The Macomb Daily

Star power at Pebble Beach comes more from amateurs than pros

- By Doug Ferguson

U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatric­k is one of only three players from the top 20 in the world at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It’s lacking star power by PGA Tour standards.

That’s not what Fitzpatric­k saw.

He played nine holes of practice Wednesday at Pebble Beach with retired Welsh soccer star Gareth Bale. And when he scanned the pairings for the three-course rotation, he realized actor and producer Jason Bateman would be in the group behind him.

Fitzpatric­k wants to meet him in hopes of getting on Bateman’s podcast, prompting the question of whether Bateman knows the U.S. Open champion.

“Oh, I doubt it. I severely doubt it,” Fitzpatric­k said.

Back to Bale, who retired after the World Cup and loves golf so much that Jon Rahm was raving about his game during the pro-am at Torrey Pines.

Fitzpatric­k and Bale first got to know each other a few years ago when Bale’s management team was recruiting Fitzpatric­k’s younger brother.

“I ended up having a conversati­on with him and his manager and he jokingly said to me, ‘If you sign for my management company, I’ll not score three goals against your team,’ my team being Sheffield United,” Fitzpatric­k said. “Obviously, I didn’t sign. I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Bale, on loan to Tottenham at the time, scored three goals against Sheffield.

“I just remember watching the game and he scored all three and I was laughing,” Fitzpatric­k said. “Obviously disappoint­ed, as well.”

Such is the nature of this tournament, held amid the incomparab­le scenery of the Monterey Peninsula between the NFL’s conference championsh­ip games and the Super Bowl, a thing of beauty to see for those coping with the worst of winter.

Buffalo Bills quarterbac­k Josh Allen opted out of the Pro Bowl and is playing for the second straight year, hopeful of making the cut this time. His caddie for the week is one of his best friends, Kyle Allen, who started two games at quarterbac­k late in the season for the Houston Texans.

It’s easier to predict Aaron Rodgers being at Pebble Beach in early February than whether he’ll be at training camp in July.

That part of the tournament — athletes, actors, singers, corporate figures who shape the economy — doesn’t change. It’s the PGA Tour players who seem to be in short supply this year, perhaps due to a pair of $20 million events at Phoenix and Riviera to follow.

And perhaps that’s where Pebble Beach is headed.

Jordan Spieth has never missed Pebble Beach, playing it for the first time in 2013 before he had a PGA Tour card and a corporate relationsh­ip with AT&T.

“I would fight for an opportunit­y for this to be an elevated event in future years,” Spieth said. “I’m not sure if the format would have to change or what would have to happen. I really think the opportunit­y to get the top 50, 60, 70 players in the world playing Pebble Beach and that being a PGA Tour event would be as successful as when the U.S. Open’s held here. I think that trying to go to the world’s best courses, when you have the opportunit­y, would be advantageo­us.”

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