PGA Tour: Pebble Beach Pro-Am Just Not What It Used To Be

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2010

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 11:  Actor Bill Murray looks on during round one of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course on February 11, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Thirty years ago, the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer used to walk the fairways of Pebble Beach alongside some of the most famous celebrities on the face of the planet.

These were A-listers comparable to today’s Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Tom Cruise.

Following their rounds each day, golfers and celebrities alike would all retire back to Bing Crosby’s house for a night of fun and laughter, which would inevitably lead to tired eyes for those with early tee times the following morning.

The Bob Hope Classic used to be very similar.  It was simply the Bing Crosby Clambake moved to the Palm Springs desert.

At the time, these events were exactly what the game of golf needed. Crosby, Hope, and the scores of other A-list celebrities who participated gave golf a full-fledged boost of “coolness.”

But during the last 40 years, these events have slowly but surely eroded into,well, just bad television.  

Today, it’s a toss up between Michael Bolton and Bill Murray as to who is the biggest celebrity participating in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

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Bill Murray’s routine used to be funny, but 20 years later it’s getting a little mundane.

How often can you watch a guy intentionally hit a bad shot when the cameras are on him and throw his club up in the air in a performance worthy of a Razzy?

Kenny G received more air time on Thursday afternoon than Jim Furyk.

Michael Bolton’s swing probably made more than a few viewers check to see whether or not the tournament was in a rain delay and the Golf Channel was airing one of its Funniest Video shows to pass the time.

Aside from Bolton, Kenny G, Murray, and a few others, most celebrities were so unrecognizable to the general public that Frank Nobilo and Kelly Tilghman needed to explain to viewers exactly who these people were and why they were famous.

But wait, it gets worse: This fiasco will continue through Sunday.

Who wants to see some 55-year-old, overweight, millionaire banker hacking around the 18th hole on Sunday while Phil Mickelson is standing in the fairway down by a stroke and debating whether or not to go for the green in two?  

That would be the equivalent of going to a baseball game and having to watch 55-year- old bankers attempt to hit major league fastballs in between each MLB batter.

Would anyone actually pay money to see that?

Now, eliminating these tournaments altogether is more or less out of the question. They are historic landmarks on the PGA Tour’s schedule, and goodness knows the tour needs the money that the sponsors and amateurs bring in at these events.

Tim Finchem and the gang may very well be footing the bill for half a dozen tournaments next year, so, as the saying goes, every little bit helps.

But what they can do is change the schedule.  

Right now the PGA Tour starts its season off in Hawaii - fun to look at for a little while, but not overly exciting golf.

The Tour then begins it’s west coast swing with the Bob Hope Classic where Mike Weir was the highest ranked golfer and that guy from Spin City who now appears in “the way I say Massapequa” commercials was the best known celebrity in the field.

Sorry, that guy also had a small role in Weekend and Bernie’s…Part one that is.

From there the tour mixes in two solid events: the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera before heading north for another three-ring circus.  The Monterey Peninsula Country Club is on the right, Spyglass Hill is on the left, and Pebble Beach could be considered the center ring of this Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Circus.

Just when the PGA Tour season begins to gain some momentum, BANG, it’s back to lala land.

Here are two suggestions for the PGA Tour:

1) Find a host that can bring in an A-lister or two

2) Move the AT&T Pro-Am to the week immediately following the Bob Hope. Get these debacles out of the way, bank the sponsors and amateur’s checks, and get on with the real season.  

One way or another, something needs to be done about these tournaments, otherwise sporting events such as Norway and Finland competing in a curling match will continue to provide a better alternative to a tournament that used to be one of the biggest and most well-liked events on the PGA Tour’s schedule.  

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