Star power at Pebble comes more from amateurs than pros | Golf

Star power at Pebble comes more from amateurs than pros | Golf

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is one of only three players in the top 20 in the world at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It lacks star power by PGA Tour standards.

That’s not what Fitzpatrick saw.

He played nine practice holes on Wednesday at Pebble Beach with retired Welsh football star Gareth Bale. And when he scanned the pairings for the three-course rotation, he realized that actor and producer Jason Bateman would be in the group behind him.

Fitzpatrick wants to meet him in hopes of being featured on Bateman’s podcast, which raises the question of whether Bateman knows the US Open champion.

“Oh, I doubt it. I seriously doubt it,” Fitzpatrick said.

Back to Bale, who retired after the World Cup and loves golf so much that Jon Rahm raves about his game during the pro-am at Torrey Pines.

Fitzpatrick and Bale first got to know each other a few years ago when Bale’s management team signed Fitzpatrick’s younger brother.

“I ended up having a chat with him and his manager and he told me jokingly, ‘If you sign for my management company I won’t score three goals against your team’, my team being Sheffield United” , said Fitzpatrick. “Obviously, I didn’t sign. I’m happy with where I am. »

Bale, then on loan at Tottenham, scored three goals against Sheffield.

“I just remember watching the game and he scored the three and I was laughing,” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously disappointed too.”

Such is the nature of this tournament, held in the incomparable landscape of the Monterey Peninsula between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, a thing of beauty to behold for those facing the worst of winter. .

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has pulled out of the Pro Bowl and is playing for the second straight year, hoping to make the cut this time. His caddie of the week is one of his best friends, Kyle Allen, who started two games at quarterback late in the season for the Houston Texans.

It’s easier to predict that Aaron Rodgers will be at Pebble Beach in early February than if he’ll be at training camp in July.

This part of the tournament — athletes, actors, singers, corporate figures who shape the economy — does not change. It’s the PGA Tour players that seem to be missing this year, perhaps due to a pair of $20 million events in Phoenix and Riviera to follow.

And that may be where Pebble Beach is heading.

Jordan Spieth has never missed Pebble Beach, first playing there in 2013 before getting a PGA Tour card and a corporate relationship with AT&T.

“I would fight for the opportunity to make this event a significant event for years to come,” Spieth said. “I don’t know if the format should change or what should happen. I really think the opportunity to have the top 50, 60, 70 players in the world play at Pebble Beach and be a PGA Tour event would be as great as when the US Open was held here. I think trying to get to the best courses in the world, when you get the chance, would be beneficial.

What gives Pebble such a rich heritage – hobbyists – might be the sticking point. The only time fans weren’t part of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was in 2021 amid tight restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything was different that year.

There have been ruminations about Pebble once in a while without fans and playing all four days at Pebble Beach – instead of including Spyglass Hill and the Monterey Peninsula Shore Course. It could look like a US Open in February.

Could he form a rotation with Phoenix and Torrey Pines? Is there a way to make it an elevated event and keep the fans involved?

It’s part of the puzzle the PGA Tour is trying to solve for 2024 and beyond.

No matter who plays, Pebble is rarely short on memories, whether it’s pure golf (Tiger Woods coming seven strokes behind with seven to go), pure entertainment (Bill Murray’s antics), or pure danger.

The latter would be Spieth last year on the eighth hole, when his tee shot crossed the fairway at the edge of a cliff with a 60ft drop to the rocks and ocean below.

Keeping his balance and against his caddie’s advice, Spieth hit the 7 iron and made the par.

“I think I saved a stroke,” he said. “Does the reward outweigh the risk? Not if you think the risk was dying. … I think that now, knowing my son (aged 14 months) much better – he was very young at the time – I may not have succeeded in this shot.

It may not be an option this year, anyway. While the focus is on the eighth green which has softened some crests, the cliff edge is now rough enough to prevent balls from rolling too far towards the edge.

“Yeah, that’s not advised,” Spieth said. “I’m glad I ended up doing a 4. Because if I had done a 5, it would have been one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. Instead, it was just a bad decision.

At least he lived to tell about it.

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