Tournament: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, February 11-14, 2016
Course: 3 course rota of: Pebble Beach Golf Links, 6,828 yards, par 72; Spyglass Hill GC (6,960/72); Monterey Peninsula CC’s Shore course (6,873/72). All three are used the first three days before Sunday's final round on Pebble Beach.
Defending Champion: Brandt Snedeker. The Vanderbilt product (SEC! SEC! uhhh, no.) had a great run of top 10s and top 20s leading up to last years tourney, then won it outright before falling back the rest of the season. This year, his last four tournament finishes are, in order: 3rd, 2nd, 1st at Torrey Pines, and T33rd last week.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
Fun Fact: This is the current version of the 1960's era Bing Crosby Celebrity Clam Bake. Seriously. Before pro golf was a serious thing, this was a drunkfest with bonfires on the beach after the round, too much alcohol, and outrageous stories from Hollywood elite.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Three): Russell Henley, Brendon Todd, Bubba Watson
The Tour takes a break from its Eastward, Ho! journey, and turns back west for a week to Carmel Bay, California and the surrounding collection of exclusive and expensive golf real estate. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has gone by many names over the years, but it was first started by crooner Bing Crosby, who wanted to get some of his guy pals together with the top golfers of the day to share a round of golf and even more rounds of hooch. These days it's a Tour Stop at a coveted course, but pays homage to tradition by including celebrities and corporate honchos to play alongside the pros - all four days. Clint Eastwood led a group of investors to rescue this prime real estate and the tournament about 10-15 years ago, and he makes a scary and slightly creepy appearance at this annual golf gala (he does not play alongside an empty chair, though).
Due to the number of entrants (almost double the norm due to the amateurs), they use three courses the first three days on a rotating basis to spread out the throngs and let everyone finish in daylight. Then a cut for both pros and for the pro/amateur teams happens Saturday night, so the numbers are lessened by Sunday. Spyglass is a great course by itself (and on my "want to play" list), and Monterrey Peninsula has been added in recent years, replacing Poppy Hills (a shame in my layman's opinion). But the star is Pebble Beach - carved along the Pacific Ocean coastline and regarded by most everyone as a top 10 course in the US and the world. It is semi-private, so with about 6 months of a waiting list and $500, you too can tee it up on the same grounds as several major championships. It really is a beautiful setting and has several iconic holes, but I would personally rather play Pine Valley, Muirfield, Bandon Dunes, Merion, Oakmont, and others. I am in the tiny minority, but you never know what you don't know.
There are some decent names in the celebrity portion including Chris Berman (gaack), Wayne Gretzky, Jim Harbaugh (Dockers not allowed on course), the omnipresent Bill Murray/Carl Spackler, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith (who might pull a trap and give Aaron Murray the Chiefs starting job), Steve Young, and Justin Timberlake. I will say it here and open myself up to possible ridicule - I love me some JT, and he's serious about his golf. The one thing I'm glad about is that George Lopez is not in the mix. Kenny G and Alice Cooper have been mainstays, but I didn't see their names on the list. They're both pretty dang good golfers.
On the pro side, world #1 Jason Spieth makes it back stateside to play in his first US tourney since early January. He's joined by Jason Day, world #3, and half of the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Several big names skip this tournament because of its quirky nature and the super-long rounds, made long by the vast amateur ranks and by TV crews stopping Bill Murray after every flippin' shot on every flippin' hole hoping he'll do a Carl Spackler bit. (Hint: he doesn't.) This is a tournament suited for TV, but it doesn't do much for those only wanting to see serious golf. Mickelson will be there, as will Englishman Justin Rose.
But if you're looking for Red & Black, this is skimpier than usual. Only three of Coach Chris Haack's former hacks are entered in the field, and I'm not expecting much. But here's who to root for nonetheless:
Russell Henley (#77). Russell still hasn't found his form, and he missed the cut last week in Phoenix. He is paired with an amateur named "Light." I couldn't find a first name, but maybe Russell is tweaking the nose of Peyton Manning and entered "Bud" as his playing partner.
Brendon Todd (#92). Todd did make the cut last week, ending a streak of 5 MCs in a row. But his T56 finish didn't exactly vault him up the rankings. No two ways about it, he needs some good mojo and I just don't see it happening this week amongst all the hijinks by celebrities ashamed of their golf game or hamming it up in front of the cameras. His amateur partner is "Battle". Again, no first name, so I'm going on the assumption it's Tra Battle. In my mind, I am not wrong.
Bubba Watson (#6). In previous postings I've explained how Bubba didn't fall from #2 so much as get leap-frogged by incredible stretches of golf by dominant players. I also predicted a top 25 last week, and he goes out and gets a tie for 14th. But he lost a few fans along the way, and continues to be a polarizing figure. I did find out the full name of his partner... Mark Wahlberg. Small man, former rapper, jacked up on roids from Boston meets Redneck Riviera left-handed and socially awkward good ol' boy. Match made in heaven. (Research: supposedly they are friends. Who knew?)
The action starts Thursday and will have plenty of TV coverage. Now that the NFL is done for a few months, CBS picks up more of the golf coverage so you'll hear the dulcet tones of announcer Jim Nantz, but sans David Feherty who chased a check on over to NBC.
If you've nothing better to do, tune in and root for your favorites. And....
Round 1 is in the books and there weren't many surprises. Spyglass Hill played the tougher of the three courses, but there were some decent rounds on Spyglass by Justin Rose and others. Here's how the Bulldogs fared:
Bubba Watson shot +14 73 on Spyglass Hill. And that was with two double-bogeys, two bogeys, and five birdies. Apparently he hit two out of bounds on the par 5 14th. Bubba tees off at 12:50 pm ET on the Monterrey course Friday.
Brendon Todd shot even par 71 at Monterrey Peninsula. 3 birdies, 3 bogeys, meh. Todd tees off at 11:11 am ET at Pebble Beach today.
Russell Henley fared a bit better with a 69 (2 under par) at Monterrey. A 3 under 34 on the back side helped him get to a tie for 39th . Russell also plays Pebble Beach at 12:06 pm ET.