at Pebble Beach?
 
He was invited to lunch at a house owned by Jim Griggs, a businessman who for years headed the TOUR's Golf Course Properties board. They ate, socialized, hit it off, and Griggs told Sindelar to call if he ever needed anything.
 
'With my dad delivering mail and my mom driving a school bus, a sponsor was in order,' Sindelar said. 'I called him up and he met us in New York, and he sponsored me for three years.'
 
Even after Sindelar got his card and won twice in his second full season on TOUR, he said Griggs continued to sponsor him for the length of their agreement, imparting some business sense along the way.
 
'It's a book to tell you the kind things that guy has done for everyone in his life,' Sindelar said. 'Fabulous person.'
 
Davis Love III was introduced to Griggs as a rookie in 1986, and during the darkest chapter of Love's life, Griggs was among the first people he called. Love was in Kapalua for the Lincoln-Mercury International when he got word of a plane crash involving his father.
 
'I said, 'There's been a plane accident, but I don't know what's going on. Do you know someone who can charter a plane?'' Love said. 'When I got off the plane in San Francisco, he was standing there. He flew his own jet up there, and then he flew us home. He knew what was going on. Smart man.'
 
Pebble Beach can be about more than just golf.
 
'That's what we don't get about guys who don't come to this tournament,' Love said. 'You might get stuck with a celebrity and don't want to play with him. But you meet so many great people. And you're playing Pebble Beach.'
 
There's a long list of players who don't return because the greens are not as smooth as glass and they think it ruins their putting stroke. Others don't like the six-hour rounds of two pros and two amateurs, although how that's any worse than five-hour rounds among three professionals is a mystery.
 
Pebble Beach is not for everyone.
 
Those who rarely miss -- Love, Singh, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson among them -- see it as a privilege.
 
That's something every young player should remember.
 
Related Links:
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”