So the Royal & Ancient game is finding itself in a royal mess these days. When the stories are not about the elusive Mr. Woods, they are about the suddenly elusive Mr. Stricker, or, dare we ignore the subject, clubs which either are legal or illegal, but definitely are controversial.
This is the week of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which in its earlier incarnation, The Crosby, was all that golf and sport should be: great competition, good fun and an understanding that life doesn’t get much better than that.
The Crosby, like the Hope, misses its host and icon, but none of us are around forever and the people in charge of the AT&T, most notably chairman Ollie Nutt, has done all that is possible to make the event a success short of singing “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.” For the younger crowd, that was Bing Crosby’s theme.
Bing, who died in 1977, created his tournament out of the Great Depression. It was his personality which carried the tournament. In 1947, he was listed as the most popular man in America.
His tournament may have had the same ranking, especially among the pros who were as excited to meet the stars — Bing, Phil Harris, the Mills Brothers, Charles Correll of Amos and Andy — as the stars were to play golf with the pros. And the occasional awful conditions — Crosby Weather as it came to be known — became part of the scene.
As Phil Harris cracked one day after splashing up the 18th at Pebble, “I can’t wait to get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.”
But now we get Steve Stricker, who won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday at Riviera in Los Angeles, complaining about the climate. The No. 2 man in the world rankings, who grew up in Wisconsin, moaning about some precipitation in Northern California.
Stricker doesn’t even want to use the AT&T as a warmup for this June’s U.S. Open at Pebble, saying, “It could be soft and wet this week. … It could be soft and wet when we go back there for the Open, too, who knows.”
Californians know. It doesn’t rain in Pebble Beach or San Francisco or Los Angeles in June. It won’t be soft then.
“It’s sad,” Stricker added. “I mean they’ve got a great place, a great venue for the tournament, and if it was in the fall or somewhere else, I think it would be a better date. But I’m not going.”
It’s never going to be in the fall or somewhere else. It’s always been in January or February. The PGA Tour is in the West this time of the year. So don’t go.
Tiger hasn’t gone for years, and he’s not going this time. There was no chance he would start at the Accenture Match Play, either, since the consulting company with the same name erased him from their advertising. He may, however, begin at the Tavistock Cup, a small event near his home in Florida in late March.
The AT&T will go on without Woods and Stricker; and with the rain. So raise an umbrella and croon a toast for Bing Crosby and his tournament, whatever the name.