Last night UK time, late afternoon in California, Ted Potter Jr won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am by three shots from Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Chez Reavie. It was his second win on the PGA Tour, his first since 2012. Almost Faldo-esque, after chipping in for a birdie on the 7th, he parred the final 11 holes for a three-under-par 69. Paul Casey finished in a tie for eighth, ten shots off the pace. Rory McIlroy, playing in the event for the first time – with his father, Gerry, as his amateur partner (a sumptuous 60th birthday present) – missed the cut by two shots. His putting was often atrocious, notably in the second round when he drove to the edge of the green on one par-four but used his blade five times before walking off with a six. Still, given the course’s glorious oceanside location, and the fine weather last week, I’m sure Gerry had a ball even if his son golfed his rather more frequently than he would have wished. On to LA and Riviera for him.
As well as Pebble Beach, two other layouts are involved in the tournament: Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The competitors play all three courses over the first three days and then it’s Pebble again on Sunday for those who have made the cut. The event used to be called the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, having been founded by the famous crooner and actor of that name. That was the era when, instead of corporate sponsors, showbiz names promoted the early-season events on the PGA Tour. There were also, for example, tournaments named in honour of Bob Hope (Palm Springs), Andy Williams (San Diego) and Glen Campbell (Los Angeles). And they say the romance/stardust has gone out of big-time sports…
In his wonderful book The Bogey Man, published 50 years ago, George Plimpton recalled playing in the event as part of a series of stories he was writing for Sports Illustrated. On checking-in at the registration desk, he saw Crosby smoking “a very long-stemmed pipe…which he would take out from time to time to speak his fancy brand of talk, as formal as a litany: ‘Ah, Brother so-and-so, the authorities inform me that you have ambulated across our fair acres and invited yourself a sizeable seven on the 8th. What transpired? Did you happen to traffic with the cruel sea’?”
Writing in Golf Digest as part of a US Open preview in 1982, Peter Andrews said of that hole: “You will almost certainly be informed that the 8th is one of the premier two-shotters in golf, requiring a drive down the left side of the fairway in the 240-yard range followed by a boring iron some 190 yards over a yawning chasm to a green about the size of a double-bed surrounded by bunkers. I love reading about stuff like that, just as I love reading about men who have won the favours of Catherine Deneuve. It may not be immediately useful to me but it does have a certain anecdotal value and I am delighted to know that it can be done.” Marvellous!
Plimpton concluded his round at Pebble by hitting his approach shot over the 18th green, on to the clubhouse lawn. “Damn near hit a marshal,” someone told him as he walked towards it. “I had the sense of intruding into a wedding reception,” wrote Plimpton. “My ball, lying starkly on the lawn, seemed an object quite out of place, rather obscene…” Given that his professional partner was at that moment lining up a putt for a birdie, the author did the sensible thing. He put his ball in his pocket.
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