The star of this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is easy to predict. In fact, it's a slam dunk.
It'll be Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the newest addition to the tournament's three-course rotation. It helps that MPCC's Shore Course arrived with low expectations--it replaces Poppy Hills, whose snide nicknames since becoming part of the tournament in 1991 have included Sloppy Hills and Unpopular Hills. Poppy Hills, in turn, faced great expectations as a replacement for Cypress Point, one of the world's most stunning oceanside tracks.
Designer Mike Strantz updated MPCC to give it more ocean views--all but four holes have a view of the Pacific--and a more dynamic layout. Strantz died in 2005 after a battle with cancer, a year after his remodeling was completed.
The Shore Course will be a frequent subject of stories this week and, if we're lucky, the source of a lot of scenic camera shots for those of us buried under heavy snow in the East. Bob Harig of ESPN.com was ahead of the curve as he collected raves about the Shore Course:
Steve Elkington was stunned that he knew nothing about the venue before seeing it this week and called it among his "top-10 in the world." That's high praise for a venue that is in such close proximity to a couple of other gems such as Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.
"I think it's the best renovation I've ever seen -- anywhere," PGA Tour veteran Brad Faxon said. "I think he absolutely nailed a seaside course. The look of it is
fantastic. I think the players will love playing it. I think it rivals
every bit Pebble and Spyglass."
The question remains how much we will get to see it. Most of the
tournament coverage is based at Pebble Beach, meaning the golf played
at Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula typically gets passed over. But
from all indications, ignoring the new venue would be a mistake.
1. Strantz was an artist as much as an architect and he could often be seen on the property sketching at dawn or dusk.
He painted all 18 holes when he submitted his bid for the job, and the
watercolors now hang in the Monterey Peninsula clubhouse.4. The greens on the Shore Course are in stark contrast to the tiny putting surfaces at Pebble Beach, though. They average
7,000 square feet and will play to a 10.5 reading on the Stimpmeter.
6. Former tour pro Forrest was Strantz's business partner. While
the two were working on the Shore Course, they rented a house on the
16th hole, near the ocean, and often went down to the water to
watch the sunset. Fezler remembers asking Strantz, who reportedly lost
80 pounds during his battle with cancer, how he found the strength to
continue with the redesign. He said, "Forrest, this is keeping me alive