Making our day

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

Congratulations to the man who came to Pebble Beach this week and proved he was better than them all.

Let’s all applaud his execution under pressure, his visions of greatness and his ability to rise above the field.

That’s right – huge praise and big ups to the man of the moment on the Monterey Peninsula … the pilot of the Snoopy MetLife blimp.

Steve Lowery? Shoot, he doesn’t need our love. He’s got a check for $1.08 million, a two-year exemption on Tour, an invite to the Masters and perhaps best of all, a photo of him and San Francisco Police Inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan on the 18th green at Pebble.

For Steve Lowery, who at 47 years old actually had the words ‘Just-Biding-Time-Till-The-Champions-Tour’ stitched into his golf bag, a photo with Clint and some crystal to take home is beyond his wildest dreams. He left a patch of rubber in the parking lot at The Lodge and laughed all the way on the drive to San Jose International Airport.

You won’t hear from him again, but in the meantime, he’ll be adding a wing to the family compound in Birmingham, Ala.

Instead, the lasting memory of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, aside from a grassroots movement afoot to remove 3 or 4 words from the tournament’s name, will be another blimp shot of a breeching whale off the coast of California.

In fact, you’ll have to be patient with the column this week – we’re breaking every three paragraphs for a blimp shot.

Look! There’s the aquamarine majesty of Carmel Bay!

Look! There’s the aquamarine majesty of Stillwater Cove!

Look! There’s Nick Faldo berating the room service guy at The Lodge for delivering aquamarine tea!

Good move by CBS. Those blimp shots took our attention away from the fact that Tiger was nowhere near the Del Monte Forest, and that the leader board actually contained names like Dustin Johnson, Nicholas Thompson and Steve Lowery.

The following is an actual conversation between CBS anchor Jim Nantz and longtime CBS golf producer Lance Barrow from the weekend:

Nantz: L.B., what do we do? Dustin Johnson is in the lead.

Barrow: Cut to the blimp! There’s a sailboat near Pacific Grove! Hurry!

But seriously folks … there really was a sailboat near Pacific Grove.

OK, for real now. There were developments of import over which to cogitate, prime among them the notion that Vijay Singh, who will turn 45 this month, may be getting a case of Old Man Nerves.

Veej had this one in the bag, but short-sided himself on 14 and made bogey; yanked his approach left on 15 and made bogey; and pumped his drive into a fairway bunker on 16 and made bogey. Sure, he made a heroic birdie on 18 to get into the playoff with Lowery, and earned major brownie points for the feathery wedge as his third shot under pressure. But he followed that with a flat-out skull job out of the bunker on 18 in the playoff, and though he saved par, his goose was cooked when Lowery made birdie for the win.

Bottom line: Add one more would-be challenger to Tiger to the ash heap until further notice. Even when Tiger stays away, he gains on his competition. Old Tiger competitors never die, they just fade away.

Speaking of which …

Scorecard of the weekPhil Mickelson: 71-72-78-MC.

Otherwise forever known as the scorecard where Phil Mickelson gave his best Nigel Tufnel from “Spinal Tap” impression.

Yes, Phil’s score goes to 11.

The scene: 14th hole at Pebble. Lefty, five shots off the lead on Saturday, tried to get aggressive. We’ve seen Good Lefty when he gets aggressive.

This was Bad Lefty, the one with the devil horns and the trident.

He pumped two hybrid irons out of the rough out of bounds, hit his 6th shot with a 5-iron to the fairway, spun a wedge off the green for ‘7’, from a muddy lie couldn’t reach the green for an ‘8’, chipped on, and two-putted for … an 11.

The PGA Tour could not find a higher number on a Mickelson scorecard since he turned pro.

Like we said … even when Tiger stays away from a golf course, the gap grows. Sigh.

Mulligan of the week

• Like you need to ask? Hey, Bones, break Lefty’s hybrid over his knee, hand him a 5-iron and make a par next time he gets one of them crazy ideas. Deal?

Broadcasting moment of the week

“That would be Clint Eastwood applauding.” – Jim Nantz, explaining the sound of two hands clapping inside the 18th tower on Sunday at Pebble, after Vijay’s pitch to the 18th green.

That’s right, and at Pebble Beach, who’s going to stop him? They say ‘No Cheering in the Press Box’, but then again … they don’t say ‘Clint Can’t Cheer in the Press Box’.

In a week where George Lopez crowd-surfing at 15 dubiously counted as a featured moment, let’s everybody clear the stage for The Enforcer. The AT&T may not draw Tiger, and we may be left with the scraps of Kenny G, Tom Dreesen and the guy who’s engaged to Fergie, but when it’s all said and done: Clint.

Yes, Clint. Applaud away, Mr. Mayor. You da man.

• Where do we go from here?

To Riviera, to enjoy one of America’s greatest pieces of real estate. They call it the “Northern Trust Open” now, but it will always be the ‘L.A. Open’ to those of us in the (barely) 40-and-over crowd, and it will always be Hogan’s Alley to the (barely) 70-and-over crowd, which is always welcome here at Lateral Hazard.

Nick Faldo had a nice moment on Sunday when he hailed Corey Pavin as “the last surviving true shot maker” on Tour after Pavin’s 66 at Pebble. Let’s call Riviera, then, straightforward and trick-free, tightly carved into the land of west L.A., the last surviving true shot making golf course on Tour. It’s as vintage as a Sinatra track produced by Nelson Riddle, as classic as a Spencer Tracy premiere on Hollywood and Vine.

Enjoy, golf fans. I know I will.

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