PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – We have arrived at that week on the PGA Tour schedule where when they announce the pairings, you don’t look at the guys on the left-hand side of the draw, you care about those on the right.
Be it a financial giant (Charles Schwab) or an iconic funnyman (Bill Murray), it’s always a highlight of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to scan the pairings and produce a few musings. One such notable group that gives you reason to pause is John Westwood. He’ll be alongside his famous son, Lee, and that brings a smile to the face of the world’s eighth-ranked player.
But let the record show, this might be a pairing to be reckoned with. After all, they did win the Dimension Data Pro-Am team competition in South Africa, albeit 13 years ago. That’s right, they triumphed in 2000 – Westwood rolled to a six-stroke win in the individual race, too – so the question was asked: What took so long to give dad another shot?
Westwood smiled. “Well, I have this week. We won (13 years ago), so we’re on a streak.”
John Westwood “had a massive influence on me,” Lee said, explaining that it was his father who first brought him to the golf course. Neither had ever played the game, so more than 35 years later they will get to share it still, on one of the sport’s most popular stages, no less.
And make no mistake about it: Though Westwood is a proud Englishman, his respect for Pebble Beach is immense. “A magical place,” he called it. Though it’s just his second time in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Westwood placed T-5 and T-16 in the U.S. Opens here in 2000 and 2010, respectively.
If he had one place to play before leaving this earth and “it wasn’t a golf course by a hospital, it would be Pebble Beach.”
Coming off a solid tournament in Dubai a week ago (he was joint fifth), Westwood is ready for a great stretch to open the 2013 season. After Pebble Beach, he’ll play next week in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, then move on to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz., before returning to southern Florida, where he now sets up camp. It has been a seamless move, Westwood said.
Waking up and tossing on “a pair of shorts and a T-shirt to go hit balls is almost too easy,” he said.
Comforted by the pairing with his father, Westwood is not alone, because that sits at the heart of this week’s tournament. “Quite a relaxed week,” said the former No. 1, who was asked if he had any advice for his father. Prepare in whatever manner is best, said Westwood.
“If it’s Heineken, it’s Heineken. If it’s practice, it’s practice.”
Good fun, which is why as you look up and down the lineup, your eyes stop at notable pairings that produce some musings.
• How fitting is it that Retief Goosen is paired with a guy whose claim to fame is a show called “Squawk Box,” Joe Kernen?
• Cool connections throughout the group that will go off of Monterey Peninsula’s first tee at 8:44 a.m. Thursday. Returning to the scene of where they nearly won a year ago, Bill Belichick is back alongside Ricky Barnes, whose father played for the Patriots back in the 1960s. The other pro in the group is the pride of Boston, James Driscoll, and his partner is Brian Kelly, head football coach at Notre Dame. One could surmise that some football talk will fill the cool, crisp air.
• From the No Shock Dept.: Wayne Gretzky is paired with his daughter’s current significant other, Dustin Johnson.
• With Davis Love III having withdrawn, the honor of playing alongside Condoleezza Rice goes to Jason Bohn. Little Alabama fraternity, perhaps. It’s Rice’s native state, and it’s where Bohn went to college.
• Rafael Cabrera Bello must be an honorary Irishman for the week. He’s playing with Dermot Desmond, the gregarious Irishman whose best friend, J.P. McManus, will again be paired with Padraig Harrington. Last year, Harrington and McManus shared the title with Brian Harman and Gregg Ontiveros.
• How ‘bout that Dynamic Dallas duo, Jordan Spieth and Tony Romo?
• Murray and D.A. Points will be together again, attempting to rekindle their winning magic of 2011.
• Some serious flavor in the celebrity rotation, at least for San Francisco sports fans. Giants pitcher Matt Cain (paired with Matt Bettencourt) will be in the same group with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (with Jason Day). Being in the celebrity rotation means they will play Monterey Peninsula on Thursday, Spyglass Hill on Friday, and Pebble Beach on Saturday, clearly offering them CBS exposure for Round 3.
• Think this pairing believes in a bit of power? Robert Garrigus with Tigers’ right-hander Justin Verlander?
• For all you Vanderbilt fans who will be in attendance, be at Monterey Peninsula’s first tee at 10:01 a.m. for your former heroes, Brandt Snedeker and Luke List. The former will be paired with Toby Wilt, the latter with Heidi Ueberroth.