Column: Pebble Beach more than a meeting of land and sea
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) Pebble Beach is renowned as the most felicitous meeting of land and sea.
The tournament is a meeting of a different variety.
For some, it’s an acquired taste.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is a confluence of some of the most important elements on the PGA Tour – corporate support and entertainment value, amateur involvement and professional performance, on a golf course that fans and television viewers would all want to play.
That’s what brought Peter Jacobsen back inside the ropes.
Jacobsen, who turns 64 next month, is playing Pebble for the first time in 10 years. He is exempt as a past champion. Never mind that his two-shot victory was 23 years ago when he closed with a 65 to hold off a PGA Tour rookie named David Duval.
”I was old back then,” Jacobsen said Tuesday as he headed out for a practice round.
Why play now?
It was simply a matter of one request turning into another, along with his deep passion for what he considers the best event on the PGA Tour.
The executive director of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation is retiring, and Jacobsen was asked to be at the dinner in her honor Tuesday night. And then one of his favorite amateur partners, singer Huey Lewis, called and suggested they play together.
”My initial reaction was, `No, I’m not going to play. My game is not ready.’ I don’t play full-time on the Champions Tour,” Jacobsen said.
But he called a few people he trusts about whether he should play, and the notion that he would take up a spot in the field from a more deserving player, and he received nothing but support. He earned his spot by winning the tournament (two months after Jon Rahm was born). He also might be the biggest ambassador of the tournament, dating to his days when he was the longtime partner of Jack Lemmon.
”This is the best tournament on tour,” Jacobsen said. ”It’s the most important tournament, because where else can you spend five hours playing golf with the CEOs of the companies who support our events? You can’t get a half-hour inside Chuck Schwab’s office. But you can get five hours here.”
Executives from six sponsors on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions are in the field, including Benjamin Salinas from TV Azteca, who brought a World Golf Championship to Mexico City last year when the tour couldn’t find a title sponsor at Trump Doral.
The corporate support includes companies that have personal endorsements with players.
The field became stronger again with a young generation that loved being at Pebble and embraced the heritage of the event. Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are regulars. Rahm, who has another chance this week to reach No. 1 in the world, played as a rookie last year and loved it. Rory McIlroy is playing for the first time. Adam Scott is back for the first time since a preview trip in 2010 ahead of the U.S. Open.
Phil Mickelson has missed only once since 1994, when his kids were on spring break.
Many others choose not to play, and they shouldn’t be scorned for that. Some don’t like the poa annua greens, or rounds that can stretch past 5 hours.
”This event is a microcosm of what the PGA Tour is, what it should be and what it has become,” Jacobsen said. ”If some players don’t recognize that? That’s fine. I understand that. Those who do, I admire. I’ve said to a lot of guys, `How much money did you make last year?’ They say, `$5 million.’ I say, `Would you sacrifice one week a year to continue to make $5 million? Go play the AT&T.’
”They might say the greens are bumpy, that it takes five to six hours,” he said. ”So? You’re going to play with a CEO who invests in your tour. Consider it an investment in your career.”
It helps to have a week with abundant sunshine. The latest forecast showed the greatest chance for rain was on Saturday – 5 percent.
Pebble has a reputation for nasty weather. Only a year ago, it was 50 degrees, raining and blowing 30 mph during a practice round. That didn’t stop Jerry Kelly and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from playing.
Sunday is usually about the winner. The exception might have been 2011, when D.A. Points was overshadowed by his amateur winner, Bill Murray. Saturday on CBS is about the celebrities at Pebble Beach.
The entire week is about relationships.
Jacobsen couldn’t finish more than a sentence without stopping to greet someone he knew that was passing by. He knows just about every amateur in the field. He’s still getting to know some of the younger players.
”Chuck! We were just about talking you,” he called out.
Charles Schwab stopped to chat.
This wasn’t a half-hour in his office, just five minutes next to the range. Only at Pebble.