The guy who wins the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Aug.
17, seven months after the first two rounds were completed, will
be someone who plays Poppy Hills. It'll probably be Tom Watson,
who is tied for first, or Davis Love III, who's two shots back.
They have a huge advantage over those of us who will play Pebble
Beach or Spyglass Hill, because Poppy is a much easier course in
August than it is in January.
As a northern Californian who has played almost 200 rounds at
the three AT&T courses, I can tell you that conditions there
change dramatically from season to season. Poppy Hills has five
par-5s that in January are almost unreachable for medium-length
hitters like me. In August, with the course firmer and faster,
those holes are cupcakes. Seven months ago I reached the
557-yard par-5 9th with driver-driver. Next week guys like me
will be hitting a driver and a three- or four-iron. They can
reach the 531-yard 12th with an iron, too. The 560-yard 4th at
Poppy, inaccessible to all in January, will be in range for some
of the Tour's long hitters. The 10th, which is 515 yards and has
a pond in front of the green, can't be reached in winter unless
you're brave enough--or dumb enough--to chance a three-wood, but
players will be using three-irons there next week.
Spyglass Hill's long holes, the 600-yard 1st and 555-yard 14th,
play about the same in summer as they do in winter. At Pebble
the 565-yard 14th and 548-yard 18th holes are seldom reachable,
while the shorter 2nd is a two-shotter all year. Pebble is no
picnic in the summer when the ground firms up, as anyone who
survived U.S. Open weekend there in '92 can tell you.
I'm glad we're going to finish the tournament, but it's too bad
the playing field won't be level. The guys at Poppy will be on
the fast track next Monday. The rest of us are in for an uphill
David Sutherland will finish the AT&T at Spyglass Hill.
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL SITE LINES Sutherland spies trouble at the AT&T. [David Sutherland looking at golf ball on green]