Like many visitors before him, two-time defending AT&T Pro-Am champ Dustin Johnson has taken a liking to the Peninsula. Two consecutive AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am titles can do that to an individual.
One reason he’s had so much fun here: good old-fashioned lady luck. When he arrived two years ago the 6-foot-4-inch South Carolina product was randomly paired with local caddy Bobby Brown – as loopers say, Brown “pulled his bag” – and the resulting 2009 title was enough to inspire Johnson to bring Brown along on tour. While Johnson’s strong resume since (he already has two top 10s this year) demonstrates their chemistry travels, Brown’s will be most valuable on the course where he worked for years.
To gather similar insights, the Weekly talked to everyone from greenskeepers to pro-shop jockeys to see what to expect inside and outside the ropes.
Playing the Green
Pebble Beach Company has long been a pioneer in using reclaimed water on its many thirsty courses – as of this year every Del Monte Forest course uses 100 percent recycled wastewater. Now, with the help of local nonprofit The Offset Project, it is trailblazing a much-improved food waste operation. All of the kitchens at Pebble proper have assimilated compost systems; Spanish Bay is up next. Compost receptacles, while not as numerous as trash and recycling bins, will appear in concession areas for the first time, with TOP volunteers there to steer scraps to the right place.
Come February in Pebble, the be-knickered marshall, hands aloft to signal silence for a back swing, is as much an icon as the Lone Cypress. This year they’ll be unavoidable, as numbers jump more than 100 to 630. That was the result of a PGA request, according to Pro-Am spokesperson Cathy Scherzer. “They asked us to get more marshalls to cover the three courses,” she says, “and we did.”
While the Weekly has complete pairings ready to tear out – for free (see p. 26) – this year they are also available as an app at the Android Market, the iPhone App Store or iTunes.
CC by the Sea
The Monterey Peninsula Country Club enjoyed a brilliant return to the AT&T spotlight a year ago, basking in uncanny conditions and drawing huge crowds Friday. The vast majority flocked to the oceanview holes, but it wasn’t too crowded because there are a whopping 14 of them all overlooking the water.
While MPCC keepers said it was in its best shape ever last year, with a full year to anticipate the AT&T it’s now even more jeweled. “The course is only 6 years old,” one staffer says. “Everything’s a little more defined and settling in better.” Two spots where clusters of holes crowd into view nicely include the 6-7-10-11 and the 12-13-15-16 compilations.
The recent unseasonably balmy weather has AT&T veterans, particularly greenskeepers, nervously waiting for the other meterological shoe to drop. It also has long hitters and pressure putters abuzz because everything will be harder, drier and faster. Faster conditions, ironically, could result in slower play when the speedy greens frequently send amateurs to the land of three-putt.
The field is long on players short in the tooth, despite the fact that 26-year-old Jhonattan Vegas – the first Venezuelan in tour history and an early lock for PGA Rookie of the Year after winning his second start – withdrew.
Johnson became only the second player under 25 with multiple victories on the PGA Tour when he first won here in ’09. Now he’s one of 50 players under 30 competing, including Nick Watney, Zach Miller, Hunter Mahan and Joseph Bramlett, the 22-year-old St. Francis High School and Stanford University grad who the San Jose Mercury’s Mark Purdy calls “easily the best local pro prospect in a decade or more.”
Cell phones will be allowed for the first time in years – provided they are put on silent and users aren’t yapping near the ropes or taking pictures, two big no-nos (though photos are allowed during practice rounds). A public service video from tourney chair Clint Eastwood himself will remind arriving fans of the new rule as they board shuttles at CSUMB