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Fun-Filled Pebble Beach Pro-Am Starts


The lowest-key tournament every year on the PGA Tour's schedule is set to start Thursday along California's scenic Monterey Peninsula. Now called the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the event was established by singer Bing Crosby in 1937, when it was dubbed the National Pro-Am Golf Championship and held at Rancho Sante Fe Golf Club in Southern California.

After World War II, the tournament moved to the Monterey Peninsula, where it's been held on three area golf courses ever since. The original lineup of courses included Pebble Beach Golf Links, Cypress Point Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill filled in for several years, and the current lineup includes Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula's Shore course.

With the popular singer drawing the entertainment industry's top stars, the former "Crosby Clambake" was always a different type of golf tournament, with celebrities such as Bob Hope, Phil Harris, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon and Bill Murray and many others bringing a non-serious element to the proceedings. Business moguls and top athletes from other sports have also always been a part of the festive event.

Among the big names this year are rock singers Darius Rucker and Huey Lewis, comedians Ray Romano and Gary Mule Deer, NFL players Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, NFL coaches Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick, Major League Baseball pitchers Justin Verlander and Matthew Cain, and NHL great Wayne Gretzky.

Murray will be playing again this year with D.A. Points, who won the event in 2011 and helped lead his team to the pro-am title that year, the first time Murray ever won in years of trying.

Hunter Mahan, a native of Orange, Calif., spoke for many of the touring pros in the field when he remarked during a press conference Tuesday, "I just like being at Pebble. There's no place you'd rather be when the weather's good and you're out playing. I think it's a special course.

"You know, I think AT&T has done a great job of making this more pleasing to players and they run a great event and Monterey is fantastic and Spyglass is fantastic. Like I said, I enjoy playing this event, it's a lot of fun and being a California guy, I always enjoy being in California."

Speaking of weather, because of the site's location alongside the Pacific Ocean the tournament has been abbreviated to 54 holes several times due to inclement conditions. Most recently that happened in 1998, '99 and 2009, with Dustin Johnson winning the latter year and following up with a second straight title in 2010 (in 72 holes).

The forecast for the 2013 tournament, which starts Thursday, is for a 50-percent chance of rain in the first and second rounds, with clear skies and cool temperatures in the mid-50s for the weekend.

Returning to defend his title is Phil Mickelson, who's coming off a dominating performance in last week's Phoenix Open. The 42-year-old shot rounds of 60, 65, 64 and 67 to tie that tournament's all-time scoring record to notch the 41st victory of his Hall of Fame career.

Mickelson, who also won at Pebble Beach in 2007, '05 and 1998, will be paired with amateur partner, investment banker Skip McGee of Texas, and pro Rod Pampling and his partner Charles Schwab. They'll begin play at 9:50 a.m. Thursday at Monterey Peninsula's South Course.

Other favorites in the field include Brandt Snedeker - who's already logged two top-five finishes in this young season, and Johnson, whose partner is Gretzky. The all-time winner with five tournament titles is Mark O'Meara, who's not playing this year. Second with four victories are Mickelson and Sam Snead. Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus have three titles at Pebble Beach.

Golf Channel will broadcast all four days of the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Live scoring updates can be found at http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/at-t-pebble-beach-national-pro-am/leaderboard.html.