PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Ever since the days when Jimmy Demaret could really sing and Bing Crosby could really play, celebrities and golf have gone together like Scotch and soda. There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is that, in both walks of life, someone has to have big enough nerve to get up in front of a bunch of strangers and do something that has every possibility of making them look completely foolish. So it's too bad that, in the place where fame and fairways found their most perfect meeting, there is such a gnashing of teeth about B-list pros and the stars of B-list shows.
In this day and age, any tournament without He Who Is Without Peer struggles to seem even remotely relevant. It's the challenge of our time. But, if you think not having Tiger Woods in the field is a problem, try holding an AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am without Bill Murray. It leads to comments like this one, overheard in the media center: "What does Kenny G play, anyway?" Even so, the AT&T isn't exactly like the end of Doc Hollywood when Nancy Lee asks, "Is that a star?" and Hank replies, "Naw, that's Ted Danson." The same guy who couldn't summon soprano saxophone could have gone outside and seen Kevin Costner pushing his son, Cayden, around the putting green in a stroller.
And, on the competitive side of things, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson make a pretty stout four-ball in any league.
It's still Pebble Beach. How bad can that be? Sure, the greens are bumpy. And, yes, the rounds take six hours, even though it might not be your partner/friend who is the root of all evil ... it's the other guy's partner/friend who insists on holing that putt for an eight.
The suggestion that comes up more often than any other (besides bribing Woods, of course) is returning Cypress Point GC to the rota and dispensing with Poppy Hills. That would be the Glamour Shot equivalent of replacing Roseanne Barr with Gisele Bunchen, though it should be pointed out the supermodel is 5-10. As stunning as Cypress Point is, it was replaced in 1990 in the wake of Shoal Creek and the controversy over minority memberships and it's still just 6,500 yards. Even assuming none of the access issues exist today, Cypress Point last hosted these guys in the antediluvian days when titanium was found only in space stations and the ProV1 was just a twinkle in an aeronautical engineer's eye. Think the members would be keen about building a bunch of new tees, if that was even possible?
Phil Mickelson played Cypress Point before the tournament started and thinks, because the ball doesn't fly very far on the Monterey Peninsula, it would still stand up. Dave Pelz walked with him and had the distinct impression Phil was hitting an awful lot of wedges into holes. Of course, the tour could always play it with hickories. Tiger might even enjoy that, though the bribery plan probably remains the best one.
This quirky old clambake unquestionably works best when the leading roles are played by people with one name: Bing, Arnie, Clint, Tiger. There's no substitute for star power in showbiz or golfbiz. Maybe, with all that's at stake inside the ropes these days, the era of celebrity golf is passé. One hopes not. The ability of golf to reach beyond itself, not to mention the quality of the scotch, would suffer. Stars and superstars come and go but Pebble Beach isn't going anywhere. In the end, you have to like its chances.