Clampett doesn't skip beat at Pebble

CBS analyst returns to course, shoots 3-under

U.S. Open notebook

Golf

June 16, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - As a child prodigy growing up in nearby Carmel, Bobby Clampett considered the Pebble Beach Golf Links as his home course. As a 22-year-old star-in-making on the PGA Tour, Clampett finished tied for third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus here at the 1982 U.S. Open.

All that seemed like a lifetime ago for Clampett.

Until yesterday, that is.

Playing in his first regular tour event in 21 months and his first Open in 14 years, the former phenom relived the past during a startling 3-under-par 68. It was remarkable, but no more so than how Clampett, now a full-time golf analyst on CBS, qualified for the 100th U.S. Open in the first place.

After being the fourth alternate in a field of 193 in the sectional qualifying round at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville the day after the Kemper Open, Clampett had to hit practice shots with pine cones because the range was full. By the time he was called to the first tee, his playing partners had already started walking down the fairway.

"I bogeyed two of the first three holes and shot 10-under-par after that," Clampett said.

Clampett got off to a much better start yesterday, making 4-footer for birdie the par-4 first hole and a 2 1/2 -footer for birdie on the par-3 fifth. When he made a 25-footer for birdie on the par-4 ninth hole that he thought was going 10 feet past the cup, Clampett began fighting a wave of emotions.

"I just looked up at heaven and just thanked God for that," said Clampett, a religious man who wears the same kind of What Would Jesus Do bracelet that the late Payne Stewart wore during his Open victory at Pinehurst last year. "My eyes just swelled up. It was amazing."

Clampett, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 1982 Southern Open, said later that he began thinking about Ben Crenshaw's victory at the 1995 Masters and Johnny Miller's win in the 1994 Pebble Beach AT&T. Both seemingly came out of nowhere, with Miller having barely played for years after becoming a TV analyst.

"Life is made of dreams, and there's been a lot of dreams that happened on the golf course," said Clampett, 40.

Sharing that dream was his wife, Ann, and two of their three children who had never seen their father play at this level. The Clampetts were supposed to move into a new house in Cary, N.C., yesterday, and had to put that off until next week. He estimates that he played here 200 times before this week, only one came in the last five years.

"I think it was such a clear demonstration of divine intervention," said Clampett. "I think having played this golf course [as a child] and dreaming of playing in the U.S. Open, playing here in '82 and having had some of those experiences, they were some of the best golf shots I've ever hit."

Daly quits after 14 on 18

While yesterday's opening round was a dream for Clampett, it was another nightmare for former British and PGA champion John Daly. After shooting a 12-over 83 that included a 14 on the par-5 18th hole, Daly withdrew.

It marked the second time in four years that Daly withdrew in the Open, following a second-round pullout from Congressional in 1997. It also came a year after Daly purposely hit a still-moving ball en route to an 11 on the par-4 eighth during the final round of the Open at Pinehurst.

Daly left the course without comment, but one of his playing partner, Rocco Mediate, said that it apparently came out of nowhere.

"John was playing so well," said Mediate, alluding to Daly's hitting 14 of the first 16 greens in regulation and being 2-over at the time. "That boy has so much talent. He just lost it mentally."

Daly acknowledged in a national magazine story earlier this year that he has started drinking and gambling again.

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