Who says there's no longer any Sunday drama at the AT&T Pebble
Beach National Pro-Am? Sure, Crosby weather washed out the final
round for the third time in the past four years, but that only
meant that this year's most compelling story lines moved from
the golf course to the hospitality tents.
During the 4 1/2-hour rain delay that preceded the inevitable
cancellation of the fourth round, players and caddies held a
catered vigil in a large, drafty tent adjacent to the driving
range at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Long before the 54-hole
leader, Payne Stewart, was declared the winner and everybody was
sent home, a series of gripping subplots were played out far
from the probing TV cameras. To wit, would Peter Jacobsen get to
watch the Knicks game? Would Frank Lickliter, the upstart who
was a shot behind Stewart, run out of cigarettes? Would poor
Arvin Ginn, the PGA Tour's embattled tournament director, get
pelted by irate players armed with broccoli tops from the buffet
table? It was the most exciting finish at the Pro-Am since 1996,
when the entire tournament was declared null and void because of
a puddle in the fairway of Spyglass Hill's 16th hole.
"I'm going to take this and run," Stewart said when it was all
over. Not liking how that sounded, he quickly corrected himself.
"It's not a tainted victory by any means," he said. "It's not."
But then in the next breath Stewart, who hadn't won since '95,
admitted, "I still have to prove to myself that I can win a
72-hole tournament. That is still a void that I have to fill
Stewart's conflicted feelings were perfectly suited to such a
schizophrenic tournament. The first two rounds of the Pro-Am
were played in perfect golf weather, a touch overcast but with
only a trivial breeze. Last Saturday was, quite simply, one of
the most brutal days in the long, cold history of the
tournament. Temperatures plummeted into the 40s, the wind blew
at a steady 25 mph and gusted upwards of 50, and a series of
squalls flooded the three courses. "It was old Crosby weather,"
said Clint Eastwood, a tournament regular since the mid-'60s,
"not this El Nino stuff."
February 15, 1999
Spyglass and Poppy Hills are carved into the dense Del Monte
Forest, which afforded some protection from the elements, but
Pebble Beach and its oceanfront holes took the brunt of the
tempest. Over the first two days of the tournament the average
score at Pebble was an accommodating 72.25, with the other
courses playing more than a shot tougher. On Saturday, Pebble
played to a mind-blowing average of 79.19 (versus 75.53 for Spy
and 75.25 at Poppy). The 60 pros at Pebble combined to make 340
bogeys (against only 96 birdies), 71 doubles and 16 of the
dreaded "others." Lickliter, who played his third round at
Spyglass, described his strategy as "just trying to keep the
ball on the planet." He added, "I can't imagine how hard it
played at Pebble today. I was lucky in the draw."
It wasn't luck, Frank--the pairings are always set up to ensure
that most of the field's marquee players are on Pebble for
Saturday's network telecast, which only made last week's carnage
more surreal. Phil Mickelson, the defending champ, made two
double bogeys and a triple on his way to a wild 75, while David
Duval had a pair of doubles of his own and shot 76, dropping
from third place early in his round to 15th at day's end. The
7th hole, the 107-yard, downhill par-3, played into the teeth of
the gale, and Mickelson and Duval were forced to use a six-iron
and a seven-iron, respectively. Following the round, sporting a
stocking cap pulled down below his eyebrows and the fleece
mittens he had worn on the course between shots, Duval said,
"You could've played well and still shot 80 out there. You
simply can't control the ball on some of these holes. If the
conditions are the same, I don't think I want to play tomorrow."
When it rained throughout the night, it seemed certain that
Duval would get his wish, but beginning at 8 o'clock on Sunday
morning the players were sent back out, steady drizzle be
damned. At 9:30, 20 minutes before the leaders were to tee off
and just after Duval had eagled the par-4 1st hole, the round
was suspended because standing water had made the greens
unplayable. Thus began the rain-delay waiting game, which is
becoming as much of a ritual as Jack Lemmon's missing the cut or
Bill Murray's tossing elderly ladies into bunkers.
Jerry Higginbotham, Mark O'Meara's caddie, sounded the first
note of alarm when he huffed into the press room and appealed to
a Tour official to cancel the rest of the day. "We've got a four
o'clock flight to Dubai," Higginbotham said plaintively. Those
players with less pressing engagements slowly made their way to
the tent at the driving range.
