April may be the cruelest month, but February’s weather is the most fickle, at least in Southern California.
The weather is probably the key variable in this week’s Shearson Lehman Brothers Andy Williams Open, which begins today on the Torrey Pines Golf Course’s North and South layouts.
It’s been a dry winter in San Diego, and the seaside La Jolla course looks it. The fairways have turned brown but groundskeepers say the greens are fit and the brown grass is merely an eyesore.
The wind, too, could be a factor. Torrey Pines is a public course sitting atop a bluff towering above the Pacific Ocean and brisk sea breezes kick up on occasion.
Play begins today with a field of 156 players. This will be reduced to the 70 low scorers (plus ties) for the final two rounds.
This year’s lineup, which includes Seve Ballesteros, Andy Bean, Ray Floyd, Tom Kite, Craig Stadler and Tom Watson, is considered the strongest in the past five years.
Six of the top 10 players on the 1986 PGA Tour money list and 11 of the top 20 are competing, plus 7 of the top 10 on this year’s winnings list.
The purse for this year’s tournament has been increased $50,000 to $500,000, with a first prize of $90,000.
Defending champion Bob Tway captured his first tour event by beating Bernhard Langer on the second hole of a playoff last year. The tournament was shortened to 54 holes after one round was rained out.
Tway, a second-year pro, won four times in 1986, earning $652,780.
In addition to Tway, eight former Andy Williams champions are entered: Bruce Lietzke, Gary Koch, Jay Haas, J.C. Snead, Gary Hallberg, Woody Blackburn, Johnny Miller and Watson.
This will be Ballesteros’ 1987 debut, and he has Corey Pavin to thank for it.
Pavin became the first player to win two tournaments this season when he successfully defended his Hawaiian Open title last weekend. He had won the Bob Hope Classic prior to that.
Pavin decided, however, to take a break after his Hawaii campaign, skipping the Andy Williams event and resuming play next week at the Los Angeles Open.
His place was taken by Ballesteros.
Ballesteros played a practice round earlier this week at Torrey Pines South, the longer of the two courses. He pronounced it a bit dry and playing shorter than normal.
The longest hole on the 7,021-yard South Course is the par 5 5th and 9th, which both stretch 537 yards. The North Course totals 6,659 yards.
The 18th hole on the South Course is the most tantalizing of the tournament. The 499-yard, par 5 is considered a strong birdie possibility, but there is a pond directly in front of the green that encourages some players to lay up short on their second shot rather than go for the green on a longer iron shot. Bruce Devlin took a 10 on the hole in 1975.