In the beginning of the week, a wise man told me that the decision to walk Pebble Beach, especially the holes out toward the 10th, was a “commitment.” I found out what he meant on Friday — when I didn’t return to the media center until six and a half hours later.
As Tiger was approaching his last stretch of holes (his group teed off the 10th), I decided to brave the crowds and see if I could catch him coming in (which I usually never make the effort to do, but Pebble and Tiger have a special history). I rode the shuttle to 10, which is almost the farthest point out. I ran toward the eighth green, hoping the throngs hadn’t devoured it yet. Yeah, wishful thinking.
So I settled with 9 fairway, which also gave me a nice view of the green. I didn’t see anything groundbreaking from Tiger, but I did see one of the best shots of my day (and believe me, I saw enough). Ernie must have hit a 3-metal off 9 tee because his ball didn’t cross the ridge like the others. Although he was the furthest out, he judged a beautiful long iron into the green perfectly and knocked it to about 15 feet.
Afterward I walked up to the 9th hole scorer’s tent (which is next to the 10th), figuring scribes were waiting to chat with Tiger. Somehow he snuck out quicker than a flash. Word was that Steiney whisked him away. Anyhow, it didn’t take long for me to realize I had stumbled upon a small treasure. Because the 10th tee is out in no man’s land, the reporters who made the trek were few and far between, which left it easy to ask players some quick questions.
I chatted with a merry Jerry Kelly, an accommodating (with more personality than I expected) Sean O’Hair and a very nice but beaten down Steve Marino. Stay tuned for more this weekend (hopefully).
Moving along. On Thursday I camped out by the 17th green to witness the fascinating train wreck. I chose the 8th green, which was 100 times less gut-wrenching yet equally as intriguing. As you may know, the approach into 8 across a monstrous ravine into a teeny green is considered one of the greatest second shots in golf.
Right off the bat, Camilo Villegas chipped in for birdie from the back left side of the green. Generally speaking, it appeared impossible to stop the ball below the hole even though the conditions were much softer on Friday. Most players, who hit good shots, ended up a little above the hole, just left of the pin.
I also witnessed the most amusing moment of the day during that portion of the program. On Thursday Tiger Woods was heckled. On Friday it was Rory Sabbatini’s turn. His approach stopped in the first cut of rough toward the back of the green, (obviously) above the hole. His chip ran eight feet past, which was really the best you can do from there. On cue after he missed his par putt, someone about 100 yards back in the gallery hollered, “It’s all in your head, Rory!” When he eventually stroked in his two-footer for par, the same heckler yelled, “Nice putt, Rory!” Sabbo was a pretty good sport and just looked up with a half-smile.
I eventually peeled myself from the eighth green and followed “the Bro Group” — Ricky Barnes, Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney — from holes 9 through 13. (And let me tell you, it was hard to watch Barnes’ swing for that long. Puke.) In case anyone cares, Ricky and his brother, who was walking with him, might as well be twins. Yeah, brah, let’s go lift some weights and then guzzle some sick protein shakes.
Before I (finally) leave you for much-needed sleep, I learned a valuable lesson on Friday — which is, when you’re trying to blog about a tournament, don’t get bogged down with soaking in everything and over-report.
Instead, sit in the media tent and venture out for about an hour to watch one group for a few holes. Otherwise you end up being the last to leave…all week. Dedication! Pathetic! Passion! Stupidity! Tired! Goodnight!
Yikes, I didn’t realize I could look so mean/angry/intense.
[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]