Originally created 02/11/99

Golf notes: PGA Tour too hasty again in shortening Pebble Beach



PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The PGA Tour would have been better off consulting Bill Murray instead of relying on another ominous weather report at Pebble Beach.

"I'd keep playing," he would have said, reprising his famous line from "Caddyshack." "I don't think the hard stuff's going to come down for quite a while yet."

And this time, he would have been right.

Lightning struck again at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and not just because the tournament failed to go 72 holes.

For the second time in four years, tour officials considered a soggy, sloppy course, contemplated a forecast for even more rain and decided to pull the plug.

And just like 1996, it proved to be a rash decision.

The day after the '96 tournament was canceled because only 36 holes had been played -- the first time that had happened since the 1949 Colonial -- sunshine bathed the Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach Golf Links was open for business.

This year's tournament ended at 2 p.m. Sunday after tour officials huddled around a hi-tech radar screen and saw a storm system that stretched all the way from Carmel Bay to the coast of Japan.

"If we had one comment from our meteorologist that said I think you will see some sunshine tomorrow, that you wouldn't have more rain, we would definitely have been trying to play more," PGA Tour tournament director Arvin Ginn said Sunday.

One problem.

Weather, especially at Pebble, is nothing like death and taxes.

On Monday, after Payne Stewart had already taken his crystal and $540,000 first-place check home to Florida, the first group teed off at 7:30 a.m. Tees dotted the fairways, a reminder of what could have been. They had been left there by David Duval, Tim Herron, Vijay Singh and everyone else who had to mark their balls when play was suspended.

By 10 a.m., about the time Stewart could have been finishing the first hole, the sun blazed through the clouds.

"I never thought I'd say this today," said Steve Wille, a senior vice president for Pebble Beach Co., "but the truth is I lost a ball in the sun."

The wind was whipping Monday, with gusts up to 30 mph, perfect conditions for a final round at Pebble Beach.

Ginn was on the phone with commissioner Tim Finchem throughout the day. He had the best information available, and the forecast gave him no reason to believe the conditions would improve by Tuesday.

But given the wild weather patterns of Pebble Beach, tour officials would have been better off waiting until Monday to make that decision. If it's still raining and the course is deemed unplayable, everyone goes home.

MATCH PLAY UPDATE: A week ago, Rocco Mediate moved from 111th to 57th in the World Ranking by winning the Phoenix Open. Craig Stadler's third-place finish at Pebble Beach moved him from 70th to 59th.

This is the final week to qualify for the $5 million Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship by being ranked in the top 64.

As for the possibility of a Tiger Woods-Nick Faldo match in the first round, that's still a possibility.

Woods narrowly kept the top spot over Duval and is playing this week in San Diego. And although Faldo slipped a notch to No. 65, he still could get in. PGA Tour sources say No. 14 Jumbo Ozaki has decided not to come to La Costa (big surprise), meaning that No. 65 would play No. 1 in the first round.

BACK OFF, CADDIES: In recent years, the practice of caddies standing behind players to make certain they are properly aligned has become more prevalent. TV viewers and gallery members often express surprise that the practice is allowed. Apparently, the U.S. Golf Association has wondered the same thing.

During its annual meeting last weekend, the USGA proposed a ban on caddie aligning. If the USGA rules committee and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ratify the proposal, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2000.

The USGA, while electing president Morgan "Buzz" Taylor to a second term, also proposed that players be allowed to remove stones and rocks from bunkers without penalty.

NOTES: One of the amateurs in the Buick Invitational field is Tim Mickelson, who attends Oregon State. Big brother Phil made his PGA Tour debut in the same tournament as a teen-ager. ... Golfweek magazine has a new college golf ranking from statistics whiz Jeff Sagarin, who football power ranking was part of the Bowl Championship Series formula. Clemson, with Augusta's John Engler among the staters, is No. in men's golf, while Duke leads the women's list. ... There's a new website for junior golfers. Among other things, www.juniorgolf.com, provides the most comprehensive listings of junior tournaments and results, golf camps and a director of junior associations.