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For once weather at Pebble Beach set fair

The biggest bonus for defending champion Phil Mickelson and former winner Davis Love III in the build-up to this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is the superb weather.

Traditionally, the PGA Tour event founded in 1937 by entertainer Bing Crosby on California's picturesque Monterey Peninsula has suffered at the hands of the golfing gods.

There have been frequent interventions by rain, wind and fog over the years, with the 1996 tournament cancelled after the second round.

The inclement conditions came to be known as "Crosby weather" but this week is very different with an excellent forecast from Thursday's first round.

"I think it's really important because we struggled there a long time with the rain and it turned guys away," twice champion Mickelson told reporters at a benign and sun-kissed Pebble Beach Golf Links on Wednesday.

"The last few years have been beautiful and I think this week is supposed to be spectacular. It makes for a great tournament and a great week."

Mickelson has played at Pebble Beach every year since 1998, when he won the title for the first time after rain forced organisers to put back the event by six months.

"In the mid nineties, I probably didn't appreciate the tournament for what it is," the left-hander added. "But the last nine years I've played."

Fellow American Love, tournament winner in 2001 and 2003, is delighted with the weather.

"They deserve a break here every once in a while," he said. "Crosby weather is such a tradition but it's not any fun, so it's nice to have this."

Love, who has not missed the Pebble Beach tournament since turning professional in 1985, was in early contention for the 1996 edition before the event was called off.

"It was just frustration for the tournament and frustration for the fans that we didn't get to play one of our favourite places," he said.

"Like a lot of other weeks, it was dark and cloudy and rainy. It's what you remember."

At the time, there was talk of moving the event to a different time of the year.

"I think that the tournament wants to be this time of the year because the timing is right, right after the football (American football's Super Bowl)," said 1997 U.S. PGA champion Love.

"It is hugely popular with the fans and ratings are great no matter who is playing, who is winning. Everything works."

Mickelson and Love, both big drivers of the ball, are among the pre-tournament favourites.

Traditionally, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been dominated by the bigger hitters.

Over the last eight years, Mickelson (twice), Tiger Woods (twice), Love (twice) and Vijay Singh have all triumphed by muscling their way round the Pebble Beach Golf Links and its sister venues Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills.

This week is likely to be no different with emerging PGA Tour talents such as fellow Americans J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson and Colombia's Camilo Villegas all equipped to prosper.

February 9, 2006


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