Where do the rich get richer? In golf, it's at Pebble Beach, where the 30 top money winners on the PGA Tour are gathering for the Nabisco Championships.
The season-ending tournament that starts Thursday would be attractive to the pros even if it were held on some municipal course.
In the world's richest tournament, $5 million will be at stake: $3 million in individual prize money--$360,000 to the winner--and $2 million as the climax of season-long team competition for charity.
That's incentive enough and Curtis Strange, the U.S open champion, played in the Tucson Open, which ended Sunday, primarily to sharpen himself for the Nabisco competition.
"I wouldn't say it's a major," said Strange, comparing Nabisco to the game's big four--the Masters, U.S. and British Opens, and the PGA.
"There's always talk about a fifth major. I'm not sure there will ever be one. I'm not sure there should be a fifth major. But you sure find yourself thinking about Nabisco a lot more than other tournaments."
It's golf's version of the California lottery--and the odds are better.
All the awards for the season--player of the year, money leader, the Vardon Trophy--will be at stake in the Nabisco Championships, as will the final standings in the 10 statistical categories, with each category rewarding an additional $25,000 to the winner.
As expected, most of the prominent players on the tour will be at Pebble Beach.
Masters champion Sandy Lyle of Scotland will be there to protect his lead in the player-of-the-year standings.
Chip Beck will be there to protect his lead in the money standings.
Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Joey Sindelar and Australia's Greg Norman will be there to challenge in the money race.
Although he won the Nabisco tournament in San Antonio last year, Tom Watson won't be there. He wasn't among the top 30 money winners this year and failed to qualify.
Many pros would prefer Pebble Beach as a permanent site for the tournament. That won't happen, since current plans call for rotating the tournament each year to different parts of the country.
The 1989 Nabisco Championships will be played at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., with a $500,000 increase in prize money.
"Pebble Beach is probably \o7 the \f7 site for Nabisco," Strange said.
Said Crenshaw: "You couldn't hold it at a better place. It's the perfect place for this tournament. It's one of the great golf courses in the world and you don't have a lot of Pebble Beaches around."
Said Sindelar: "It's a bonus to play at Pebble Beach, (but) it would be a thrill to play this tournament no matter where they put it."
Money, of course, has a thrill all of its own.
"Usually you don't think about it," Strange said. "But you're out there thinking about what's third, or fourth, or fifth (prize money).
"That's getting the cart before the horse. You can't let yourself do that. Winning is what you're trying to do. But it's hard not to think about the money."
Back problems may cause Jack Nicklaus to miss some golf tournaments, including the sixth annual Skins Games Nov. 26-27 at PGA West in La Quinta.
Although Nicklaus said his golf activity may be restricted, he doesn't plan to retire.
Nicklaus was scheduled to visit a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., Monday for an extensive back examination.
He was planning to play with Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Strange in the Skins Game that has a purse of $450,000. Trevino won $310,000 in last year's Skins Game.
More on money, sorry:
"I don't think there has been a great player yet that has been worried about money," said Beck, who is the Tour's leading money winner this year with $776,018.
"For me and my career, when I got past the point of worrying about money, I felt like I could compete with a guy like Jack Nicklaus. You have to have the freedom to play."
Beck made $4,166 in 1979, his first year on the Tour. His breakthrough year was 1983, when he finished 33rd in earnings with $149,909.
That's when cash stopped being his main motivation for playing.
"I got beyond that long before I ever approached No. 1 on the money list," he said. "I got to the point where I could just play to win golf tournaments and play without having the worries of the finances behind me."
Beck, 32, earned the first two victories of his PGA career this year at the Los Angeles Open and the USF&G Classic at New Orleans. He has finished in the top 10 half a dozen other times.
He has an opportunity to become the first golfer to win $1 million in a single year--and he doesn't even have to worry about it.
The Nissan Los Angeles Open is the official name of the tournament that will be held Jan. 29 to Feb. 5 at the Riviera Country Club. Under terms of a new agreement, management and control of the tournament, which began in 1926, remains with the L.A. Junior Chamber of Commerce. . . . The Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational is scheduled Feb. 3-4 at Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs. . . . John L. Schroeder, son of former tennis star Ted Schroeder, is the new golf professional for the Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe. . . . The Beverly Hills Women's Golf Club will hold its Vice President's Cup tournament Monday at the Balboa course in Encino. Tee time is 9 a.m.