Without a doubt, the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro Am is the best of the tournaments with the Pro Am format. In fact, it is the only one where the amateurs are allowed to play in the final round. Like the professional golfers, they have to make the cut as a team if they want to play on Sunday. Players and their amateur must play all three of the courses, with the final at Pebble Beach. Since the 2010 season, when the third venue was moved back to the Monterey Peninsula Country Club from Poppy Hills, has always includes Spyglass Hill.
The first round didn’t disappoint. Whether it was Lee Westwood playing with his father, who has never played in this event, or Chris Berman trying to hack his way out of one of the gigantic bunkers on the course, the tournament is entertaining, and is one of my favorite stops on the PGA Tour. You never know how Bill Murray will show up. This year, he almost looks like the guy in the Old Tom Morris commercial, with the mutton chops. Did you see the green pants on comedian Jackie Flynn, and his caddy?
The Pebble Beach National Pro Am was started by Bing Crosby in 1937, at Santa Fe Springs in the Los Angeles area, and moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947. From then until Mr. Crosby passed away in 1977, the annual event was known as the Crosby Clam Bake. The Crosby family continued to manage the tournament until 1986 when AT&T took over. The original three courses included Cypress Point Country Club, which is private, and was dropped from the rotation in 1991 because they would not admit an African American to the Club.
Spyglass Hill is the most difficult of the three courses, with Pebble Beach being second. The Monterey Peninsula Country Club is the easiest. All three venues are breathtaking, but Pebble Beach is by far the most beautiful. I played there in 1981, and the round took almost six hours to play, but the course was so beautiful, I didn’t mind the slow play, and was sorry it finally ended.
The prettiest, and most dangerous stretch at Pebble Beach starts with the seventh hole. The par three plays out to a point in the ocean, is just a shade over 100 yards, and can be reached with a pitching wedge, or a six iron. It all depends on how hard the wind is blowing, and which direction it is coming from. If you want to see it with teeth, watch a few clips from the 1991 US Open when the flag on seven was bent sideways.
Eight, nine and ten play along the ocean, and are beautiful to look at, but professionals getting through that section at even par, will be kissing the ground when they finish. The eighth hole requires a 180 yard 2nd shot across a canyon (called a baranca) to a green that is not much bigger than a postage stamp. Par is a great score here.
The bunkers at Pebble Beach are very deep, and with the slippery greens next to the ocean, getting up and down from them can be an arduous task at best. The Monterey Peninsula is typically shrouded in fog, and has very heavy air. The ball will not fly like it did in Phoenix last week, and Phil Mickelson will not find the pristine putting conditions that were available in Phoenix last week. This golf course will test your putting stroke. “Lefty” will need his putter to be working if he want’s to defend his 2012 victory.
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