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Chilly start to Pebble Beach week

Tiger Woods picked a good day to stay in bed with a fever.

The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is known as much for its spectacular beauty as its fickle, sometimes nasty weather.

Rain and fog isn't a problem this year. For the third day in a row, freezing temperatures greeted the sunrise Wednesday morning, and players had to wait 2 1/2 hours before they could get on the courses to practice.

It's only appropriate that this is the 40-year anniversary of when one round of the old Bing Crosby Clambake was postponed because of snow. Jimmy Demaret rolled out of bed in the Lodge, saw snow on the ground and quipped, ``I know I had a lot to drink last night ... but how did I end up in Sun Valley?''

Woods stayed in bed Wednesday morning with a high fever, although he managed to get out to Poppy Hills in the afternoon for a practice round. That's where he will start defense of his title -- at least, the pro-am portion of the tournament.

Woods and longtime buddy Jerry Chang tied for first last year with Phil Mickelson and Kenny G, but only because Lefty -- needing a birdie to get into a playoff -- went for the par-5 18th green with a driver off the fairway and hit it into the ocean.

The defending champ is Davis Love III, who played his first seven holes in 8-under par on his way to a 63 to make up a seven-stroke deficit.

Love hasn't been seen this week without heavy clothing from head-to-toe. He was asked Tuesday before playing in the shootout what was the worst weather he had ever played in at Pebble Beach.

``Yesterday,'' he said of a pro-am round at Monterey Peninsula. ``It hailed on us twice.''

Actually, it snowed briefly that day. Mike Hulbert nearly had a snowman -- not an ''8'' on his scorecard, but one created by trying to putt through the hail and snow on the 13th green at Monterey Peninsula.

Worst weather?

There was heavy rain in 1996 that caused the tournament to be canceled because they couldn't get in more than 36 holes. There was the heavy rain in 1998 that caused the third and final round to be delayed -- by nearly seven months.

``That day when they had to suspend play because of wind, when guys were making 15s over there at Cypress,'' Love said. ``That was probably the worst day, when the flags wouldn't stay in the hole.''

That was in 1990, back when Cypress Point was part of the rotation.

Cold weather is not that big of a deal, as long as it stays dry and relatively calm.

``Cold and wet is not a very good combination,'' Love said. ``Hopefully, this really cold weather will be gone before the tournament starts.''

Indeed, another 2 1/2 -hour frost delay on Thursday would lead to rounds not getting completed and a major headache trying to flip-flop 180 pros and their amateurs over Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills.

``If it's not one thing, it's another,'' Love said.

Love wouldn't mind starting this tournament the way he ended the last one. Seven strokes behind going into the final round, he birdied six of the seven first holes -- the exception was the par-5 second hole, where he holed out from the fairway for eagle.

Love played the final 11 holes in only 1-under par, but it was enough to defeat Vijay Singh by one stroke and Mickelson by three strokes after he finished with a double bogey.

Mickelson took five months off to spend time with his family, returned two weeks ago and won the Bob Hope Classic in his first event. This is his third in a row, with a title defense next week in San Diego, so he might be guarding against burnout.

Singh has had two chances to win at Pebble the past two years. He hit onto the rocks on the par-3 17th last year, and in 2000 was in the final group that was chugging along when Woods blew past him and Matt Gogel for an incredible rally.

Woods was never a factor on the weekend last year, although he has fond memories of Pebble Beach, site of his record-smashing victory in the U.S. Open by 15 strokes.

While the weather is ever changing, the course has a slightly new look, too. One of the landmarks on the picturesque 18th hole, a 40-foot pine, was destroyed by disease and had to be taken down, replaced by corporate boxes.

The tree had been about 30 yards short of the green, which made for a daunting approach from the right side of the fairway.

``The worst place to hit it -- other than the ocean -- was to hit the tree and be behind the tree. You almost have to chip in the bunker to have a chance,'' Love said. ``We're so used to seeing it, it's going to be strange looking.''

About the only thing more strange to see would be snow.


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