Category: Pebble Beach

January 13, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Tim Tebow headed to Pebble pro-am?

Posted at 11:48 AM by Alan Bastable

Move over, Bill Murray. Here comes Tim Tebow.

Tebow, the wildly intriguing Denver Broncos quarterback, might be joining the party at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, according to Brian Wacker at

“There has been some discussion for a month or so between us and him,” Ollie Nutt, President and CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation said Thursday. “There is definitely an interest [from both parties].”

Nutt confirmed that the tournament is holding a spot in the field for the Broncos quarterback, who grew up playing golf in the Jacksonville, Fla., area.

But Nutt denied an earlier report that Tebow would be paired with Tiger Woods.

A more likely scenario will see Woods paired with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is already committed to the tournament and has played with Woods before. Ryan Palmer, who lives in Dallas and is friends with Romo, confirmed as much as well, saying that Romo already told him that he is playing with Woods.

The early scouting report on Tebow the golfer: a middling talent with a flare for 18th hole heroics.

Tweet of the Day

Some good news for Jason Gore, who with an assist from Twitter landed a spot in his hometown tournament, L.A.’s Northern Trust Open:


January 09, 2012

Tiger Woods to start PGA Tour season at Pebble Beach

Posted at 10:21 AM by Mike Walker

Tiger-Woods-2000-US-Open-SI-coverThe worst-kept secret in golf isn’t a secret anymore.

Tiger Woods announced on his website Monday that he will play his first PGA Tour event of the year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, on Feb. 9-12.

"I'm excited to start my PGA Tour season at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am," Woods said in a statement. "AT&T is a great partner to my Foundation, and I'm looking forward to playing in this event. I haven't been to this tournament lately, but I have a lot of good memories at Pebble. It will be fun going back."

Woods hasn’t played the Pebble Beach pro-am event since 2002. He famously won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes and made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"It's always been one of my favorite spots," Woods said in his statement. "It might be the prettiest place on earth."

Woods normally begins his PGA Tour season at Torrey Pines in January. This year, however, he is playing the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, on Jan. 26, the same week as the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Woods had said that he would be adding a new event to his schedule and many people speculated that it would be Pebble Beach. On his website, Woods mentioned some of the changes to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am that might have made the tournament more appealing to him.

Two major changes have occurred in the AT&T tournament since he last competed. The field has been reduced from 180 pros and amateurs to 156, which has improved the pace of play. In addition, the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club has replaced Poppy Hills Golf Course in the three-course rotation, which includes Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

"I've never played Monterey Peninsula and am looking forward to it," Woods said. "From all I've heard, it's a wonderful course and the greens are fast."

If Woods plays his usual schedule of events, his next event after Pebble Beach will be the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 22. Expectations for Woods are high this year after his season-ending victory at the Chevron World Classic in December.

Tiger Woods Photos: Life in Pictures | Major Victories | SI Covers

December 14, 2011

Truth & Rumors: More buzz over Tiger at Pebble?

Posted at 1:43 PM by Mike Walker

In November, the Associated Press said, “Indications are that Woods plans a return to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time since 2002” after Woods announced he was opening his season at the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi and skipping his traditional Torrey Pines stop. On Tuesday, Lee Siegel of CSN Bay Area said he has heard Woods will play Pebble as well.

Seems like the AP report that had Tiger playing at Pebble Beach is accurate -- it's really going to happen. People I talked to seemed to think it’s pretty much a done deal.

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am takes place Feb. 9-12.

In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre, 'Au revoir, elk'
The members at private TPC Snoqualmie Ridge in Washington state won’t have to share their course with elk anymore after state officials approved a plan to hunt the animals, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

General manager Ryan Whitney said over the past two years, the golf club has used flares to scare away the elk, traps to frighten them and even tagged several of them to follow their movement. But nothing worked, and the prized playing surface continued taking a beating.

"We've not only seen greater visits, but greater numbers coming," Whitney said.

With mounting damage, the state has finally approved a plan to kill several of the elk.

Expert hunters can even vie for the chance to shoot one of them from a designated area on the course.

The hunting will take place on Mondays, when the course is closed to golfers.

