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Golf

Pebble might have his Irish up

February 12, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

PEBBLE BEACH — With weather forecasts hinting at classic Pebble malevolence, at serial downpours and wretched damp cold, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am might favor its top-ranked player, who can paint you a vivid yarn of rude conditions from childhood in Ireland.

Padraig Harrington has been fighting that hook, though.

"I've done quite a bit of work during the winter," said the winner of the last two major tournaments. "And what tends to happen is when you are changing things and working on things, you overdo it, and there's a compensation in there that needs to be balanced out. It does take a little bit of competition, a little bit of playing to figure that out."

A little bit of competition happened last week at Torrey Pines and found Harrington with typically bare arms in the so-called chill, finishing tied for 24th via a closing 68.

With Tiger Woods still absent and maybe even sleepless, No. 3 Harrington, No. 4 Vijay Singh, No. 5 Phil Mickelson and No. 10 Kenny Perry top the 180-professional field on the three courses -- Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills.

Harrington adores the Torrey-Pebble-Riviera binge, stuffing all three courses into his global top five, but reckons they come too early in the year for sharpness.

If it does rain on the weekend, Harrington might recall his old coach Howard Bennett's reminders that spiteful conditions abet winning by thinning contenders, and he might benefit from never having canceled a planned round of golf because of conditions.

He might even think of old Rosses Point.

"By description it's in the west of Ireland looking out to the Atlantic Ocean," he said. "Next stop would be New York. . . . . When the real bad winds came in you used to have to huddle into little ravines or whatever or bunkers to protect yourself from the hailstorms. . . .

"Thankfully being a player I got to get in the middle."

As Harrington aims toward a possible third consecutive major title at the Masters in April, and as Mickelson tries to right his wayward early-year ship, they'll grapple with the budding pre-2010 U.S. Open renovations of Pebble Beach, if not yet the planned 7,000 yards.

While critical of many of the world's fashionable course-lengthenings, Davis Love III didn't bemoan these. He assessed the changes such as new bunkers along No. 6 and new back tees on Nos. 9 and 11 with, "They've taken a national treasure and continued to improve it."

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chuck.culpepper@yahoo.com

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The facts

AT&T PEBBLE BEACH

NATIONAL PRO-AM

Where: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Poppy Hills Golf Course.

When: Today through Sunday. Sunday's final round at Pebble Beach.

TV: Today and Friday, Golf Channel, noon; Saturday and Sunday, Channel 2, noon.

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