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Bill Murray ready to defend title at Pebble Beach Pro-Am

D.A. Points, Bill Murray
Kohjiro Kinno / SI
D.A. Points and Bill Murray won the team competition at Pebble Beach in 2011.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Tiger Woods may be the star at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but whether he's getting crowds to waive at a blimp flying overhead, spinning with old ladies in fairway bunkers or wearing goofy hats, Bill Murray will be the heart of this event, which has been the case since he first played here in 1992.

However, this year's tournament is going to be a little different for the 61-year-old Murray because, for the first time, he's the defending champion. In 2011, partnering with D.A. Points, Murray won the pro-am portion of this event by two shots over Steve Bowditch and Marc Miller.

"Everyone asks me what it's like to be the champion," Murray said Monday as the sun broke through the clouds over the driving range. "It's not 'Hello, how are you? Are you having fun? How are the kids?' It's like, 'Are you going to defend the championship?' It's like, a thousand times, people saying, 'Are you going to perform in bed tonight? Are you going to step up and be a real man?' Whatever it is, it's kind of like it's an implied failure of some kind."

But if you think that fear of failure has driven Murray to grind away on the range for months in preparation for this tournament, think again. He said that he'll play more golf this week than he will during the rest of the year combined.

However, the man who famously played greenskeeper Carl Spackler in "Caddyshack" does have an edge over his celebrity rivals: his local-like knowledge of Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.

"I've probably played these courses more than any others in the last 20 years," Murray said.

Murray doesn't walk around with a punch line loaded and ready to be fired the moment he steps onto a golf course. He said he knows people expect him to be funny and he wants to play well, but he's not burdened by those expectations. Humor, like golf, is easiest when it comes naturally.

"I really don't feel that pressure because the 'fun' part of it sort of comes naturally," Murray said. "But you always kinda think to yourself, 'Man, could we possibly have more fun here than we did last year?' I suppose I could play better, but that was pretty ideal last year. Really, I just feel pressure like I gotta answer questions about being the defending champ."

At the same time, Murray is funny just being himself-he can't help it. For example, after admiring a pro who bombed a tee shot over the fence at the driving range. he yelled, "Hey kid ... keep 'em in bounds will ya? You know, that's out of bounds over there, ya know? That's OB if you hit it over that fence." No one within earshot could contain their laughter.

Tiger Woods has said numerous times that he only shows up a tournament when he thinks he can win, but Murray's goal this week goes one step further.

"Our goal is to have the most fun and win," he said.

 

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