Rory’s ex says he always had thing for Caroline Wozniacki
Rory McIlroy’s ex-girlfriend Holly Sweeney told the Irish Sunday Mirror that she knew McIlroy liked current girlfriend, pro tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, but didn’t think he would actually start dating her.

"I always suspected he had a thing for her. He's always been a big fan of tennis. When he was watching the women's games he always said he fancied her but I didn't take it that seriously - little did I know.

"It was Rory that ran away with Caroline - not the other way around - so I guess I blame Rory, or both of them if I'm totally honest.

"I have to put the blame on him for what has happened but obviously I'm not her biggest fan ever."

Tweet of the Day



March 08, 2011

Truth & Rumors: Bomb squad called to Pebble Beach Golf Links

Posted at 1:51 PM by Michael Chwasky

In what might be the strangest news in golf this year, a police bomb squad was called to Pebble Beach Golf Links on Monday, according to the UPI.

A beachcomber reported early Sunday he had found what looked like two pipe-bombs taped together at the base of a 40-foot cliff near the Monterey, Calif., course's 9th hole, Bay City News reported Monday.

The Monterey County Sheriff's Office called in a bomb squad, which examined the suspicious-looking device and rendered it safe.

Investigators said they could not determine for sure what it was, but it appeared to be configured in a way similar to explosives, KSBW-TV, Salinas, reported.

Authorities said the incident remained under investigation.

Tiger on next win: Whenever it happens, it happens
Tiger Woods, currently the fifth-ranked player in the world, hasn't won a tournament in nearly a year and a half and has yet to card a top-10 finish this season. Though his chances of returning to his old form might look bleak to golf fans around the world, the former World No. 1 says he isn't overly concerned as he heads into this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

I'm looking forward to playing again this week at Doral, where I've had good success in the past. It's one of the tougher courses we play, especially when the wind blows. There are some good risk-and-reward holes, so you can get it going if your game is sharp.

Pretty generic stuff from a guy who used to win majors with his C-game, but Tiger's never been one to open up to the media or the general public. His comment on his current winless streak sums up his current if somewhat shocking state of mind pretty well:

"When will I win again? Whenever it happens, it happens. I'm just going to keep trying to progress."

Not the kind of thing anyone would have expected to come out of the mouth of a 14-time major champion, but in light of his struggles over the last year or so, it's not really all that surprising. Maybe someone should tell him his mindset is as much to blame for his slump as his other issues. Until he gets his mojo back, it's unlikely we'll see Tiger hoisting any more trophies.

McIlroy concerned about lack of wins
Despite making a ton of money and getting a lot of publicity, young Irish sensation Rory McIlroy has only two wins in his professional career -- the Dubai Desert Classic in '09, and the Wells Fargo Championship in '10. Not bad, but McIlroy is concerned that he hasn't been able to convert more opportunities, which have included 28 top-10 finishes. To try and remedy the situation he's turned to fellow Northern Ireland star Graeme McDowell, whose monster 2010 season elevated him to elite status on the world tours.

"I just want to start winning some regular PGA Tour events. I've only won twice and I want to get the win tally up a little bit. I have had a lot of conversations with Graeme about course management. That is why I like playing with him; his game is so much different than mine. If I can take a little bit of his game and imbed it in my game, it would help. I am a little too instinctive."

So far in 2011 McIlroy has two top-10 finishes, one in Dubai and the other in Abu Dhabi. If he wants to win more regular PGA Tour events, he better start thinking about actually playing on the PGA Tour once in a while.

Tweet of the Day

Rory @McIlroyRory: Best part of @TheChristinaKim apart from her world class golf and great sense of humour are her tremendous _ _ _ _ ;-)

February 14, 2011

Truth & Rumors: Bill Murray says tip from Vijay helped him win at Pebble

Posted at 1:08 PM by Mike Walker

In a six-hour feat of golf and improv comedy, Bill Murray won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am amateur event, helped his partner D.A. Points win the tournament and maybe even made golf look cool. But it might not have happened without an assist from Vijay Singh.

Murray told the story at his post-victory press conference: (Watch the full press conference here.)

And in the course of the round Monday, I played a few good holes early, and then really lost my swing and it was ugly. Big, flying mud and everything, it was terrible. And he thought I would go back and start hitting some balls and there was Vijay Singh on the range. I've known Vijay a long time and I'm friendly with him. And I would never go like, "Hey, you big Fijian, help me out here."

