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SPORTS WEEKEND

After Rain Pelts Pebble Beach, Site More Suitable for Surfing

Golf: Play is reduced to nine holes, with nine more scheduled today. Event might not get finished.

January 30, 1998|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Welcome to Mudball, where you don't need a scoreboard to follow the golf tournament, you need a rain gauge.

Once again, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am began a round of golf Thursday and, once again, failed to complete it. That hasn't happened here, since, gosh, two years ago, when the tournament was washed out totally after only 36 holes had been played.

The first sign of trouble was noted early Thursday morning. That's when Mark Michaud, the Pebble Beach course superintendent, noticed that waves from Carmel Bay were clearing the sea wall by the 18th fairway. Michaud was impressed with the surf.

"It was big, real big," he said.

Ah, but history was being made.

Nearly three inches of rain fell overnight and early Thursday morning, turning Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills and Spyglass into green-bottomed swimming pools. So officials put their umbrellas together and decided on the first scheduled nine-hole day of play in PGA Tour history.

And they thought that was such a good idea, they scheduled another nine-hole day of play today.

This means that after two days, 18 holes will have been played . . . weather permitting, of course.

According to Lou Russo, tournament director, and Arvin Ginn of the PGA Tour, that scheduling assures equal conditions for all competitors.

Also, trying to shuttle players from one course to another, keeping the field together and making tee times for more play today were considered impossible.

So, the plan was to play nine holes--and delay the start until 11 a.m. to satisfy television.

More rain is expected over the weekend, which leaves these options:

* A 54-hole tournament.

* Play carried into Monday.

* Another total washout.

Paul Azinger didn't sound optimistic.

"It's going to wash us out, it looks like," he said.

Thursday's nine holes were quite an adventure. Neal Lancaster said in most places there was no relief from casual water, so he played his ball out of mud puddles on more than one occasion.

At least it helped him determine a strategy.

"You just hope it squirts in the right direction," he said.

Sloppy. Mucky. Mushy. Slippery. Wet. . . . No, not the Seven Dwarfs, but player descriptions of the course conditions.

Few knew what would happen when they hit out of puddles or mud.

"There's a lot of guessing," Lancaster said. "We're all guessing. That's why I hope we keep playing, because it gives me a good chance. I'm guessing every week. I figure we're playing my game now."

After nine holes, some players were better off than others. Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson and Tom Pernice produced matching 32s, four under par. Tiger Woods had a one-over 37 at Poppy Hills, where defending champion Mark O'Meara had a seven-over 42.

He has time to come back, though. Just how much, well, nobody is sure.

"If we play in these conditions, we can play in anything," Lancaster said. "So go ahead and snow or whatever. We can play."

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