All right, so Johnny Miller didn't win it, and Jack Lemmon didn't make the cut, and Tom Watson's putter betrayed him again, but last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, that most unsinkable of tournaments, still had its share of miracles.
Start with the fact that it was played at all. After near-torrential rain on the Monterey Peninsula for 26 of the previous 31 days, golfers arrived to find the three tournament courses—Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills—not only unplayable, but for the first time since the tournament moved to Pebble Beach in 1947, completely closed to all practice rounds. When the mudder of all tournaments began last Thursday, it was with rubber mats on the driving range and the lift, clean and place rule in effect everywhere else.
Or consider how a field that lacked Nick Price, Greg Norman and Fred Couples could still produce a star-studded Sunday leader board that included not only Nick Faldo, Davis Love III and Payne Stewart but also Jack Nicklaus, who tied for sixth in his first tournament since turning 55, and Watson, who faded to finish 13th.
Maybe the biggest miracles were pulled off by Bill Murray and Peter Jacobsen, each of whom came to the AT&T with something to prove. The zany Murray, whose shambling co-medic persona has made him the most popular celebrity ever to play at Pebble Beach, was eager to show that the intimacy he shares with the galleries is based on a mutual love of golf as well as his ability to make people laugh. The 40-year-old Jacobsen, whose humor and skill as a mimic make him the most entertaining pro on the PGA Tour, was looking for his first win in five years.
Both accomplished their goals. After the 1993 tournament, during which he dragged an elderly but willing woman from the gallery into a bunker for a quick two-step that left her sprawled in the sand, Murray came in for sharp criticism from some quarters. His primary critic was Deane Beman, then Tour commissioner, who hinted last year that Murray might not be invited back to Pebble Beach. Murray was hurt by Beman's comments that his behavior was "inappropriate and detrimental." He called Beman "just another screwhead who's too big for his britches."
But Beman is gone now, replaced by Tim Finchem, who extended an olive branch over the summer. Finchem reassured Murray that he could continue to improvise with the galleries as long as he stayed away from sand-trap dancing. This year Murray not only stayed out of the principal's office, but he also played well enough amid a sea of irreverence to finish tied for eighth, at 29 under par, with his pro-am partner, Scott Simpson.
Jacobsen, meanwhile, simply played the most impressive golf of his 18-year career. He hit 69 of 72 greens on his way to a tournament-record 271 that gave him a two-stroke victory over David Duval. The $252,000 first prize was more than Jacobsen's winnings in any single year since 1991.
"It was a great tournament for both me and Bill," said Jacobsen, who has been bothered by nagging injuries the last two years. He was spurred on by his quest, once again unsuccessful, to help amateur partner Lemmon make the pro-am cut for the first time. "I've played some of my best tournament golf in events in which I've been paired with an amateur because I enjoy their love of the game," said Jacobsen. "I know Bill loves the game, and after this week I think more people will probably agree that Bill Murray is great for golf."
In past years the athletic, 6'1" Murray, an 18 handicapper, had undermined his play by concentrating more on his ongoing repartee with the crowds. This year he prepared for Pebble Beach by taking lessons from Simpson's teacher, Kip Putterbaugh, in San Diego. Putterbaugh actually got Murray to adopt a preshot routine in which Murray would make a practice swing and hold a full finish for a couple of seconds.
"That's made a big difference for Bill," said Simpson. "As you might imagine, he's not a big routine guy, but all during the tournament he was able to hone in on each shot."