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Postcard from The 2012 Pebble Beach Pro-Am

In the days ahead, we will be filing reports from inside the tour vans and around the practice green at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, bringing you the latest putter news from the professional circuit.

To kick things off, PutterZone.com editor Sean Weir files the following postcard for a broader taste of what life is like at the tournament—and why you might want to plan your own visit in the future:

“The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has never had any trouble attracting crowds. After all, it combines the allure of celebrity with jaw-dropping views, a legendary course and a colorful history, making it one of the PGA Tour’s most distinctive and definitive stops.

But then when Tiger Woods decides to return to the tournament after a 10-year layoff, well, that’s when things go off the hook. Indeed, reports indicate that ticket sales have grown by 35 percent this year, yet another indicator that nobody can move the needle like Tiger.

Yet on the eve of the first round, the vibe was decidedly relaxed, and the elbow room was plentiful. My first stop, of course, was the practice putting green adjacent to The Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Here, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was making time to chat with a group of U.S. Army men and women. Harbaugh’s quarterback and playing partner, Alex Smith, was nearby. Zach Johnson (pictured here) and Padraig Harrington were among the professionals practicing their putting. It’s a blast to watch these guys putt up close. There’s an “it” quality to their putting that just stands out.

But I was really there for the putters, and I got an eyeful. I connected with SeeMore, Yes!, Cleveland and Never Compromise, PING, TaylorMade, Edel, Odyssey and Nike. I saw new putters, upcoming putters and putters you’ll never see unless you’re on tour. In the days ahead, I’ll be filing my resulting reports from the practice green and tour vans.

The crowds began to grow around the first tee for the Celebrity Challenge. Don Cheadle was followed by George Lopez, who teed off while sporting a colorful Mexican wrestling mask. It’s not my cup of tea, but everyone was having fun. And that’s the beauty of this tournament. It offers something for everyone.

It amazes me that some folks would gripe about the unique format of this tournament. Would I want George Lopez playing on tour every week? No. But in an era when there’s a lot of hand wringing about growing the game and cultivating the next generation of golfers, we should celebrate our exceptions to the rule of “serious” golf. The 16th hole at Phoenix, the shenanigans of Bill Murray at Pebble Beach…In moderation, these early-season spectacles make golf more cool and relatable.

On that note, if you haven’t been to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list. Consider going early, even during the practice rounds, if you want a more intimate, less-crowded experience. You can walk the course and re-imagine its most epic shots from the U.S. Open and Pro-Am. The organizers do a fantastic job of keeping things flowing amid the naturally tight confines of the Del Monte Forest, and the tournament ambassadors, from the traffic cops to the shopkeepers, make it a friendly experience.

Even if you can’t make it during tournament time, and even if you can’t afford a round of golf here, you’d still be wise to visit someday. The seafront path of 17-Mile Drive is alone worth the effort of your trip, with Monterey cypress trees clutching bare rock and leaning out toward some of the most breathtaking ocean views in the world. At the lodge, you can shop for keepsakes and enjoy a beer and a bite in the Tap Room.

And bring your putter, because when there’s no tournament going on, the practice green is open to the public. Putting at Pebble Beach…It doesn’t get much better than that.”

The view above the Peter Hay short course at Pebble Beach, Wednesday, February 8, 2012:

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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