PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Bill Murray slipped on a floppy red hat in the first fairway, stuck a twig in his mouth, looked over to the swarm of fans along the ropes and yelled, “It’s official. We are in the hunt.”
No Tiger Woods? No problem.
The crowds at Pebble come for Murray.
The actor and comedian and other celebrities took center stage in the third round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Saturday. It was the first day most of the stars played the main Pebble Beach course, and the round has traditionally been more about one-liners and shenanigans than birdies and eagles.
Once again, there were all sorts of moments that only Pebble produces.
Murray, star of “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day,” sported the Elmer Fudd-style hat all day and pulled out all his usual tricks to move the masses to laughter. Walking up the fairway on No. 2, a young fan with a San Francisco Giants jersey approached him for an autograph.
“Are you willing to at least look at some Chicago Cubs literature?” asked Murray, a longtime Cubs fan.
“I have an uncle who lives near Chicago,” the boy replied.
“Wouldn’t you rather spend time with him than your mother?” Murray said.
“Sure,” the boy relented, earning the actor’s signature.
“See,” Murray insisted, “Was that so hard?”
Murray also poked fun at members in his group, including former San Francisco 49ers lineman Harris Barton. The three-time Super Bowl winner showed off his trio of championship rings to Murray before the round, then zipped them inside his caddie’s bag.
“For any petty thieves on the golf course now,” Murray said, “make a move at the back pocket. Trust me.”
The Pebble Beach celebrity scene has perhaps changed some from the days Bing Crosby hosted the tournament and Hollywood’s stars first began playing alongside golf’s best. Still, on a weekend where the world’s top three players – Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Woods – skipped Pebble to play half a world away in Dubai, actors and athletes gave fans a show the pros couldn’t touch.
Late-night comedian George Lopez was walking off the eighth green on a picture-perfect day on the California coast, when an older woman shouted in Spanish, “I love you, George!”
In his politically incorrect style, Lopez joked, “Speak English! Now take the sand trap rake and get to work.”
It didn’t seem to matter that the quality of golf wasn’t always up to PGA Tour standards.
On the short par-3 seventh, with seals resting on the shoreline and waves crashing on the cliffs, actor Anthony Anderson – wearing an orange shirt with orange-and-black swirled pants – sent his tee shot about 200 yards. That was only about 94 yards too long, landing somewhere in the Pacific.
“Catch it!” he screamed to the seals, drawing laughs.
Not that the celebrity field lacked athletes.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Giants pitcher Matt Cain were among those in competition. They drew cheers from fans, jeers from others – all in fun.
There were still far more camera clicks for actor Kevin Costner smiling, Andy Garcia puffing his cigar and Ray Romano pleading for a mulligan than any athlete. None of them, however, could steal Murray’s crowds.
Paired with D.A. Points this year, Murray and Points managed to stay one shot back of Bryce Moulder and Harry You for the lead in the pro-am portion of the tournament. Murray even provided some incentive for putting up with his antics.
On the par-5 second, Points had about 6 feet for birdie when his partner made a proposal.
“Make it and you get a bite,” Murray said, holding a doughnut.
Points did. And did.
• • •
NO THREE-PEAT: Dustin Johnson had a chance to become the first player to win three consecutive Pebble Beach National Pro-Ams since the tournament began in 1937. He was lucky just to make it to Sunday.
Johnson hasn’t been much of a factor this week, opening with a 1-over 71 at Monterey Peninsula and making two bogeys on par 5s in his round of 71 at Spyglass Hill. His first full round at Pebble Beach since the U.S. Open wasn’t much better. He bogeyed the first hole, but a burst of birdies after the turn helped him to a 70.
Johnson made a 3-foot par on the 18th hole to finish at 2-under 212 and make the cut on the number.
“I’m still struggling with the putter,” Johnson said. “I didn’t get off to a good start, and I couldn’t get anything going.”
A year ago, Johnson tied for third at Riviera and followed that with a win at Pebble. The schedule was different, mainly because of the Winter Olympics.
Johnson tied for third at Torrey Pines this year, but tied for 29th last week in Phoenix.
“I’m struggling with my game a little bit,” he said. “I’m not hitting the golf shots I want to. I’m playing all right. If I hole the putts I’m supposed to hole, I’m right there. I can’t count how many I missed inside 5 feet.”
• • •
TIN CUP: Actor Kevin Costner credited his role in the movie “Tin Cup” for rekindling his interest in golf.
The 1996 movie was about a washed up amateur, named Roy McAvoy, working at a dinky driving range who qualified for the U.S. Open to impress his rival’s girlfriend. Not only was the film a box-office hit, it apparently sparked Costner’s interest on the course.
Even if his game wasn’t always up to par.
“My life went dark after that movie,” Costner said, laughing. “Nothing’s been the same since I took up golf.”
• • •
DIVOTS: The sparkling sunshine that has glistened Pebble Beach all week isn’t expected to disappoint on Sunday. The final-round forecast is for highs in the mid-60s, partly cloudy and zero percent chance of rain. … Phil Mickelson overcame a slow start with three birdies on his final five holes, shooting a 3-under 69 at Pebble Beach to move into a tie for 11th place. “I probably got as much out of the round there toward the end as I could have,” he said. … Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, followed up his second-round 67 with a 72 to slip back into a tie for 23rd place.
• • •
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this story.