But he saw me, sort of struggling and he came over and he said one thing, and I did it, and then about three minutes later he says another thing, and I did it and then about four minutes later, he said another thing and I did it, and I never hit the ball that well in my entire life. And I just thought, holy cow, I don't know how you can play this long and get something that late that can work. That's basically why I'm up here today drinking wine and looking for another glass.

Murray does not often agree to interviews, but he was on a roll at the Pebble Beach media center on Sunday. Here are some highlights...

On his partner D.A. Points:

When we first met I said, well, my goal when I play is I like to have the most fun and win. And he said, "Those two things usually go together." And I thought, that's about as solid an endorsement of where we are going this week as I could have gotten. I felt like, this is cool, this could really happen. And it did.

On his emotions during the final round:

Honestly the whole last two holes were kind of an out of body experience. I didn't -- I mean I wasn't sort of like -- I didn't know how to be particularly funny or particularly good golfer. I just managed to get sort of like stumble in, and I knew I had to sort of get out of the way. Once knucklehead here made that eagle and then the birdie -- the birdie afterwards was more ridiculous in a way. I was just laughing hysterically, I could not even speak. I just started laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing, because I realized that this is it now, and, I don't know, it's like when I see real art, I laugh. When I saw like a Rembrandt, I laugh, because it's so -- it's just this combination of this beautiful thing, it's alive, yet it's not. And that moment of his making birdie is like, we are playing this -- we have won this tournament and yet we are not done yet. I knew it was that moment.

Why being a good golf partner is like acting:

I just thought, if I could not screw this up for him that, would be great. And if I don't screw it up -- and it's sort of like the acting that I was taught, which was if you make the other person look good, you don't have to worry about yourself. So I felt if I could like help him, I wouldn't have to worry about the Pro-Am thing, and that's pretty much what happened. I mean, I just tried to stay positive and not like get too serious or funky about my game. I didn't really -- I hit the ball kind of good, but I didn't really help the team much, too much, but as long as you're hitting it good, you're not -- you're helping him in a way because if you're hitting it bad, and you're playing with like a real human being, they get concerned about your golf. They get concerned about your golf and they get distracted from their golf.

On Augusta National:

They have got like biscuits and gravy for breakfast. They have got unbelievable food. I mean, chops, it's sweet. But the food is really good. It's like big-time, Southern cooking food. But their wine cellar, it's a joke. It's like the greatest vineyard in the world. But the course, it's a laughaholic, because all of a sudden you're just going to be standing like on 13 on the fairway and you go like, I know where I am, I know exactly where I am and exactly what this shot is. It's cool.

On why he plays the Pebble Beach Pro-Am:

There's no shame in being attached to this tournament. There's no greed in this. I remember hearing some knucklehead say, well, yeah, you guys go out there and you get all your publicity. It's like, you get it, do you. No one is here to get publicity. This is really fun and you can ride -- this ride, when it's great, it's awesome. It's just really different and no entertainment experience, anything like it. Something about the energy of golf and having fun at it is so unusual that it can only happen in this place and a couple of others. And it's very unusual, very singular kind of experience, and all of the people that are working are kind of going, go ahead, I'm in this, too, because this is good, what I'm doing is giving back too, we are all in.

Amateur photographer distracts Lee Westwood in Dubai

The World No. 1 came undone on his final two holes at the Dubai Desert Classic, hitting a palm tree on 17 and making double and then finishing with a bogey on the par-5 18th, but managed to keep his sense of humor, according to The National’s Paul Radley.

"I'm not sure about that," the world No 1 said when it was suggested to him that his late bid for the Dubai Desert Classic title might have come unstuck when his tee shot at his 71st hole ended perched halfway up a palm tree. Pregnant pause. "That's sarcasm, by the way."

Westwood also said that he was distracted when a fan took his picture on the 18th tee.

"I was just a bit shafted by the last two holes," he said. "If you stick it up a tree, you can't do much about that. It was on a good line and would have been on the front edge of the green. "Then on No 18 I was stood over my second shot and a guy took a very good shot of me on his iPhone. In terms of concentration I was already struggling a little bit at that stage, and he just finished it off."

