High Tide At Pebble Beach

High Tide At Pebble Beach's Iconic 18th Hole - Photo by FMFP PHOTO/FM

It’s high tide at Pebble Beach literally and figuratively. Why? Because the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has returned and with it has come the great Tiger Woods. And everybody loves Pebble Beach: the players, the celebrity amateurs and the viewers at home.

Watching from home, if you’ve not been there before, it’s torture. The first time I saw the course in person, it was a side trip as a part of a long weekend in Big Sur with my wife. I hadn’t come to play, just to see it. I still remember the reverence in my heart as I walked from the parking lot out to this oh, so famous 18th hole.

A few years later, I finally got the opportunity to play it. Instructed by the pro shop the night before, I showed up as a single at 7:oo AM and was put on the list. Finally, around noon, I worked my way up to the top of the list. And as it became evident that my time had finally come to play the great Pebble Beach and I was bound for the tee, the excitement of this long-awaited moment had me reeling.

I was not the player I would ultimately become years later; but all I remember of the day was the ocean, the ocean, the ocean. And that it was warm, sunny and still; a magical day seemingly provided just for me. And that it was everything the television pictures had promised.

Almost all of the pro-am amateurs have played the course many times, but it is most certainly with that same feeling of reverence I felt the first time I played it. And then to add all of the tournament events that go with it, it’s almost more ecstasy than a golfer can imagine. One wonders how they’ll be sleeping Wednesday night.

Come the dawn, it’s making your way through your wake-up routine to the golf course and the range and to the tee on the course you’re playing, all by 8:00 AM for the guys with the first tee time. Pebble Beach is the host course, of course, and Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are the second and third courses. And both of them are studies in perfect beauty too.

And the ocean. Always the sound of the ocean waves crashing in the background. The hiss of the sea.

For the pros, they have to learn three courses. And there are logistics issues getting from the uni-range to the 1st and particularly the 10th tee at Pebble and over to Spyglass just down the road. All of this needs to be worked into your morning time line; you don’t just make a leisurely walk from the range to the 10th tee, you have to catch a van. MPCC is a little easier because it has its own range, so not as big a deal there.

And there is the responsibility to your pro-am partner. They have paid a lot of money to be there and they have looked forward to it from the day they knew they were in. And they are playing with you for three days and everyone of them dreams first, of making the cut, and second, being competitive and third, winning the whole thing, of course. So while most are very respectful of your professional needs, they want their own contest to be taken seriously as well. And it is: if the pro misses the cut after three days but the team is still in it, the pro plays Sunday in support of the team.

Many of the pros are just completely relaxed by the whole atmosphere. Those who aren’t, know that it’s time to swap Pebble for Riviera on their annual calendar.

So to their playing mantra of choosing a target, seeing the shot and hitting the shot while holding it in their mind, they must add collegiality for the team, coaching and swing tips for their amateurs when invited, and infinite patience for all of the time that it will take, for all of the detours from the normal tournament mindset.

And the pro stars have come out too. In addition to Tiger, there’s Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Vijay Singh, this year’s Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, Padraig Harrington, Rickie Fowler, Aaron Baddeley, Geoff Ogilvy among others.

The man with the trophy on the 18th green Sunday will have negotiated all of the pitfalls and differences…not to mention their own foibles. With his flaming loss last week in Phoenix, Spencer Levin brings the biggest bag of foibles. So it would be heartwarming to see him do well in the aftermath, just as Kyle Stanley survived La Jolla for his first victory in Phoenix.

But with his dramatically improved play, Tiger Woods should have something to say about that.

The Golf Channel, 3:00 to 6:00 PM (Eastern).

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