The guy who wins the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Aug. 17, seven months after the first two rounds were completed, will be someone who plays Poppy Hills. It'll probably be Tom Watson, who is tied for first, or Davis Love III, who's two shots back. They have a huge advantage over those of us who will play Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill, because Poppy is a much easier course in August than it is in January.
As a northern Californian who has played almost 200 rounds at the three AT&T courses, I can tell you that conditions there change dramatically from season to season. Poppy Hills has five par-5s that in January are almost unreachable for medium-length hitters like me. In August, with the course firmer and faster, those holes are cupcakes. Seven months ago I reached the 557-yard par-5 9th with driver-driver. Next week guys like me will be hitting a driver and a three-or four-iron. They can reach the 531-yard 12th with an iron, too. The 560-yard 4th at Poppy, inaccessible to all in January, will be in range for some of the Tour's long hitters. The 10th, which is 515 yards and has a pond in front of the green, can't be reached in winter unless you're brave enough—or dumb enough—to chance a three-wood, but players will be using three-irons there next week.
Spyglass Hill's long holes, the 600-yard 1st and 555-yard 14th, play about the same in summer as they do in winter. At Pebble the 565-yard 14th and 548-yard 18th holes are seldom reachable, while the shorter 2nd is a two-shotter all year. Pebble is no picnic in the summer when the ground firms up, as anyone who survived U.S. Open weekend there in '92 can tell you.
I'm glad we're going to finish the tournament, but it's too bad the playing field won't be level. The guys at Poppy will be on the fast track next Monday. The rest of us are in for an uphill climb.