This week’s scene-setter shifts from one PGA Tour party (Phoenix) to another of a quite different rank (Pebble Beach). Old-schoolers Juli Inkster and Peter Jacobsen never completely go out of style. And though it isn’t The Starter’s nature to bare all, we talk about some who do.
1. An emotional Gary Woodland returns to the winner’s circle in Phoenix. Not only did it end a five-year drought, but 2017 brought trials off the course. Wife Gabby, expecting twins, lost one in a miscarriage and he later lost a mentor when longtime Kansas coach Ross Randall passed away.
2. A leaderboard of marquee names falls flat on the final day. With Rickie Fowler holding the 54-hole lead and a chase pack that included Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger and Bryson DeChambeau all within two shots, how did every one of them miss the playoff?
3. Juli Inkster becomes the first three-time U.S. Solheim Cup captain. The only question here was whether she would take the job for another cycle. The Hall of Famer has proven not only deft at pairings but finding the right message for any situation. Most importantly, players love her.
AROUND THE TOURS
PGA: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Course: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Monterey (Shore)
Where: Pebble Beach, Calif.
Defending: Jordan Spieth
European: ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth
Course: Lake Karrinyup CC
Where: Perth, Australia
Defending: Brett Rumford
Champions: Boca Raton Championship
Course: Broken Sound CC (Old Course)
Where: Boca Raton, Fla.
Defending: Scott McCarron
Web.com Tour: Club Colombia Championship
Course: Bogota GC
Where: Bogota, Colombia
2017 champion: Ethan Tracy
The Waste Management Phoenix Open could not have come at a better time for Phil Mickelson, who stood perhaps a week away from falling outside the world’s top 50 for the first time since November 1993.
Instead, a tie for fifth lifted Mickelson from No.49 to 41st in the newest rankings. He needs to stay up two more weeks to land a spot in the year’s first World Golf Championships event in Mexico. Fortunately for Lefty, next is Pebble Beach where he’s a four-time champ.
10/29 – 31st (T15 at WGC China)
11/26 – 35th (year-end break)
12/31 – 37th (year-end break)
01/14 – 43rd (final week of break)
01/21 – 46th (MC at CareerBuilder)
01/28 – 49th (T45 at Farmers Ins. Open)
02/05 – 41st (T5 at Phoenix)
Though Pebble Beach has been part of the PGA Tour docket since 1947, the Pro-Am actually goes back a decade earlier. The event debuted in 1937 at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club near San Diego, as Bing Crosby fulfilled his idea of mixing pros with his showbiz pals to raise money for charity.
Sam Snead won three of the first five editions before the Pro-Am took a hiatus during World War II. In 1946, Monterey mayor Dan Searle approached Crosby about reviving the “Clambake” in Pebble Beach, where it has been a February mainstay despite often squally “Crosby” weather.
Celebrities who played with Crosby over the years ranged from fellow crooners (Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson) to actors (Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Paul Newman, Sean Connery) to comedians (Phil Harris, Bob Hope) to top athletes (Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays).
STAT OF THE WEEK
With Woodland’s overtime win in Phoenix, the PGA Tour has now logged 17 bonus holes in four consecutive weeks of playoffs.
By comparison, the 2015 season produced two separate runs of four straight playoff weeks. One stretch combined for just nine playoff holes, the other tallied 10 extras.
HOLE OF THE WEEK
No.8, Pebble Beach Golf Links
Par 4, 418 yards
2017 average: 4.19 (3rd toughest)
Soaking in the view of Carmel Bay from the tee, it’s easy to see why Jack Nicklaus has called No.8 his favorite par-4 in golf. Then, of course, you have to actually play it.
It’s a blind, short tee shot to a tight landing area, followed by maybe 200 yards to a tiny green with a slope that makes it play smaller than it looks. And that approach must travel over a small inlet, where anything short faces a 100-foot drop.
Oh, and did we mention the typical Pebble Beach wind and rain?
No.8 has been among Pebble Beach’s four toughest holes in seven of the past 10 years, topping the list twice. Those 10 winners, by the way, have combined to play the hole in just even-par. A year ago, No.8 produced Jordan Spieth’s only bogey in two trips around the layout.
2017 AT&T Pebble Beach: No eagles, 12 birdies, 161 pars, 40 bogeys, 7 double bogeys, nothing higher
DID YOU KNOW?
Peter Jacobsen, the 1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am champion, is set to tee it up in this year’s edition at age 63.
The start comes 41 years after Jacobsen’s Pebble Beach debut, when he tied for 43rd behind 1977 winner Tom Watson. Now an NBC analyst, he hasn’t made a PGA Tour start since 2014 in Palm Springs.
BARING IT ALL
For all the inebriated antics that go on during the Waste Management Phoenix Open, perhaps the remarkable thing about Wednesday’s streaker is that it took 32 editions at TPC Scottsdale to see its first.
Alas, that streak (so to speak) is now over. But the dirty break-dancing exhibited out by the 17th green did bring to mind some other classic golf streakers of the past.
Best known is Peter Jacobsen’s takedown on the final day of the 1985 Open Championship, posing like a WWE wrestler as bobbies finally took the elusive man into custody. The adrenaline rush, though, wound up causing Jake to bogey the hole.
Tiger Woods was the target in back-to-back Opens, including 1999 when a not-so-young lass in a G-string planted a kiss on his cheek. One year later, a woman cavorted with the flagstick as Woods’ group came up the 18th fairway at St. Andrews.
Jim Furyk has been something of a magnet, too, encountering streakers at both the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields and the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales.
“And now here’s Jack Lemmon, about to hit that all-important eighth shot,” said ABC’s Jim McKay, narrating the Oscar-winning actor’s perpetual hard-luck escapades to a nationwide television audience in 1969. Lemmon never made the Pebble Beach amateur cut in a quarter-century of trying.
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