PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Jordan Spieth, still only 23, was amazed that this is the fifth time he has played the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He’s been watching it even longer.
Spieth said Wednesday that Pebble Beach was one of the golf tournaments he watched as a kid. He was intrigued, and at times amused, to see PGA Tour players alongside celebrities, entertainers and corporate titans.
“These guys who are just so good at what they do, whatever it is, but they for whatever reason can’t figure out how to golf,” Spieth said with a laugh. “And then they come out here and they’re hitting shots in front of you, and you see how nervous they are.”
And he recalled the weather – usually the nasty stuff.
“Bad days isn’t the way to say it, but just these crazy weather days that just make the Monterey Peninsula kind of meaner on this golf course,” Spieth said.
Buckle up. He might get to experience it himself.
Pebble has been blessed with mostly glorious weather in the five years that Spieth has been playing, except for cold, windy conditions in 2014 and occasional day of light drizzle, fog or an overcast sky.
The three courses on the Monterey Peninsula – Pebble, Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club – have been soaked by recent rain, and more was expected for the opening round on Thursday and lingering into Friday.
Tee times were moved up an hour for the first round to avoid most of the nasty stuff.
For the strong field that has assembled at Pebble Beach, they have come to expect it and are pleased when the crazy weather stays away. But it figures to be sloppy. Webb Simpson, coming off a playoff loss in Phoenix last week, hit his tee shot on the first hole Wednesday morning and the ball was half-submerged in the soggy turf.
Other players were scooting the golf ball around in the fairway as they tried to find a dry spot from which to play.
“I’ve seen it before,” defending champion Vaughn Taylor said of rain and wind. “It’s not that enjoyable, but when you get around Pebble and you still look around … I think someone said last night even when it’s at its gloomiest, it’s still beautiful. That’s what you’ve got to focus on when you’re out there. If it’s nasty weather, just take a look out at the ocean. If you can see it. Because it’s still an amazing place regardless of the weather.”
The field features Jason Day, two-time Pebble winner Dustin Johnson, Spieth and Patrick Reed from the top 10 in the world, along with Phil Mickelson, the runner-up to Taylor last year in his quest for a fifth title at Pebble.
Pebble Beach typically is the toughest course when the wind is up and the rain is sideways, though the Shore Course is now in the territory because of the stretch of holes that run along the Pacific coastline. Spyglass is no picnic because it plays the longest when conditions are soft.
Spieth has started the year solidly, though without a realistic chance of winning. He was third at the two Hawaii events, though a combined 14 shots behind Justin Thomas, who won them both. Spieth tied for ninth in Phoenix.
And already he has dropped one spot in the ranking to No. 6.
That’s an example of how crowded it’s getting at the top of golf. Johnson has a mathematical chance of going to No. 1 if he were to win Pebble Beach for a third time, and if Day were to finish at the bottom of the pack.
“There’s a lot of young, incredible talent that’s on the top of their game, going back to the end of last year and to throughout this year,” Spieth said. “It’s kind of up for grabs right now, is what it feels like. The Masters is going to be a really exciting one this year, as it kind of always is, but it’s going to take some really strong golf, there’s going to be a lot of strong golf played I imagine leading up to it and going into it.”
Sunshine is in the forecast for the weekend, if that can be trusted, so getting to Saturday will be the challenge.
Jim Furyk, a month after being selected U.S. Ryder Cup captain, is making his 2017 debut. He has seen just about everything since first playing Pebble in 1994 (six months after Spieth was born), which included a washout in 1996 and a seven-month delay between the second and third rounds in 1998.
He expects a tough week, and waited until Tuesday to leave Florida.
“One of the reasons I stayed home yesterday was at home it was 77 degrees and the wind topped out at about 7 mph, and I ran around the golf course in about three hours in shorts and hit a bunch of extra shots and got a lot of practice in,” he said.
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