It was just like pitching. Rhythm and motion. Except there wasn’t a guy holding a bat 60 feet, 6 inches away from Matt Cain, there was a pin maybe 240 yards away. Or a cup 10 feet away.
The man who didn’t allow a run his last 21¹⁄³ innings of the most memorable postseason in the history of the San Francisco Giants was off the mound Thursday and with his partner on the leaderboard after Day 1 of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
In a foursome as interesting as any — Cain and pro Matt Bettancourt, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and imitable John Daly, who has a video screen in his golf bag — the Giants’ hurler was, to borrow a word he used often, “cool.”
Cool in dress: black hat, orange golf shirt, black trousers. Interesting color scheme.
Cool in signing autographs for fans, most of whom were attired in some sort of Giants paraphernalia. Win a World Series and everybody wants to get in on the act.
Cool in shrugging off a spectator who halted him in an attempt to show off an “L.A.” tattoo on his arm.
The weather, however, was not cool. In a tournament infamous for rain and cold, the day was gorgeous. From the fairways of Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course, you could see across the bay to Santa Cruz, hear the bark of sea lions on the rocks off neighboring Cypress Point, feel the warmth of the sun as it rose on an afternoon that was long [six hours], but never boring.
“I think the big nerves were there on the first hole,” Cain said. He is 26 and has been playing golf since age 12. He is playing off a handicap of 9 — impressive, at least until compared to Romo’s zero.
“Nervous about getting off the first tee,” Cain explained. “I was hoping I didn’t duff it. I actually got off the tee, but I ended up losing my ball. That was all right. I got it out of the way.”
The other Matt, the pro, Bettancourt, shot a 2-under 68. Cain cut him seven strokes, and their net better-ball was 9-under 61. Not bad, but four shots back of the 57 by D.A. Points and Bill Murray, who played immediately behind the Cain group.
“It’s Thursday,” Cain reminded when someone pointed out the Bettancourt-Cain team was in good shape. “That’s like talking to us in the second inning with a couple-run lead. We just have to go out and keep playing and having fun. This is cool.”
Athletes used to competing in front of crowds in their own sport sometimes have problems when they play in a tournament. The hockey great Wayne Gretzky, in the AT&T, often didn’t finish a hole because he didn’t want to look bad. Cain, however, had no problems.
“I think [playing in front of fans] makes you focus a lot,” Cain said. “You think about what you need to get done and quit thinking of everything else.”
As the foursome walked to the green of the par-3 14th hole, someone yelled, “Romo! Like the weather, huh? You could be a 49er.”
On this day, it was better to be a Giant, such as Matt Cain. Cool.