Golf Preview: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am

Golf Preview: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am

Can anyone tell me what Phil Mickelson was doing playing quarterback during the second half of the Super Bowl? The contexts are different but I looked at Rex Grossman and saw Mickelson on the 72nd hole of Winged Foot.

Grossman can take some refuge in the coaching and team sport part of his context. Who was calling the plays for the Bears in the second half? Grossman should have recognized the coverage, granted, but downfield plays should have been off the table.

There are myriad other contextual differences: Grossman is 26, essentially a rookie, was starting in his first Super Bowl and going against a superior team. Mickelson is 36, has been playing for fifteen years and went into the U.S. Open last year with two consecutive major wins under his belt because he put the *$#!@ driver away when he needed to. Mickelson didn’t need an offensive coordinator to tell him to take out anything but the driver on the last hole at Winged Foot last summer---he had the experience to make the decision for himself. And yet …

There’s the relative speed of the two sports, the huge difference in physicality, the much different spotlights on each event, and on and on. But there was Mickelson Face on Grossman in Miami, rain pouring, hopes dashed after a dumb decision begat another dumb decision.

We’ve seen Mickelson Face on Mickelson already a few times this year; I wonder if the damage from last June is even worse than I thought it might be. This is the time of year Mickelson normally thrives. So far he’s been anything but spectacular with T45, T51 and last week’s missed cut. On Friday, NBC followed him on some of the early holes. He was 2-over through three. This was a guy who knew coming into the round that he needed to make up ground to make the cut and he starts off bogey, birdie, double bogey? A scorecard all over the place is nothing new for Mickelson, but that double bogey was partly due to a terrible chip from just off the green. From just off the green he’s normally one of the best in the world.

At this point it’s too early to tell what’s up with Lefty, if this stumble out of the gate is symptomatic of longer lasting damage. But seeing Mickleson Face in the Super Bowl reminded me of Winged Foot, and how uniquely painful that was to watch. Imagine what it will always feel like to Mickelson, whose dilemma is that he is smart enough and mature enough to recognize that he made a huge mistake, but also smart enough and mature enough to realize that even though he was smart enough and mature enough he still acted under the counsel of Bad Old Phil. He’s got to be wondering if he’ll ever be able to slay the dark side.

Last week: Another near miss in the outright as Bart Bryant came a little unhinged on the back nine, ultimately finishing in fourth place at the FBR. But I did win the head-to-head as Mark Calcavecchia finished higher than Geoff Ogilvy (both missed the cut). At 6-5, 1 unit, that was $1,200. Subtract $500 for the head-to-head picks and I finished plus $700 for the week. That brings the season tally to $1,087.

At this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, take Troy Matteson (33-1), 1/6 unit in the outright: Here’s a guy worth watching all year. He’s coming off a very good rookie campaign in which he won his first tournament on Tour (Frys.com) and made $1.7 million. He finished off 2006 particularly strongly with five straight top 10 finishes, including the win in mid-October. He’s started 2007 on that note with T11, T28, T23 and T14 last week in Arizona. The format of the Pebble pro-am---annoying celebrities slowing everything down, mainly---is always a wild card in terms of how players respond. Some love it. Some hate it, and so don’t play it even though it’s on one of the world’s most famous courses. Matteson must not have been too distracted last year---he finished T27.

Take Vijay Singh (7-1), 1/6 unit: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Don’t forget about Vijay. Since the win at the Mercedes he’s gone T34, T39 and finished 7th last week with a 64 on Sunday. He’s got a strong record at Pebble, including a win three years ago.

Take Luke Donald (12-1), 1/6 unit: Two top 10s in his two tournaments this year before taking the last few weeks off. You would think the courses would suit his precision game (especially Pebble) and that Cool Hand Luke would be able to deal with the distractions of the pro-am … and you would be right: T7, T11, and T17 in his last three trips to the Monterey Peninsula.

In the head-to-head, take Matteson over Phil Mickelson (11-8), 1 unit: I was looking for anybody v. Mickelson in the head-to-head this week. Matteson’s game and Mickelson’s are currently heading in opposite directions.

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Re: Golf Preview: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am

A long, wet week awaits at Pebble
February 7, 2007


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -Rain suits and umbrellas are back in vogue at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where a six-year run of glorious weather on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula appears to be over.

As for the six-hour rounds? The celebrity amateurs who make as much news as the PGA Tour pros?

Some things never change.

Under gray skies and a light mist Wednesday morning, the practice green suddenly came to life with activity as cameras and tape recorders fought for space. You would have thought Tiger Woods was holding court, except that the world's No. 1 player stopped coming to Pebble Beach in 2001 - which, coincidentally, is when the weather improved.

The star attraction was Ray Romano from the CBS sitcom ``Everybody Loves Raymond.'' Two club lengths away was actor Kevin James, who was so uninterested in an interview that he wouldn't look up at the camera while rapping putts toward the hole, missing most of them.