At 11:30 a.m. Ginn stood in the middle of the assembled mob and
announced that there would be no official decision until 2 p.m.
Veteran Kelly Gibson, who was idling in 44th place, then piped
up, wondering if there was a chance that the tournament would be
canceled. "There is a chance of anything," Ginn answered.
"Well, then," Gibson asked, "is there a chance you'll give me
the winner's check?" The tent shook with laughter.
Over the next 2 1/2 hours, as the fate of the tournament was
blowing in the wind, the tent was the place to be.
At noon the telecast came on, and Jacobsen said with mock
enthusiasm, "Cool. We get to watch a tape of last year's
rainout." Actually, poor CBS went with a replay of 1997's final
round. Proving how demented pro golfers can be, Jacobsen was
shouted down when he tried to change the channel in favor of an
NBA game. At 12:30, when CBS cut to a live interview with the
Tour's meteorologist, a dozen players bull-rushed the TV monitor
to listen, and they proceeded to howl with laughter at every
mealymouthed pronouncement about how there might be a window of
opportunity to play later that afternoon. "Who's he kidding?"
Jeff Sluman asked of no one in particular.
Looking on impassively from underneath an overhang outside of
the tent, Lickliter was blowing on his hands to keep warm, which
led to the question of whether any of his colleagues were
fortifying themselves with a toddy or two inside the tent. He
shook his head gravely. "With the Tour's fines they would pay
about $1,000 a sip," he said. Instead, Lickliter smoked half a
pack of his own cigarettes, bummed a bunch more from passersby
and blew smoke on a number of topics.
An engaging straight shooter, Lickliter, 29, grew up in a steel
town, Middletown, Ohio, and the only thing that kept him out of
the mills was a deal he made with his dad at age 14: If he
practiced every day, he didn't have to get a real job. At Wright
State, Lickliter won a tournament that was played in the snow.
He was so eager to finish Sunday's round that he was literally
bouncing up and down (or maybe it was just the cold). "It's a
shame to be so close and be denied the opportunity to win the
tournament," Lickliter said. The prospect was particularly
painful because he had three-putted his 17th hole on Saturday
(Spy's 8th) to fall to nine under and drop out of a tie for the
Though it wasn't politically correct to admit it, Jay Williamson
was actually praying for rain. Williamson is a 32-year-old
journeyman who played the Tour in 1995 and '96, finishing 145th
and 175th on the money list, respectively. He has been beating
the bushes ever since but fought his way back onto the Tour this
season by finishing 26th at November's Q school. Alas, before
Pebble he had been able to sneak into only one tournament, the
Sony Open in Hawaii, and his 69th-place finish there was worth
only $5,252. However, over three days at Pebble he conjured up
the form that had carried him to victory in the 1991 Kansas
Open. With steady rounds of 69-70-71, Williamson was tied for
fourth, and if play was canceled, he was in line for a check of
$110,250. The top 10 finish would earn him a spot in this week's
Buick Invitational, in San Diego, and having suddenly risen to
34th on the money list, he would have little trouble getting
into the rest of the tournaments on the West Coast swing and
most of the ones in Florida. "It's like in football, when you
kick a field goal but there's a penalty on the play," Williamson
said, assessing his position. "Do you take the points off the
board and risk going for the touchdown, or are you happy with
what you got? Right now, I need a sure thing. I need the money."
Stewart would never cop to not wanting to play, but he did admit
that down the stretch on Saturday he was thinking that it would
be good to be leading after 54 holes. Though he had made his
move on Friday at Poppy Hills with a sterling 64, Stewart really
won the tournament on Saturday at Spyglass Hill's 18th hole,
where he knocked a five-iron approach from 185 yards to within a
foot for the gimme birdie that provided his margin of victory.
But before he could collect his 10th career title and the
$504,000 that came with it, Stewart had to get the official word
from Ginn. At a few minutes past two, he ambled into the tent
and said that because of the grim forecast for Monday, the final
round was, in fact, canceled. "I am sincerely sorry," Ginn said.
His words were met with some restrained applause, a smattering of
boos and a hurricane of activity. Within five minutes the tent
"It's a shame to be so close and be denied the opportunity to
win," said Lickliter, who had shared the lead until the