Spit happens

Robert Lusetich of Fox Sports is scratching his head over the uproar over Tiger Woods’s spitting on the green in Dubai, which is a headline on The Drudge Report and

Here’s a newsflash: Tiger Woods spits all the time.

Ever since I’ve known him, he’s suffered from allergies and hacks up loogies as a matter of course.

It’s certainly gross, though he’s not the only human being I know to do so.

February 11, 2011

My Pebble Beach Adventure: Shipnuck gets 'Shipnucked'

Posted at 8:00 AM by Alan Shipnuck

Friday Update
Shipnuck My quest to make it into the field as an alternate to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has become an existential exercise. I am in but I am not in. I am a player who can't play. After a week of hob-nobbing many of the other ams now know my plight. When I see them in the buffet line or on the practice green some avert their gaze, not wanting to be sucked into my melodrama; others offer an expectant nod, which is met by a grim shake of the head. No words are needed.

This morning I was again up at 5:30 and on the range by 7. Thursday I felt real optimism. Today hitting balls was nothing more than due diligence. At the first hole I no longer scour the tee box for the amateurs. I know they will be there, because they always are. My least favorite number has become 10:12. That's the morning's last tee time; two days in a row it has made me officially meaningless. And yet I can't quite let go of the dream. While the tournament plays on without me I am heading inland, for a game at Corral de Tierra Country Club. Gotta keep the game sharp. Tomorrow could be my lucky day.

Thursday Update
It’s usually not a good thing when your name becomes a verb. Unfortunately that befell me during my torturous first-tee vigil during the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. As the designated alternate I was standing sentry at Pebble’s first hole a few minutes before the day’s first tee time, at 8 a.m. Over the next two hours and twelve minutes I waited (and waited and waited and waited and…) for one of the 52 amateurs to oversleep, blow out his back on the range, slip on the stairs and fracture an elbow or otherwise be unable to tee it up for the first round. It didn’t happen.

I live-tweeted this agonizing limbo, much to the amusement of some of my press tent cohorts. Steve Elling, the sardonic scribe of, wrote on Twitter, “Thus, a new term is added to golf lexicon. ‘I got flat Shipnucked means left at altar, holding bag, rained out, unfulfilled.” Soon folks from all over the Internet were chiming in. “The guy who got left at the altar by Katherine Ross at the end of the movie ‘The Graduate’ got Shipnucked,” tweeted Robert Goodwin. Paul Lapierre of Dalton, Mass. typed, "Found a $100 bill outside pro shop. Tried to buy some pro v1's but the bill was counterfeit. Shipnucked.”

On and on it went.

I know I was asking for it with my breathless practice round dispatches. The odds were never in my favor as I embarked on this quixotic journey. And to be honest, having golf fans root for and against me getting into the tournament was a big part of the reason for doing it. My badge may say CONTESTANT but I’m still a lowly reporter at heart; I knew going in that even if I don’t get to play in the tourney being an alternate would still be a fascinating chance to see the tournament from a new vantage point. Setting aside the crushing personal disappointment, this morning was another interesting experience.

It began with a 7 a.m. breakfast in the contestant hospitality area. All week long this has been a jovial gathering spot, but now there was a different  feeling in the air. Gone were the wives, friends and assorted entourages. The tables were crowded with serious looking players methodically stuffing their faces. I expected to be nervous but felt no butterflies and therefore decided to get in as many calories as possible at the buffet, going with a made-to-order omelet, tall stack of pancakes, chocolate chip muffin and huge plate of fruit. I sat at an empty table—dining with all my friends, you might say—and was reading the newspaper when Padraig Harrington sat down across from me. “I think you need more food,” he said, smirking. “You are getting good value, there.” A good line—all the food is free, of course. We chatted amicably, and then Paddy abruptly took his leave, saying,”Everything is on a schedule.” One last pro move: he left a $20 tip.

I journeyed to the range with my friend/looper Kevin Price, who had been dining in the separate caddie tent, a scene he describes as “burnouts, aspiring players, buddies, logo-laden outfits, mediocre (blessedly free) food, ping pong.” It was literally freezing on the range—some of the grass still had frost on it. Reigning PGA Tour player of the year Jim Furyk was nearby, grinding. I did a half dozen jumping jacks to get the blood pumping and then had a spectacular warmup session, flushing practically every shot. I made the mistake of letting myself get excited.

