Alternate Shot: Is Pebble still a top event?

Originally Published: February 7, 2005
ESPN.com/Golf World

"This is the best tournament in the world," Jack Lemmon once said of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. "I've played them all and this is the best."

There never used to be any question about such a thought. Raised as Bing Crosby's Clambake, the event had a certain mystique around it -- maybe it was triple-threat combination of big-time golfers and big-time celebrities playing on big-time courses -- that made it one of the most anticipated tournaments of the PGA Tour season.

These days the event falls two weeks after another pro-am, the Bob Hope Classic, and has seemingly taken a backseat to some of the more "important" tour stops.

Which brings up the question: Is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am still a top-tier PGA Tour event?

ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Golf World's Ron Sirak debate the issue.

Is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am still a top-tier PGA Tour event?
YES

Pebble Beach is Pebble Beach. It is the Monterey Peninsula, and some of the most scenic views in golf. It is Carmel Bay, a golf course with as much history as any on the PGA Tour. And it is celebrity pro-am partners, who help extend the reach of the game beyond just regular golfers.

No question, tournaments such as the World Golf Championship events and the Players Championship serve to push Pebble down the pecking order of importance.

But if we're talking rank-and-file PGA Tour events, the ones that are the backbone of the PGA Tour, then Pebble has to be at the top of the list. Its three-course rotation can make for some long days, but that is part of the tradition of the event that dates to 1937.

And it remains popular with a golf public that yearns for any golf course after a harsh winter. The pictures of Pebble Beach beamed into living rooms across snow-covered landscape or to locales where the temperatures are still in single digits has a way of warming the blood, even if the weather is not always perfect in Northern California.

Then look at some of the recent winners of the event: Vijay Singh, Davis Love III (twice), Tiger Woods, Payne Stewart, Phil Mickelson ... to name a few.

Pebble Beach still has relevance.

-- Bob Harig
ESPN.com

NO

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is one of the most grinding weeks on tour for professional golfers. While it may look to the fans like it is a few days of giggles and grins for the guys who get paid to play and a week in which they rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities, it is actually an event fraught with distractions.

First off, it is played on three different golf courses: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills. Then there is the matter of having a chop -- excuse me, an amateur -- as a playing partner. And finally there is the weather, which is not always known to be kind in February on the Northern California coast. For all of those reasons, Pebble Beach does not have quite the same allure to the players as it once did.

Back in the 1930s when Bing Crosby started his clambake the professionals -- and at that time pros were virtual outcasts in the country club world of golf because they actually had to work for a living -- got to hang out with stars like Crosby, Bob Hope and others. That's a little more upscale than Ray Romano and Kevin James. In fact, the Pro-Am, which used to be more of a Celebrity-Am, has morphed into a CEO-Am. That, along with the fact that top professionals are now not only celebrities in their own right but also rich, has made the Pebble lose its appeal to many top players. Now those guys who don't think the AT&T is worth the bother might want to reconsider when they think about Vijay Singh. His amateur partner a decade ago -- Ted Forstmann -- became a business partner and has made Singh a wealthy man.

Maybe it is worth the price the players pay.

-- Ron Sirak
Golf World

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