PEBBLE BEACH

WE STOOD ON Pebble Beach's picturesque seventh tee and braved the same oceanfront storm that washed out Sunday's action in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

We — San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler and I — cast aside our papers' competitive juices and formed our own "pro-am" team.

I'd like to think we were practicing "investigative journalism." It felt as if we were committing a sin at the Vatican.

Epic story short, we came away with differing views from our one-hole loop. Ostler morphed into Tiger Woods, made par and was ready to take on every pro and/or Clint Eastwood.

As for me, I put myself down for a par — remember, we were a pro-am team — despite my once-in-a-lifetime, three-tee-shot adventure. I humbly came away agreeing with Tour officials that a rain check was Sunday's safest move.

If playing Pebble Beach is every golfer's fantasy, sneaking onto it became ours, and we acted on that impulse mere minutes after tournament officials postponed Sunday's round.

We played without seeking the blessing of Pebble Beach's guardians. Let the record reflect we meant no harm to the world's most picturesque golf course, nor was any damage inflicted.

(Legal disclaimer: Don't try this yourself. We're trained professionals, the last beacons of watchdog journalism.)


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Conditions really didn't seem that bad Sunday morning, certainly not inside the 70-degree press room near Pebble Beach's fabled Lodge.

Sure, it was windy, wet and worsening by the minute outside. But, hey, such is a typical day at the beach, right? And don't pros play in that stuff every round at the British Open?

Odds are conditions won't improve today, likely leading to the fourth round's cancellation and making third-round leader Dustin "Let it Rain" Johnson the default champion (behind Ostler and me, of course).

The course's condition wasn't Sunday's problem, though. Pebble Beach's senior vice president of golf, RJ Harper, said there were "no washouts in the bunkers, no standing water on the greens."

Yes, a 40-foot pine timbered onto the No. 3 fairway, but that became firewood by 8 a.m., so other reasons (balls blowing off greens, danger to golfers and spectators) forced Tour officials to put the kibosh on Sunday's fun at about 1 p.m.

"It's the right thing to do," Harper said, "but it's sad we didn't get it finished (Sunday)."

Imagine how sad it would be if your long-awaited Sunday round at Pebble (green fee: $495) got canceled by the elements. How, Harper was asked, does Pebble Beach handles such occasions with the civilian golfer?

"As long as it's playable and as long as we didn't deem it dangerous, we allow guests to make their own decision," Harper said.

Our decision was easy. My fellow columnist and I had to see how dangerous things really were. After all, one other writer was warned by his editor earlier Sunday to "be safe out there," as if he were reporting from Islamabad.

So we scrounged up a 5-iron and 7-iron from reliable sources deep within the Pebble Beach compound. A trip to the downstairs gift shop produced a $21.45 sleeve of Callaway golf balls, commemorative edition for the 2010 U.S. Open here (which is precisely how I would have described them on my expense report if I dared filing one).

Upon reaching the 106-yard seventh hole, the scenery became breathtaking for another reason. As in, wow, it was really windy, really rainy and really within view of any marshal who may have been spying us through his telescope from the clubhouse.

Ostler had the honors, sculled his tee shot with a seven-iron, and the ball miraculously skipped down the slope and on to the back of the green.

My turn with the same 7-iron. First shot: Whoops, a dribbler. Chalk it up as a breakfast ball, the sacrificial warm-up shot in a blinding rainstorm.

Second drive: A 5-iron that sailed beautifully toward the green "... and past it, into the Pacific Ocean.

Third drive: A 7-iron into the back, left bunker. There's no sandbox in my life I'd rather play in, but I refrained. My pro-am partner had just two-putted (with a 5-iron) for par. Whatever golf ethics I had left prevented me from jumping in that bunker and risk ruining the sacred sands for today's round, if they do play it.

So I picked up my ball, a slightly used one that's now for sale. Ostler's is probably already in a frame. I better go to the Tap Room and ask him.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com