Kevin and I hopped a shuttle to the first tee and watched the first few groups tee off. I was impressed with how well the amateurs got off the tee. (Surely it reveals a character flaw that I was hoping each of these jabronis would cold-top their shots.) I headed to the nearby practice green to kill some time. It was a cool scene—almost completely silent, lotsa game-faces. The tense vibe forced me to concentrate more on my stroke and when I rolled in a few longish putts I have to admit it was satisfying to hear the murmurs of appreciation from the fans ringing the green.

I expected the time would crawl by but it was just the opposite—when I looked up it was well after 9 a.m. and half the field had already teed off. At that point I knew in my gut I wasn’t going to be called upon so I stopped sweating it and just enjoyed watching a little golf and the exceedingly pleasant vibe of a beautiful morning. My father David had been by my side the whole time and it was a pleasure just to have some relaxed time to catch-up.

At 10:12 the last group teed off and my dream was officially deferred. I’ll be back on Friday to try again. Same routine, but hopefully a new day will bring a better ending.

(Photo: Kohjiro Kinno/SI

February 10, 2011

Truth & Rumors: Tiger reportedly paid $55.4 million for Dubai project

Posted at 11:21 AM by Jeff Ritter

When Tiger Woods travels to Dubai, it's about more than winning a golf tournament -- it's business time. In addition to receiving multi-million dollar appearance fees for competing in the desert, Woods also spearheaded a (stalled) Dubai golf project. Terms of that deal, struck in 2008, were never made public, but Arabian Business Magazine has a new report on the numbers, and they are staggering:

Tiger Woods received $55.4m from UAE developer Tatweer to promote a golf resort in Dubai, just 24 days before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Documents seen by Arabian Business reveal that Woods was originally paid $26,250,000 to promote the Tiger Woods Dubai resort, following a contract first signed on 20 June 2006.

However, on 22 August 2008, both Woods and Tatweer signed an “Amendment to Golf Course Design and License Agreement” which contained 15 new clauses.

On top of the $26,250,000 already paid to Woods' company ETW (Eldrick Tiger Woods), the new deal stated that ETW would be paid "the sum of $70m as a promotional fee".

The document broke down the extra payments as:

* $26,166,177 would be paid to ETW within ten days of the agreement being signed.

* $14,583,333 would be paid to ETW within ten days of Woods appearing at the official opening of Tiger Woods Dubai.

In addition, the new deal stated that Woods would no longer receive a villa on the resort, but “the Parties hereto agree to keep confidential the fact that ETW has agreed to waive its right to receive the Chosen Development Unit.”

In total, the potential value of the new deal was worth $98.8m to Woods – more than the $92.2m he had earned in prize money up to 2008.

Not sure what's more shocking: the cash Woods raked in from this project, or the fact that he wasn't able to get himself a free condo in the deal.


Earlier this week, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said his Tour would continue to accept phone calls from fans who spot rules violations during telecasts. Is it right to allow outside viewers the chance to affect the outcome of a professional sporting event? Our Sports Illustrated Golf Group has debated this very topic, and today the Bleacher Report's Paddy Miller voices his distaste for Finchem's decision while wondering if the commish might take things a step further by allowing on-air TV announcers to report violations.

Golf has always celebrated itself as a gentleman’s sport where players—if they were to commit an infraction—would openly call penalties on themselves, not relying on referees or umpires to do so. While touring professionals have the luxury of rules officials in every group, the burden still falls upon the playing group to enforce the regulations of the game.

Wouldn't Finchem be more inclined to defend the institution of Golf as opposed to turning tournament officiating over to the masses?

Which raises the next question, would golf officials call penalties on players that are sighted by the announcers or on-course reporters?

Would Ed Hochuli throw a flag three plays later after John Gruden suggests he might have missed a call?

Would Joe West change a strike to a ball if Tim McCarver finally gets around to the point two days later that the pitch was outside? ...

Finchem, who has ignored the majority in the past (see: caddies wearing shorts), is trailing a similar path this time around and now jeopardizes what has made the game a sacred ritual of competition since the days of Old Tom Morris.

