Rain expected to reign at Pebble Beach

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 8, 2017 at 7:42 PM
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There are plenty of times that the shores of the Monterey Peninsula and the three courses used for competition at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am are the greatest places in the world to play golf.

That will not be the case for this year's tournament, at least on Thursday and Friday if the cool temperatures, gusting winds rolling hard off the Pacific Ocean and driving rain that have been forecasted continue their hold over the area.

The 72-hole event is scheduled to be contested Thursday-Sunday but, because of the weather, everything is in flux. Due to the expectation of inclement weather, Round 1 tee times have already been moved up an hour.

Around here, the locals call this "Crosby" weather after entertainer Bing Crosby and his affinity for playing in the cold, wet and rainy conditions that have long been one of the constants of this tournament. Founded in San Diego in 1937, the event moved up the California coast to Monterey in 1947 and rainy weather has been the norm.

The starting field consists of 156 professionals and 156 amateurs paired together as a team. Each day the teams play on one of the three courses, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course.

Then on the final day, those professionals and pro-amateur teams making the 54-hole cut play their final round on Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the world's most famous and iconic golf courses.

The last time the AT&T had a serious disruption was in 2009, when the final round had to be canceled due to a Sunday windstorm and a Monday rainstorm. That year's event was claimed by Dustin Johnson, who had a four-shot lead after 54 holes.

"We were due for a year of rain and bad weather, but it's still going to be a great week and a great tournament," said Johnson, who will be paired with his father-in-law and hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

"It's going to be windy and rainy and it's going to make play more difficult," Johnson said. "The ball's not going to go very far and you're going to be out there for a long time and it's going to be cold and wet. A lot of it is going to be mental."

For the PGA Tour pros, a purse of $7.2 million is in play, with $1.296 million and 500 FedExCup points going to the winner.

Four of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, led by world No. 1 Jason Day, are in the field. They include Johnson (4), Jordan Spieth (6) and Patrick Reed (10).

For the amateurs -- an A-list of celebrities, athletes and CEO of some of the nation's top companies who ante up as much as $30,000 for the right to play in this event -- bragging rights among the Alpha males is in the offing.

Things were so extreme on Tuesday that the weather wiped out play for all but a hearty few tour players and amateurs. By mid-morning, a number of bunkers had turned into lakes, numerous greens had puddles of standing water and no one was on the courses except greenskeepers.

Tournament officials tweeted that spectators should just stay away from the courses and save their strength for the coming days of golf.

The forecast currently calls for rain and rain and more rain -- a 100-percent chance for Thursday's opening round and a 60 percent chance for Friday's second round.

The sunshine is supposed to return by the weekend, but by then the event could be looking to make up those first two rounds in a three-day window that might extend into a Monday finish. Three complete rounds -- a minimum of 54 holes -- must be contested in order for it to be an official PGA Tour finish.

D.A. Points, the winner here in 2011, is paired, as usual, with comedian Bill Murray and will be under adder scrutiny because of Murray's popularity and antics on the course.

Points said he's glad he isn't playing at Pebble Beach until Saturday, when the weather should calm down.

"Thursday is looking pretty diabolical at Pebble," Points said. "Pebble Beach, honestly, is a pretty gettable golf course for us (pros) -- until the conditions come up. But I play Spyglass on Thursday, which is arguably the hardest course in the mix. With the toughest conditions, that could be a real challenge, too."

Last year's champion, Vaughn Taylor, is back to defend his title. He trailed Phil Mickelson by six strokes after 54 holes but made consecutive birdies on holes 13-16 and fired a 5-under 31 coming in. Taylor made 108 feet of putts in the final round including a 28-foot, 11-inch bomb on the 16th hole for birdie to take the outright lead at 17-under.

Taylor finished a stroke in front of Mickelson and two clear of Jonas Blixt of Sweden. Taylor and Gregg Ontiveros, CEO of Milan, Ill.-based company Group O, won the pro-am portion of the tournament by one stroke over Blixt and Jamie Williamson. It made Ontiveros a two-time amateur champion (he won with tour winner Brian Harman in 2012).

Taylor said there are a unique set of challenges that accompany a pro-am competition.

"There's been a lot of things happening with the amateurs on certain holes and you just have to sit back and let that happen," Taylor explained. "Someone's going to walk in your line a couple of times a day, but you just have to let that go and focus on what you have to do to win the tournament."

Five of the nine different winners on the PGA Tour in 2016-17 are in the field: Cody Gribble (Sanderson Farms Championship), Rod Pampling (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), Pat Perez (OHL Classic at Mayakoba), Mackenzie Hughes (The RSM Classic) and Jon Rahm (Farmers Insurance Open).

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