Looks like we've got a new leader in the clubhouse for Best PGA Tour Event of the Year. That would be the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
While the Dustin Johnson versus Paul Goydos duel wasn't quite the final-round, David-versus-Godzilla showdown that was expected, the tournament turned out to be a pretty compelling show.
For starters, there is no better televised golf than Pebble Beach when the sun is out and the surf is up. CBS knows all the camera angles and the blimp shots of the mesmerizing surf pounding against the rocks more than covered the cost of blimp rentals for the whole year. The appropriate word for the weekend pictures is "wow!"
The finish also had a little of everything. Dustin Johnson struggled, but impressively birdied the par-5 18th hole to win with a sweet up-and-down from a greenside bunker after bombing a drive down the fairway into the wind.
Everyman hero Paul Goydos waited to play the par-5 14th hole while Bryce Molder finished off a quadruple-bogey 9, then Goydos duplicated the feat without the aid of a penalty stroke. Nobody roots against the underdog, especially one as fun as Gouydos, but many viewers like to see reminders of how vindictive the game of golf can be.
The Cinderella factor not already covered by Goydos was left to David Duval, the former No. 1 player in the world, then the former 882nd-ranked player in the world, trying to cement his comeback legacy with a victory. Duval did what he had to do, making birdie at the 17th, and waiting on the putting green tied for the lead while Johnson played up the 18th.
Lost in the mix was the early-season revival of J.B. Holmes, who also had a chance to be in a three-way playoff if Johnson hadn't birdied the last. Holmes did some off-season putting work and it appears to be paying off.
Johnson's third win and his successful defense of his Pebble Pro-Am title means the rush is on to anoint him as the next big thing. Randall Mell made that point on GolfChannel.com:
Move over Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Anthony Kim. You don’t win back-to-back at Pebble Beach without being a special talent.
You might have wondered when Johnson made his first PGA
Tour title a Fall Finish event as a rookie two years ago. Who did he
really beat? You might have wondered when he didn’t have to play the
final round and was proclaimed the champ after 54 rain-soaked holes at
Pebble Beach last year. Would he have survived the finish? There’s no
wondering now, not after the way Johnson kept his composure Sunday with
all hell breaking loose around him in a tumultuous finale.
Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, is more impressed by Johnson’s head than he is by Johnson’s considerable skill. “I
know I’m biased, but I tell you what, this kid is special,” said Brown,
who has caddied for all three of Johnson’s victories. “I can’t believe
it’s taken so long for people to catch onto him the way he hits the
The finish by Johnson at 18 was the talk of the final round. The 9s by Molder and Goydos at the 14th were a close second. Goydos saw Molder hit three chip shots up a steep bank roll back to his feet so Goydos intended to hit his approach shot long and over the green, then get up and down for par. Unfortunately, he pulled his approach shot into the danger zone and he, too, didn't get his first chip on the putting surface. Gary Peterson of The Contra Costa Times covered the Goydos angle, complete with Paul's sardonic quips.
"That was one tough hole," a reporter said, trying to break the ice.
"Which one might that have been?" Goydos asked. "It wasn't like I didn't try on all nine shots. Well, the ninth one I wasn't real excited about."Goydos
was classy in defeat. As Johnson lined up his tournament-winning birdie
putt on 18, Goydos held up his left hand to quiet some distracting
conversation in the greenside bleachers. Later he spoke glowingly of
Johnson's complete game, saying it was a "disservice" to focus merely
on his colossal drives.
Mainly he seemed to take the day in
stride. When informed that Arnold Palmer had once taken a nine on the
14th hole while leading the tournament, he said, "Me and Arnold have a
lot in common."
And when asked about the pro-am competition, Goydos suddenly recalled that he and amateur partner Robert Stuart had won. "I got something out of it," he said. "I got one win. It's a five-year exemption I hear."
None of us are truly exempt. Paul Goydos understands that better than most.
Bob Harig provided the Duval report for ESPN.com:
remembers rifling drives into fairways and striking iron shots with
such precision that he wondered how he ever lost. Those days seem so
long ago, but they are not forgotten.
"I'm just pleased to get out of my golf game over the course of
four days again what I feel like I should be getting out of it," Duval
said. "I feel very comfortable in what I'm doing. And in a strange way,
it makes me proud. I feel like I kind of have given the folks who have
given me starts this year good firepower for what they did it. That
makes me feel good, too."
Although Duval has often maintained that his results have not been
justified by the way he played, the numbers speak for themselves this
week. For the first time since the 2001 Buick Challenge
— a tournament that no longer exists and that Duval lost in a playoff
— he shot four rounds in the 60s.
One other thing: Even though Phil Mickelson continued his disappointing run on a West Coast swing that was filled with expectations as he was a non-factor at Pebble and tied for eighth, Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group was impressed enough to to make a rash statement:
A clear-cut favorite has emerged for this summer's U.S. Open at the ever-majestic Pebble Beach Golf Links. No,
it isn't Dustin Johnson, who does deserve high praise for winning his
second straight AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. No, we speak not of Tiger Woods. He
will be too busy fending off paparazzi, if indeed he makes an encore to
his 2000 U.S. Open rout here. Mark it down: Phil Mickelson will win his first U.S. Open championship June 20.
And yes, this really, really will be the year for the Chicago Cubs. All things considered, ignoring Nick Faldo's ill-fated decision to try to talk football with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during Saturday's telecast, Pebble Beach provided golf's best week of the year… so far.