The AT&T Pro-AM has always had a checkered reputation for bad weather conditions but 2019 set a new standard. I believed that we have had a pretty good run of warm sunshine and benign conditions generating envy throughout the rest of the country. It’s the one time of the year that you actually enjoy being a Californian and don’t mind paying the outrageous taxes and other nonsense that is a daily fact of life here. I do believe the 2017 event was peppered by rain in the early rounds but nothing that matched what occurred here in 2019. It all started on the weekend preceding the event as a gigantic storm wreaked havoc on the Monterrey Peninsula. Power went out in Pebble Beach at 3AM on Friday morning and would not be restored until Saturday night at 9PM. Trees were down everywhere and a massive effort was undertaken by PG&E and tree service companies had to clear the roads of debris from the fallen trees. Personally I began to go stir crazy on Saturday afternoon and decided to grab a carry-bag—with a driver, 5 iron, 7 iron, putter and wedge in hand–I headed to Monterrey Peninsula Country Club and walked the Shore Course. Of course, there was nobody out there and the wind was so strong that my tee shot on No. 12 by the Pacific went a grand total of 140 yards. A large pine tree lay across the 18th fairway felled by the storm. As I reported last week, conditions on Super Bowl Sunday were a bit better and we completed another round at MPCC finishing before dark and watching the second half of the Super Bowl from the cozy confines of the Dunes Shelter restaurant. The weather would continue to be erratic as we played Pebble for our first practice round of the tournament. We teed off in sunshine and by the second hole hail stones were falling from the sky. I felt like I was in Scotland as we endured squalls of rain, brilliant sunshine and pouring rain throughout the day.
Phil Mickelsen was not effected by the weather. After a poor tournament at Phoenix last week, Mickelsen came out firing and stayed close to the top of the leaderboard all week. His putting and ball striking was simply outstanding. In the third round on Saturday, he hit a booming drive on Pebble’s 14th hole and followed the shot with a thunderous 4 iron that found the green. Mickelsen then converted the putt for an improbable eagle on what is one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour. For Mickelsen, the golf hole was as large as a manhole cover this week–he closed out the tournament on Monday morning with another impressive birdie conversion on the 18th hole. Paul Casey led through 3 rounds but he was simply lapped by Mickelsen’s final round 67. Casey is a classy guy with a lot of grit and game. He’s taking a bunch of criticism from the media in his inability to finish tournament as he hasn’t been able to seal the deal when he leads through three rounds. Nevertheless, he birdied the 72nd hole to finish second alone and won the Pro-Am competition with impressive amateur, Don Colleran. Colleran was very impressive hitting shot after shot in front of millions of TV viewers–great concentration. Casey felt vindicated as the same team finished second last year. Mickelsen wanted to finish the tournament on Sunday but Casey advised that it was too dark to see much of anything. Casey was able to persuade Mickelsen that they should come back and play the last 3 holes in daylight. Mickelsen thanked Casey for that piece of advice as he stated that sometimes “I stay in my bubble and can’t see the big picture.” For those pundits who might think that participants’ handicaps in this tournament are sandbaggers couldn’t be more wrong. Ryan Smith helped his professional partner by 26 shots over the 4 rounds and won the Lemmon Award, which represents the best performance by the amateur in the tournament. Smith is a 3 handicap and to play that well under these conditions was quite remarkable.
Personally I had a blast playing in the Pro-AM with my professional partner, Roberto Diaz. Roberto had a great tournament and finished in 18th position. He was ill with stomach flu for most of the tournament and his concentration was impressive as his ball striking was consistent and long. I can’t relate how many 4 footers he made for par/birdie. He really had to grind it out and got the most of his game in rough conditions. I got off to a great start with a par on the long par 4, 10th hole at Pebble for a net birdie and followed it up with a birdie on 12 holing an 8 footer for a natural birdie. Unfortunately, that trend did not continue but I was satisfied with my performance. My son, Ian, caddied for me and it was very special for me to have him on my bag. He did a spectacular job and the few times where I disagreed with him, he was always right. I really enjoyed playing in the tournament and I would have liked to have played better but I was satisfied that I hit a number of quality shots and it felt great having you announced to the crowd and then lacing your first drive down the middle of the fairway.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best Pro-AM tournament on the PGA Tour. It is very well organized and all of the events were first class. The Pebble Beach Company is to be commended for keeping the courses in playable condition with all the weather elements working against it. The worst tract of land I experienced was about 100 yards of fairway in front of Pebble Beach’s 18th hole where the lies were completely bare and exposed. The greens were in good shape despite being pelted with hail and torrential rain.
The next major event at Pebble will be in the US Open in June and the course will be completely different than the one played this weekend. When asked about his chances to win again here at Pebble, Mickelsen refused to engage. He is focused on the upcoming Masters event in April and knows full well that Pebble will be a completely different venue in June.