The media fell out of love with Romano and chased after Bill Murray, who lumbered across the green with a box of lime green golf shoes. A local TV reporter asked him for an interview, and the ``Caddyshack'' star told her she had 30 seconds.

``You're burning daylight,'' he said, bending over to tie his shoes.

Murray is infamous for his antics at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, especially the year he tossed a woman into the bunker.

``You're the man of the hour,'' the TV reporter said to him.

Murray looked up.

``What is this, stream of consciousness?'' he said. ``Are those your thoughts are mine?''

Then he tied the other shoe.

Another TV reporter asked him if he felt any pressure.

``Not as much pressure as you're feeling right now,'' Murray replied, and off he went to the first tee for an exhibition.

In many cases, the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am resembles an exhibition - two pros and two amateurs, many of them better known than the players - spending three rounds at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills before the tournament turns a little more serious on Sunday at Pebble with a title to be won.

The rounds typically last six hours with a foursome in each group and plenty of giggles to go around.

The tournament is missing its defending champion, Arron Oberholser, who is recovering from a back injury that probably will keep him out until the Florida swing.

Even without Woods, the field is not lacking.

Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson are among five of the top 10 players in the world rankings, and the tournament even has a former U.S. Open champion from Pebble Beach - Tom Watson, 57, who will be playing with his son.

Also in the field is Peter Jacobsen, who considers this one of the most important weeks in golf.

``This does so much for the PGA Tour,'' said Jacobsen, whose longtime amateur partner was the late Jack Lemmon. ``This event is so important to the legacy that is the PGA Tour, going back to Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and Andy Williams (former host at Torrey Pines) and Glen Campbell (Riviera) and Sammy Davis Jr. (Hartford). All the celebrities here represent that area of people we try to get into the game. And it's important.''

There are defining moments at Pebble from the players, whether it was Woods charging from seven shots behind with seven holes to play in 2000, Mark O'Meara winning five times, Johnny Miller winning at age 46 for the last of his 25 tour victories.

Otherwise, its legacy is twofold - weather and amateurs.

Paul Goydos' partners range from Donald Trump to Rush Limbaugh, and his biggest disappointment with Limbaugh was the conservative talk-show host being unable to hear very well.

``You can't rib a guy who can't hear,'' Goydos said.

He remembers playing with him at Poppy Hills when a liberal fan tried to give Limbaugh a bucket hat.

``This ought to be interesting,'' Goydos recalled. ``He grabs the hat ... 'Thank you' ... Takes his hat off and puts the (bucket) hat on. The hat comes down over his ears. He goes, 'I think that's too big.' I looked at him and said, 'That's not possible.'

``He didn't even flinch,'' Goydos said. ``I thought, 'I'm done.' I can't talk to him. What fun is this?''

Jacobsen talked about the time he played with Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and Greg Norman when Cypress Point was in the rotation. Lemmon hit a shot down the side of a hill into the ice plant, on the edge of an 80-foot drop onto the rocks. Wisely, he was going to leave it alone until Eastwood talked him into it.

``Jack grabbed his wedge and started creeping over the edge ... and I said, 'This is a bad idea,''' Jacobsen said. ``Clint said, 'I got him.' So Clint goes over and grabs his belt and I said, 'Oh, great - two American film icons going to go down on the rock.' So I grabbed Clint by his belt, and Greg Norman grabbed me by my belt, and Pete Bender, his caddy, grabbed him.''

Lemon, a terrible golfer, hit a beautiful shot back to the fairway, and the gallery roared.

``He goes 40 yards from the green,'' Jacobsen continued, ``and shanked it right into the ocean.''

Memories abound at Pebble Beach, and it all gets started Thursday. The chance of rain is 60 percent.


AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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Re: Golf Preview: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am

Mickelson changes the conversation with Pebble win
Sun, Feb 11, 2007
By Associated Press

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Anyone worried that Phil Mickelson was emotionally scarred by that U.S. Open collapse can relax.

Mickelson finally got his season on track Sunday by closing with a 6-under 66 under surprising sunshine to tie the tournament record at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and win by five shots for the 30th victory of his career.

Mickelson overcame a double bogey with a lost ball early in the round with three birdies in a four-hole stretch along the ocean, turning a tight race into another runaway. He matched the largest margin of victory at this tournament, winning by five shots over Kevin Sutherland.

It was the 11th time in 15 seasons that Mickelson won on the West Coast Swing, and the timing couldn't have been better. He had started his season slowly, allowing the conversation to linger on his gaffe last summer at Winged Foot, when he chopped his way to a double bogey on the final hole to lose the U.S. Open.

Now, he looks like he's about to hit his stride.

Mickelson finished at 20-under 268, tying the tournament record at Pebble Beach set in 1997 by Mark O'Meara. He earned $990,000, making him the third person in tour history to surpass $40 million in career earnings.

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