Originally created 01/30/97

Pebble Beach more like a party than PGA stop



PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - British Open champion Tom Lehman was strolling past the practice green at Pebble Beach when a familiar face stopped him in his tracks.

"I saw James Woods," Lehman said, referring to the actor currently starring in the film "Ghosts of Mississippi."

"I said, `Excuse me, are you James or Tiger?"' Lehman recounted with a huge smile.

That's the kind of atmosphere there is at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It is like no other tournament. Fans are as likely to run into Joe Pesci or Clint Eastwood as they are to run into Phil Mickelson or Tom Watson.

A whopping 180 professionals - 36 more than at a normal PGA Tour event - play with 180 amateurs over three courses in an event that has more the feel of a Hollywood party than a PGA Tour stop.

"You just need to have a little different mind set," Lehman said Wednesday on the eve of the first round. "You have Bill Murray clowning in the bunker or Jack Lemmon joking with the gallery. It's a lot of fun. You just have to adjust like you would have to adjust to wind or ran."

It is a wacky atmosphere where the pros always have to be on the lookout for a wild shot by an amateur and be wary of a camera clicked in the middle of the backswing. Pebble Beach is the only event where fans are allowed to take cameras on the course during competition.

And as bizarre as it has been in the past at Pebble it should be even weirder this week when Tiger Woods, the hottest player on the planet, is paired with Kevin Costner, the heart-throb who scored big as a golfer in the film hit "Tin Cup."

Woods, who has adapted nicely to the celebrity scene and refers to Costner as "Cos" or "Kev," was more concerned with the state of his golf game than he was with the enormous galleries sure to follow him.

"Everybody will be watching Kevin," Woods said with a smile before heading to the practice range to work with his coach Butch Harmon on a swing Woods said is "off right now."

The practice range was the only place the players could work out in the days leading to the tournament. A month of rain left all three courses - Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Poppy Hills - closed to practice.

While the forecast for the next couple of days is good, rain on the weekend could leave the already saturated courses unplayable and put the tournament in the same situation it was last year when it was called off after 36 holes.

With last year's event washed out the defending champion is 1995 winner Peter Jacobsen. He'll be challenged by Woods, Lehman, Nick Faldo, Steve Stricker, Mark Brooks and Steve Jones, who shot 26 under par in winning the Phoenix Open last week.

Joining Costner, Murray, Lemmon and James Woods in the amateur ranks are NFL star Jerry Rice, former quarterback Roger Staubach, actors Randy Quaid and Andy Garcia and singers Huey Lewis, John Denver and Glen Campbell.

DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus again has as his amateur partner his son Steve, who frequently caddies for dad. ... Tiger Woods' agent, Hughes Norton of International Management Group, is a member of the defending team champion. Norton and David Duval won Pebble Beach in 1995. ... Woods had a chance to play as an amateur in this tournament while at Stanford but turned down the invitation. "It was finals time," Woods said. "It was a week of school I didn't want to miss, especially at Stanford." ... As wet as the courses are it's likely the players will be able to clean their ball anywhere, even in the rough. "You hit it, dig it out of the ground, clean the mud off it and hit it again," Lehman said about playing under these conditions.