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Mannings and millionaires: Why the AT&T Pro-Am matters

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Who’s the low NFL quarterback going to be in this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am?

They could have their own division, with a half dozen current and former NFL QBs in the competition.

Actually, the better question this week might be: Who’s going to be the low Manning? Peyton and Eli are both in the competition, playing in the same foursome.

Though Peyton’s the slightly better player, based on their handicaps (8 vs. 10), Eli is 1 up on him in their golf trip competitions. It should be noted, however, that Peyton keeps score differently. 

Here’s how Peyton explained it to media last week, when asked about Eli’s retirement. His comments turned to the last golf trip the brothers made together.

“We were staying in the same room and my bed was kind of up against the corner, and I was taking a nap,” Peyton said. “And he jumps on top of me and gives me almost an atomic wedgie. And he had all the leverage. My shoulders were stuck in the corner. I couldn’t get out. I just had to take it.”

Peyton said he was still looking for revenge.

“I haven’t been able to get him back,” he said. “Maybe if we get a chance to play some more golf together, maybe I’ll have a chance to get him back. Right now, he’s still 1 up on me.”

No reports yet on whether the score’s been evened this trip, but the official golf competition begins Thursday. Peyton plays to an 8-handicap, Eli to a 10. The Manning brothers will be playing in the same foursome, with Peyton teamed with Luke Donald and Eli with Kevin Chappell.

Here’s how the current and former NFL QBs in the competition stack up, based on handicaps:

Tony Romo, 0.

Matt Ryan, 1.

Peyton Manning, 8.

Aaron Rodgers, 9.

Eli Manning, 10.

Steve Young, 14.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Full-field tee times | Full coverage

While the pro-am format isn’t a favorite for some PGA Tour pros who choose to bypass the event, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell explained this week why they enjoy it so much, and why pros who skip it are missing out.

“Early in my career, I did miss it a few times, but as I got older I realized what an important event this is in developing relationships with a lot of the decision makers and key players in the game of golf, and developing these kind of emotional connections that lead to better decisions as far as supporting the game,” said Mickelson, a five-time winner at Pebble Beach. “It gets companies and CEOs more inclined to support the game of golf.”

Mickelson is playing alongside Young, the former 49ers quarterback, but he’s in the same group with Aneel Bhusri, the co-founder and CEO of Workday, one of Mickelson’s sponsors. In a Workday commercial, Mickelson comically plays a “business caddie,” helping an executive make corporate decisions.

“Now, it's not for everybody,” Mickelson says of the pro-am experience. “So, I understand when guys don't want to do it . . . But for me, I've always enjoyed it and actually have played some of my best golf when I'm partnered with very interesting players.”

Mickelson has played a lot with Jimmy Dunne, who was the sole surviving senior partner of Sandler O’Neill, an investment banking firm that was headquartered in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

“There's nobody that I view more as an American hero than Jimmy Dunne, for what he did in dedicating profits from his company, following the 911 tragedy, whereby every other company in the World Trade Center followed suit,” Mickelson said. “I think he's led by example. There's nobody that I look up to or respect more in this entire country than Jimmy Dunne, and for me to have these days with him, to ask questions and spend time with him, is what brings out some of my best golf, because I'm having so much fun.”

McDowell noted the extraordinary nature of so many AT&T Pro-Am partners and Mickelson’s ability to draw energy from the experience.

“It's some of the most high-profile CEOs in America,” McDowell said. “It's weird to come into an event when you're potentially not the most important person there, and you're certainly not the wealthiest person in your group, by a long stretch. So, you're surrounded by successful people, and it's a great opportunity to meet other successful people, in other spaces.

“Listen, I get why guys don't like this event from the point of view that it's six-hour rounds, the weather can be a little dodgy here, for sure. There’s a lot of distractions here. So, you look at a guy like Phil, who has won here, what, five times? He gets it, and certainly hasn't struggled corporately in his career.

“I think a lot of that is down to the way he's able to embrace a week like this and take it for what it is. It's an important opportunity to connect with people, some of the most important people in business. Thankfully, I've always enjoyed it.”