by Jeff Skinner
Tiger Woods makes his PGA Tour debut this week when he returns to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It is Tiger’s first time back to Pebble Beach, the AT&T version, since 2002. Tiger has had great success at Pebble Beach but has passed on the AT&T for the past eleven years for one reason or another.
Woods still has ties to the tournament sponsor and he has said he wants to play some additional tournaments this season so it made sense for Tiger to tee it up on the west coast. With all his success at Pebble you have to ask yourself why he wouldn’t play here more often. In six appearances at the AT&T he has one win and three finishes of thirteenth or better. But when the weather turns warmer and the U.S. Open comes to the Monterey Peninsula he absolutely kills it.
In 2010, coming back from his winter of discontent, he tied for fourth while Graeme McDowell was claiming his first major. And in 2000 he lapped the field by a record fifteen strokes that sent him onto the most successful season since Byron Nelson in 1945.
Woods went on to win nine PGA Tour events that year, had seventeen top tens in twenty starts, won three majors and only a fifth place finish at The Masters kept him from winning the Grand Slam. He remedied that with his win at Augusta the following spring when he completed the Tiger Slam.
But in that magical season of 2000 Pebble Beach played a significant part in his historic season. At the AT&T that February Woods trailed final round leader Matt Gogel by seven strokes during the back nine. He went on a run there that defied logic. His back nine 31 included an eagle from the fairway at fifteen followed by a birdie, par and a closing birdie for a final round of 64 and a two stroke win over a shell shocked Gogel and Vijay Singh.
When the U.S. Open celebrated its 100th anniversary at Pebble Beach that summer Woods put on a display of golfing skill that remains unmatched. An opening round of 65 left him in the lead by a stroke and he stretched it to six strokes after the second. At the end of the third round he was the only player under par (-8) and led Ernie Els by ten shots. Fittingly his final round 67 was the low round of the day and his twelve under par was the first time anyone had finished in double par under par at the U.S. Open.
Ernie Els who finished tied for second with Miguel Angel Jimenez at three over par was as amazed as everyone,” “It seems like we’re not playing in the same ballpark right now. Tiger’s phenomenal, and that’s an understatement, probably.”
So Tiger has made some amazing history over the links at Pebble and maybe this will be the start of regular visits back to Pebble Beach. If Woods is looking for a bit of positive public relations playing the AT&T fits the bill and playing that course isn’t hard to take.
After all, Jack Nicklaus says if he only had one more round of golf to play he’d play Pebble Beach. That’s what Pebble Beach means to Jack and plenty of other golfers. Maybe the “New Tiger” will see it the same way.