What do you think about Finchem's decision to allow fans to phone in rules infractions? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pebble Beach Pro-Am Greens Not 'Am' Friendly

How firm are Pebble's greens this week? Stuart Appleby and his caddie demonstrate. (via Twitter)

Tweet of the Day

Dan_bigger @danjenkinsgd: Memo to myself: If Mark Wilson is going to be the next Ben Hogan, I guess I'd better get to know him.

My Pebble Beach Adventure: Playing the waiting game at Spyglass Hill

Posted at 7:13 AM by Alan Shipnuck

Shipnuck I think I underestimated the mental anguish that would come with being an alternate to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. For my first two days in limbo land I was happy to la-di-da my way around Del Monte Forest, enjoying the great courses and glorious weather and unique access that has come with being accorded the status of a contestant.

On Wednesday I was basically a basket case — stressed out about the flaws in my game, antsy about getting a spot in the tourney, melancholy that the between-the-ropes adventure may be drawing to an abrupt end. The confidence accrued with two prior rounds of solid play pretty much vanished today at Spyglass Hill with a series of errant drives, impure irons and a trio of skulled bunker shots. (I felt a little better with my new putter, but it was hard to hole anything on the wickedly fast greens.)

I played in a fivesome that included fellow alternates Bing Landis and Michael Winer. It was a little bit like Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral. I recognized in both the chipper hopefulness and the slight awkwardness that comes with not quite being part of the show. There were plenty of jokes of our alternative lifestyles, tastes in alternative music, etc. Bing and Mike are both really good guys and I sincerely hope each gets the nod tomorrow, but the odds are against all of us.

Each year there are three amateur alternates, one assigned to each course. (I'll be at Pebble, Mike at Spy, Bing at the Shore Course.) According to one tournament official, over the last 11 years only two out of the 33 alternates have been needed for the first round. But for Friday and Saturday we remain on-call, much like neurosurgeons, though clearly this is more important than mere life and death. It's actually more likely that one of us will get the nod in the ensuing rounds. No matter how stiff or sore or hungover or distracted by a work crises any of the ams may be they're still likely to crawl to the first tee on Thursday; a day or two later it can be harder to answer the bell. (Personally, I'm already feeling a little wiped-out after three days of long practice rounds in the sun followed by evenings of decadent eating and free drinks and assorted merriments.)

If any of us alternates play on Friday or Saturday it would be as a non-competing marker, since it's impossible to be part of the pro-am scoring having missed a round or two. Our role would be to keep the other amateur in group company on the forward tee box and give him a level playing field by having someone to club off of. (Or her; Brandi Chastain and Heidi Ueberroth are both playing this year, in the same group.) It would still be a great experience and perhaps the golf would be more enjoyable, since there would much less stress. But grinding for a score on every hole is what makes tournament golf special. I'd be bummed to miss that part of the experience.

Today at Spy, in an attempt to sharpen my competitive edge, I played a match against Steve John, a buddy of mine who will be competing in his seventh Pro-Am, playing off scratch. He beat me so soundly he refused to accept my $20, out of pity. In fact, the match was settled before my caddie Kevin Price had to bolt from Spy on the 14th hole to coach a game for the freshman basketball team at Salinas High, our alma mater. I was driving home from the course, feeling a little blue, when Kevin texted me the score: 46-35, good guys win. So at least we've got that going for us.

On Thursday morning Kevin will be on hand when my ultimate golf dream will come true or be cruelly deferred. Stay tuned.

(Photo: Kohjiro Kinno/SI)

More on Shipnuck's Adventure: Day 1 | Day 2

February 09, 2011

My Pebble Beach Pro-Am Adventure: Golfing with Costner and finding a new putter

Posted at 8:55 AM by Alan Shipnuck

Feb9-alan-shipnuck_400x376 The contemptuous shake of the head said it all.

On Tuesday afternoon I was grinding on the Pebble Beach practice green. During Pro-Am week it's a great hang-out spot, tucked between the course's first tee and the front door of the Lodge and lined by golf fans and looky-loos.

It was a lovely, sun-kissed day and the green was packed with a couple dozen pros and a handful of my fellow amateurs. After a very mediocre day of putting at Monterey Peninsula Country Club I needed to try to fix my balky stroke. My caddie Kevin Price set up on the edge of the green and we went into full Phil/Bones mode. Kev put a tee in the ground as my aiming point, crouched behind it and rolled ball after ball back to me.

