TOUR Insider: Get ready for the celebs at Pebble Beach

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February 08, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Before a PGA TOUR event begins, I read all the trade publications, local newspapers, interview players and study the golf course. This week I add another item to my pre-tournament preparation.

People Magazine.

You see, this week is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with its "Celebrity Saturday."

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More on the celebrities
PROS AND CELEBS: Here are the tee times of some of the notable celebrities and their professional partners. Celebrity tee times
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TIGER AND ROMO: Find out what Tiger had to say about the Cowboys QB. Read
MORE ON ROMO: How did the quarterback get started in golf? Watch
POINTS AND MURRAY: The defending champ is flying under the radar, at least compared to his celebrity partner. Read
GEORGE LOPEZ: Having fun on the course. Watch

On Saturday, all the celebrities will play at Pebble Beach and for the last several years it's been my assignment for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio to interview them before and during play. Early in the morning, all the actors, musicians and sports figures gather on the putting green and are available for interviews before they begin their rounds.

Here are some observations about the AT&T regulars:

Justin Timberlake: It doesn't seem right that someone can be that talented as an actor and musician and have that good a golf swing. He's funny and obliging to talk .

George Lopez: Usually has Michael Collins from ESPN caddy for him, making them the funniest twosome on the golf course.

Don Cheadle: Remembers me every year and goes out of his way to say hello and update me on his long-time movie project, a biography of Miles Davis. I hope it earns Don an Oscar some day.

Chris O'Donnell: The man is just genuinely nice. Always has time to talk and makes it seem like you're doing him a favor to ask for an interview.

Chris Berman: Might have the worst swing of all the celebrities and also gets the most enjoyment out of the game. He gets "sooooooo" excited when he makes a par and contributes to his team.

Bill Murray: A difficult interview. Let me explain.

I have always thought if a person is a bad interview it could be I am asking bad questions. Bill has a "sharp edge" to him and can be difficult.

Two years ago I introduced myself to him on the putting green, asking if he had a minute to visit with PGA TOUR Radio. He did not break stride as he walked past me and said, "Later."

About 60 minutes later he was playing the second hole, a par 5 at Pebble Beach, which always has a delay in play.

I approached again, asking, "Bill, would you have a couple minutes for PGA TOUR Radio?"

He answered, "I'm always more partial to people who introduce themselves first."

OK. Here's the restart.

"Bill, I'm Fred Albers with PGA Tour Radio ... could I ask a couple questions?"

"Go ahead."

"Bill, you are such a tradition here; it must be a lot of fun. I know the gallery loves you."

"Well, Fred, that was a sentence, I don't know how to respond to that. It wasn't really a question."

Points and Murray discuss win

Here's Fred Albers' interview with D.A. Points and Bill Murray after their wins at last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

At that point someone in the gallery yelled, "We have donuts, Bill," and Murray abruptly left me. A man alone in the fairway, holding a lonely microphone.

Total humiliation. Every syllable had been recorded in our network's Washington D.C. studio. For the next year the producers constantly replayed that 30-second clip as part of the blooper reel.

Brian Katrek shared it with his audience on his national golf show, "Teed Off."

Brian would ask, "I wonder if Fred is embarrassed. I know I would be."

Duh. Of course I was embarrassed and carried the guilt with me until last year when I received a mulligan.

Playing with D.A. Points, Murray hit his tee shot at the par-3 fifth hole to within a yard of the cup and made birdie. This time I approached him, introduced myself, and asked him to describe what just happened.

Breaking into Carl Spackler, he said, "I hit a 9 iron. I let my left hand dominant, I kept my head still, my hands quiet and let that left hand take it through."

I asked a couple more questions and exited with my dignity in tact while all the producers, techs and fellow announcers cheered my success with mock derisive comments.

I interviewed Murray again on Sunday after he and Points had won the Pro-Am. He could not have been more gracious, telling me he planned to go from table to table that night finishing everyone's drink.

I said, "It really is a "Cinderella story."

Carl Spackler replied, "From out of nowhere."

It turned into one of my favorite interviews.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to purchase a copy of People Magazine. I have research to do.

FIRM CONDITIONS: When I asked Vijay Singh about the course condition at Spyglass Hills, he replied, " Great. The greens are firm."

It has been a dry winter in Monterey with very little rain. The greens can get "spongey," leading to footprints, spike marks and bumpy surfaces. The greens are also kept intentionally on the soft side to facilitate the play of amateurs but this week they are firmer. That rewards the better players' approaches and putts.

TREE TROUBLE: There are noticeably less pine trees on the entire Monterey Peninsula these days. Some of it has to do with weather and some due to disease. High winds can topple tall pines but so can Pine Pitch Canker.

The disease has considerably thinned the forest. You can see sad stumps of trees where tall pines once stood. It has dramatically altered several holes where trees stood as sentinels guarding approaches and deflecting tee balls.

AND MY PICK IS ... It's hard to pick a winner at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am because it's not always an equal playing field. With three courses in play, a third of the field can catch Pebble on a terrible weather day while Spyglass is slightly more protected. That disparity occasionally spits out long-shot champions.

Tiger Woods is the favorite, but keep an eye on Bryce Molder. He has finished in the top 10 here the last two years and has been one of the TOUR's more consistent players. In his last seven tournaments, Molder has posted six top 15 finishes.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, [click here].

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