Thursday, February 14, 2008
The biggest question leading into the ’08 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was not the one posed by comedian Gary Mule Deer hours before the first tee time. “Do you think,” he said to the Clambake crowd, sporting a coiffure tall enough to pick up AM radio, “that they should put missing transvestites on cartons of half and half?”
The real question was not whether God waits for a tee time at Pebble Beach, as ESPN personality Chris Berman suggested after he and platinum saxophonist Kenny G won the Celebrity Shoot-out Wednesday afternoon.
And the question was not whether Pro-Am favorite Glenn Frye and his fellow Eagles should sell their CD at venues besides Wal-Mart. (As the opening act at the Clambake, Frye admitted people have “mixed feelings about Wal-Mart,” and suggested a solution: “Go buy 10 of our CDs there and we’ll provide health care.”
No, the real question was this: Will the recent depressing dampness dry out and allow the assembled masses to focus on what they have (“the greatest tourney in the world,” as Clambake emcee Dina Ruiz Eastwood called it) and not on what they don’t (Bill Murray, Tiger Woods)?
For that and a bag of other questions, the answer was a resounding “yes” – the memory of weeks of January rain evaporated with a gorgeous Thursday followed by three days that seemed to grow five degrees warmer as they came.
While the near-record crowds scrambled to find their long-forgotten sun screen, those other questions flew around like uphill approach shots at Spyglass’ 8th, where the challenging par turns the golf gallery into a shooting gallery. Two questions zipping around Spy that same Friday: Did George Lopez really wear a skirt/kilt – and reportedly lift it at his final hole of the day to reveal a g-string? Yes.
There were other questions. Did Kevin Costner tell the gallery that the fan in front of his butchered wedge from the bunker “should’ve caught the ball in his teeth”? Yes.
Did Andy Garcia sign a high school girl’s leg that said “Sign Here” with an “AG” and an arrow pointing to her butt? Yes.
Did at least one onlooker wonder (very loudly) aloud, ‘Kenny G, why do I like you so much?’ Yes, though Grammy Award-winning Mr. G – the same curly-haired scratch golfer who solves the greens at Pebble as effectively as any other amateur, was stumped by the question.
And did an Eagle make a birdie and then high five a Walrus? Yes: On Thursday Frye holed one from the rough at Poppy before receiving a high five from Craig Stadler.
But nobody would’ve answered “yes” to the question each golf fan was wondering after a different birdie sent the AT&T to a playoff for the first time in 16 years, a fitting enough conclusion given that the first four days were defined by a leaderboard as crowded as the sky was clear. Playing in the final foursome, Vijay Singh needed a bird to force a playoff and promptly stuck his approach within 30 inches, bringing the grandstand to thunderous life. That sparked the question that was buzzing around the 18th fairway as Singh and 47-year-old Steve Lowery rode past backwards for the 73rd hole of the tourney: Does the journeyman here on an exemption and without a win in his last 199 starts have a chance to beat the ’04 AT&T champ and one of the more intimidating presences on tour?
Having gone winless in 199 starts, Lowery looked as much like a potential champion next to the Pro-Am’s number-two all-time money winner as the adolescents in rent-a-cop uniforms stationed throughout Del Monte Forest looked like real security guards.
But then they played the hole, Singh splashed two shots in the sand, and Lowery popped his short approach to within 10 feet. After Singh gamely scrambled to post a par, Lowry rolled in his birdie – he had the second best putting average for the tournament – and all the suits gathered around to watch him hoist the heavy crystal ware against the backdrop of a crystalline Carmel Beach.
It was another great AT&T week, one country legend Clay Walker and singer Huey Lewis call their favorite week of the year, and one Pro-Am President Ollie Nutt says will set an all-time high for charity monies raised.
Lopez summed it all up as succinctly as anyone, with a question no less, one that came in between a nice putt and a smash of a drive (and corresponding crowd-surfing interludes) at the 14-15 corner of Pebble: “It’s great, isn’t it?” he said.
The huge smile on his face said one thing: yes.