I was concentrating like it was Sunday at the U.S. Open when Golf Channel talent Alex Miceli walked by. He took one look at my overly serious mien and gave a series of head shakes that translated roughly to, "Is this guy for real? Who does he think he is?" What can I say? Even as a mere alternate for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, I've gotten swept up by tournament fever.

My second day around Pebble was eventful from start to finish. Days ago I had signed up for a 9:30 practice round with pros Mark Wilson and Tag Ridings. After Wilson prevailed in the Monday finish at Phoenix I was dubious whether he'd show for the practice round, and sure enough neither he nor Ridings was anywhere to be found this morning.

I scanned the tee sheet and noticed that the next group off was Tour veteran D.J. Trahan along with his partner, some dude by the name of Costner. I gingerly approached the Academy Award winner on the range to ask if I could tag along. He was hesitant to welcome a moonlighting scribe. "I don't want to say you're a leper but ..."

Luckily Costner didn't finish the sentence. I assured him that if he worked blue on the course I would keep it between us and away we went, along with another am, Michael Cochrane, a congenial Morgan Stanley exec. Thus began an important lesson on the complicated interpersonal dynamics of the Pro-Am.

Trahan did not seem overly thrilled to have to play with two other random amateurs, and I can't say I blame him. I was hyper-aware of not getting in his way out there, pretty much forgoing practice swings or doing more than a cursory reading of putts. Still, Trahan didn't say much to me until we were loitering on the 6th tee, watching a herd of deer cross the fairway.

Knowing Trahan's a hunter I said, "The only reason deer were put on this Earth is to get shot." These are not exactly my true feelings on the matter, but Trahan heartily agreed, and after that he seemed to like me more and the conversation flowed a bit easier. Hey, sometimes you have to go along to get along.

On the 9th hole Costner put an arm around me and said, "Let's try to speed things up for my pro." To that point all of us had been hitting a few extra putts and even taking the occasional mulligan, but after the pep talk I pretty much quit all that. Immediately I began playing better. The practice round mentality of just hitting shots and not really trying to make a score had let some sloppiness creep into my game. Tomorrow at Spyglass there will be no reloads; I'm playing with a friend and hope we can get a money game going to sharpen my competitive edge.

I also need to putt better. Kevin (the looper, not the thespian) diagnosed that I was aiming left of my target, ergo our grind-a-thon on the practice green. I've been faithfully using the same 2-Ball for a decade, forever averting my gaze from the newer, flashier seductresses.

When Kev got me squared up, the face of my old 2-Ball looked so open I could barely take the putter back. Desperate, I decided it was time to try a new wand. Joseph Pouliot, the owner of SeeMore Putters, had laid out a bunch of his models for fondling. I explained to him my issues, and both Joseph and Kevin fussed over me like overbearing Little League dads, manipulating my hands and shoulders and feet and using various gadgets to check my alignment.

A number of onlookers were paying close attention, as if any of this mattered. I have to admit it was fun to be the center of so much attention. I found a putter I really liked and Joseph let me borrow it for Wednesday's round. We'll see if it makes a difference. Gawd, I hope so.

After the epic practice session I caught a shuttle to the contestant hospitality area. It's a huge white tent adjacent to Pebble's driving range. The inside is plush and full of all manner of delicious grub. A dozen round tables are set up, and players and their families mingle easily.

I've gotten a few funny double-takes, but the "CONTESTANT" badge I wear conspicuously seems to satisfy the Tour pros who otherwise are not used to having to share the buffet line with scribes. This afternoon the tent was packed for the "pairings party," when the pros and ams find out whom they'll be matched with for the first three rounds.

After a few pep talks about pro-am etiquette and tournament bylaws, all the ams bumrushed the front of the room to find alphabetized packets that revealed their pairing. There was no such care package for me, still a mere alternate. I grabbed a fistful of mini Kit Kats and headed home to do a little typing and practice putting on my bedroom carpet.

