PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Another day of endless blue sky, vibrant sunshine, moderate wind, and breathtaking views . . . forget Dubai having the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 golfers in the world. With Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill GC and Monterey Peninsula CC, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has reasons 1, 2, and 3 to be here, not there.
And with that, we offer up five other storylines with this annual classic:
1.) Good days for bloodlines
They are connected to Hall of Famers and players who realized massive success on the pro golf stage. But while that might help you get into the game and some tournaments, the fact is, you’re on your own when you get between the ropes.
On that front, a round of applause for Keegan Bradley and Sam Saunders for the way they roared up the leaderboard. Bradley, whose aunt is legendary LPGA Tour star Pat Bradley, shot 3-under 69 at Spyglass to push to 8 under, sitting third, though five off the lead. Meanwhile, at Pebble Beach, Saunders – whose grandfather, Arnold Palmer, besides being the icon of all golf icons, is a part owner of this golf resort – eagled the par 5 second in a round of 67 that moved him into a share of fourth, at 7 under.
While Bradley is on a roll of sorts in his rookie season (three starts, three cuts made, one top 10, $207,275 already won), Saunders is without status and dependent upon sponsor exemptions. Given his family connections that doesn’t figure to be a problem; in fact, he’s been blessed with his second this year and this is his 10th since 2006.
Still, Saunders understands he has to eventually prove he belongs and Bradley feels similarly – not that he didn’t appreciate aunt Pat’s “hand signals and nods” from behind the ropes at Spyglass.
“It’s just fun to look around and play with the boys I’ve seen on TV all these years,” Bradley said. But truthfully, Bradley looked more pleased when he was asked about his college affiliation.
“I graduated from St. John’s University, who beat UConn yesterday by 18. It was fun to watch,” he said with a wide smile.
2.) Fore, left – oh, and fore, right
If you’ve come to pro golf tournaments before, it’s easy to forget sometimes that you have to have a different set of awareness at these pro-ams. Remember, half of these players don’t do this for a living, which puts spectators in the line of fire.
Thursday at Monterey Peninsula, family and friends of George Lopez moved well back and out of the way as the comedian stood on the 18th tee and aimed down the left side of the fairway. As some fans stood close to the rope line, the Lopez gallery suggested they move back. They did, and while Lopez’ tee shot never put them in danger, he did pull it wildly left, almost into a homeowner’s yard.
Different golf course, different direction, but similar result Friday when Padraig Harrington’s longtime friend and compatriot, J.P. McManus peeled a fairway wood well right and out of bounds while hitting his second shot at Pebble Beach’s famed 18th hole.
Seconds later, Dermot Desmond, another delightful Irishman and the amateur partner for torrid Steve Marino, sprayed his second shot at 18th to the right. It stayed on the course, but only after going over the head of Harrington’s wife, Caroline, and a few of her friends from Ireland.
Joined by Desmond and McManus, Caroline Harrington and friends had a good laugh, but seconds later it was a bit of anguish. That’s because Desmond’s third shot went wide left, up and over the seawall and the ball was last seen swimming toward Hawaii.
3. Lefty is all right
One day after spitting up a couple of three-putts and four bogeys at Monterey Peninsula, three-time champion Phil Mickelson settled into a groove at Spyglass.
Playing bogey-free, Mickelson shot 5-under 67 and hurdled 62 players. At 4 under, he sits tied for 24th.
Given the way the rotation is established so that the most attractive names are at Pebble Beach for Saturday’s CBS show, no surprise that Mickelson will be in the middle of everything. His group will be off at 8:55 a.m. PST but he’ll need to put the pedal to the metal if he hopes to get back into contention.
He’ll start the day nine shots behind red-hot leader Steve Marino, who’ll bring his game over to Monterey Peninsula.
4.) Workhorses for courses
Don’t look now, but there seems to be a little bit of game left in the Big Fijian. Of course, we’re talking about Vijay Singh, who just a few weeks ago made headlines by dropping out of the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since 1989.
Apparently that didn’t sit well with Singh, for he promptly finished tied for third at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. That got him to No. 81 in the world order and if things keep going the way they are here on the peninsula, well, who knows how high he’ll soar.
Singh, the 2004 winner here and a playoff loser to Steve Lowery in 2008, shot 2-under 68 at Monterey Peninsula and through 36 holes is 5 under, tied for 18th.
No surprise to anyone who has watched Singh through the years, but as players filed off of Monterey Peninsula CC Thursday afternoon, one player remained on the range hitting ball after ball after ball. Yes, it was Singh, who apparently loved the serenity of MPCC’s range, because he had played that day and shot 69 at Pebble Beach.
5.) It’s all part of the clambake show
There was a bit of a traffic jam trying to get down the steps toward the putting green. Understandable, of course, because Kurt Russell was talking to Oliver Hudson and picture-takers were lining up.
Once that roadblock was cleared, it got a little congested over in front of the famed Pebble Beach “Lodge.” But again, no one could complain, because George Lopez was holding court and that’s as much a staple to this tournament as the Pacific backdrop to the 18th hole.