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There are three rules at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Never eat the cashews in your room at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. (They are $10 ajar.) Never expect to get Jack Lemmon's autograph on Sunday. (He has now missed the cut 25 years straight.) And never bet against Mark O'Meara. He won the California State Amateur at Pebble Beach in 1979 and the final edition of the Bing Crosby there in 1985. On Sunday, as he unwrapped his lucky sandwich on the 10th fairway, tied for the lead with Tom Kite, O'Meara's baby face had a chubby but hungry look, as if he were about to swallow somebody whole, which he was.
To be sure, O'Meara would not have been in position to win with nine holes to go without a couple of strokes of luck. While playing the 12th hole at Cypress Point on Thursday, O'Meara ricocheted an eight-iron off the noggin of a spectator named Bill Spaeth. The ball bounced not into the unplayable bushes it had been homing in on but 20 feet in another direction, landing 50 feet from the green. O'Meara then saved par. It was a very gracious gesture on the part of Spaeth, who continued to follow O'Meara the rest of the day while holding an ice pack to his swollen skull. "You play 72 holes and win by one shot," said O'Meara. "Don't tell me there's not some luck involved. That was the best bounce I got all week."
O'Meara also got lucky because Curtis Strange took the week off. That meant Strange's caddie, Greg Rita, who's a walking rabbit's foot at Pebble Beach, was available. He had caddied for Strange at Pebble last November when Curtis won the Nabisco championship and $360,000. Rita made another good buck last week for hauling around O'Meara's bag. O'Meara's purse was $180,000, and figuring a caddie's 10% tip, that's $54,000 for two weeks' work—more than Andy Bean, another player Rita has caddied for, made in all of 1988.
The problem is that Strange wants Rita back beginning in late February. O'Meara told Rita to go. "How can you turn down the best player in the world?" said O'Meara. But he would like to keep Rita. "After this," said O'Meara, not three minutes after winning, "maybe he'll decide to stay." So many checks, only one shoulder.
Maybe Rita should see what Lemmon would be willing to pay for one week of heaven at Pebble. Golf's one-man version of the Chicago Cubs vowed that he and his pro partner, Peter Jacobsen, would make the cut. Lemmon even tried to disguise himself from the gods of golf by growing a mustache. Unfortunately, he said, "every time I look down I think I'm in the rough."
Alas, the gods found him anyway. Still, when he reached the 18th green at Pebble on Saturday, slumped and defeated again, about to miss the cut by 13 strokes, somebody had taken down a name on the leader board and inserted a card that read LEMMON WINS!
Honestly, what chance did Lemmon have, considering that the four hardest holes on the entire PGA Tour last year happen to be among the three courses that make up the good ol' AT&T clambake (chart, page 16). First is the 9th at Pebble Beach, followed by the 16th at Cypress Point, the 8th at Spyglass Hill and the 8th at Pebble. What's more, three other AT&T holes are among the Tour's toughest 18. Welcome to Hell Week.
"The four hardest?" said Lemmon. "Well, that makes me feel a lot better."
On these seven holes, thundering surf goes unheard. Six-point bucks standing under 100-foot Monterey pines go unseen. Sixteen whales could do an Esther Williams water ballet 20 yards offshore and nobody would notice.
Look at the way the top two finishers fared on the four toughest holes. Kite went through them in four over par, O'Meara in two over. O'Meara never did par the 9th at Pebble. Kite never parred the 8th or the 9th.