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(Photo: Alan Shipnuck at Pebble Beach; Kohjiro Kinno/SI)


February 08, 2011

My Pebble Beach Pro-Am Adventure: Day 1

Posted at 9:55 AM by Alan Shipnuck

Shipnuck-monday_298x484 On Monday, on the par-5 14th hole of Pebble Beach Golf Links, during my first practice round for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, I jacked my second shot left of the gallery ropes. The group in front of us was methodically hitting practice putts, so I had plenty of time to discuss the upcoming shot with my caddie Kevin Price, a boyhood friend who was playing hooky from his job as a money manager. I was 136 yards out but the shot at hand was steeply uphill, into the fan, so we debated the merits of a 7-iron versus an 8. A kindly older woman and her son stopped a few feet away to listen. The galleries had been sparse all day, so I was pleased to have an audience.

"I'll try to make you proud," I said, jauntily.

"Don't worry, we have low expectations," she said. This was, I think, meant to be reassuring but was actually a pretty good indictment of my inconsistent ballstriking.

I decided to smooth a 7-iron but was too antsy over the ball and took a ferocious rip. I knew instantly the shot was destined to go long and left.

The woman watched my ball disappear over the green and rendered her verdict: "You should have used the other club."

I could only laugh. I have spent the last 17 years second-guessing Tour players for a living, and now, suddenly, I'm on the other side of the ropes. Having grown up in Monterey County, playing in the Pro-Am has been a lifelong dream for me. Late last week I finally got the call, sort of. Would I be an alternate, in case one of the amateurs has to WD? I couldn't say yes fast enough. Alternates are allowed to play practice rounds on all three courses and attend all the early week parties. Worst-case: I show up at Pebble Beach on Thursday morning--different alternates will be on call at Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club--and wait for two torturous hours while the lucky devils in the tourney tee off. If no one blows out a back or otherwise has to bow out, then my adventure is over. Still not a bad gig, right?

I have covered the Pro-Am for SI going back to 1995 but had a lot to learn about how the tournament works for the contestants, all of it covered in two thick information packets and a beautiful leather-bound, multi-page invitation. Turns out players are responsible for making their own practice-round arrangements. Tee times before 9 a.m. are reserved only for pros; after that, the ams can play with ams or pros. For Monday, I set up a 9:50 time with a fellow alternate, but he had to bail. I showed up at Pebble feeling like a guy who had gone stag to the prom.

Luckily there was a two-ball just heading out, so I invited myself to play with Kerry Gordon, the recently elected president of the Northern California Golf Association, and Bob Lurie, 82, the former owner of the San Francisco Giants. We enjoyed glorious weather and my playing partners were great company. I felt strangely relaxed on the first tee and split the fairway. (Moments later I putted off the green, but nevermind.) Bob is my new hero, a jovial, young-at-heart character who just had both knees replaced but said he'd crawl around Pebble if had to. This is his sixth decade playing the tournament--he's made the cut four times--so I asked him for some avuncular advice.

"Just remember that no one cares how you play out there," he said with a cackle.

On that note, I won't bore you with the details of the curling 30-footer I made for a deuce at the 7th hole, or the wedge I hit to a foot at 11 or the textbook par at 18. In truth, those were the only highlights. I was so determined not to be jittery that I overdid it and was kind of low-energy at the outset of the round. Then I overcompensated by trying way too hard in the middle. It wasn't until the end of the round that I found some rhythm. It's a disorienting feeling to be inside the looking glass. My fragile 8.9 index is not used to the scrutiny.

Monday night I bumped into Lurie again at the swank, jacket-required contestant party. I'd never been before because media scum are not allowed; for a couple of days, at least, I'm traveling on a different passport. (By the way, it was easy to spot the pros in the crowd: They were the ones wearing jeans with their blazers, and their dates had five-inch heels.) Bob greeted me the same way everyone else has: "Are you in yet?" We compared notes on upcoming practice rounds. For my Tuesday morning spin around the Shore Course at MPCC, I'm going to have a personal gallery for the first time: my wife, dad and father-in-law. I'm also slated to play with Tour veteran Tag Ridings and Mark Wilson, who is only the hottest golfer on the planet. I asked my maharaja Bob for a little more counsel on how to quiet what are sure to be jangling nerves.

"Just swing hard," he said.

To which I might add, don't woof with old ladies on the rope line. In my experience, that doesn't end well.

(Photo: Kohjiro Kinno)

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