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Feb 9, 8:00 PM EST

West Coast Swing can get a bad reputation for weather



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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- The first stop on the "California Coastal Swing" featured 40 mph gusts and rain that led to a Monday finish at Torrey Pines with no spectators and hardly any volunteers. And that's all it takes to revive memories of what once was referred to as the Wet Coast Swing.

Reputations can be hard to break.

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was canceled after two rounds in 1996, a decision that led to strict weather guidelines on the PGA Tour. Pebble only made it through two rounds in 1998 when players were asked to return in August to complete three rounds and make it official. Payne Stewart (1999) and Dustin Johnson (2009) both won Pebble when the final round was never played because of rain.

As for Riviera? It's hard to forget 2005 when Adam Scott beat Chad Campbell in a playoff and didn't get credit for a PGA Tour victory (except for the $864,000 check) because rain allowed for only 36 holes over four days.

Forgotten are the good days.

There have been plenty in the last decade, and good weather is never better than at Pebble, Riviera and Torrey Pines.

The Northern Trust Open at Riviera has been rain-free the last four years during the tournament.

And while the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines didn't end until Monday, it was largely rain-free in eight of the previous 10 years. One of the two exceptions was in 2013 when the tournament finished on Monday because of fog.

Five times in the last 10 years, there hasn't been any rain during the four days of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and in two years, there was only light rain during one of the rounds. Weather still seems to be what players think of along the California coast - good and bad.

When it's good, it can be spectacular. When it's bad, it can be miserable.

There is no rain in forecast at Pebble this week.

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THE THRILL AND AGONY: Jim Furyk was talking about the Ryder Cup a few years ago when he brought up the idea that losing hurts worse than winning feels good.

There might be some merit to it beyond the Ryder Cup.

"I've had arguments with people about this. Do you love to win or do you hate to lose," Justin Thomas said earlier this year.

Thomas, who won in Malaysia late last year, already has gone through a few disappointments. He was close in Palm Springs as a rookie until he found a bunker off the tee with an iron and then the water, costing him a shot at the tournament. He narrowly missed out on the Tour Championship last year, after first being told he was in.

But his worst loss?

"What hurt the most? Losing nationals was terrible," he said.

That would be the NCAA Championship, when Texas beat his Crimson Tide and Thomas lost his match to Jordan Spieth, who holed out for eagle from the 15th fairway.

"I was so mad at myself when we lost to Texas and I lost to Jordan," he said. "I win my match and we're national champions. I put the blame on myself. We were by far the best two teams. We were both No. 1 on each team. It was such a hyped match."

That was in 2012. Spieth turned pro later that year and Thomas stuck around college one more season and the Tide won the national title.

Still, his stronger memories are losing to Texas.

"I'm still not over it if you can tell," he said with a smile.

He was thrilled to have won his first PGA Tour event at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia by one shot over Adam Scott. And how long did that feeling last?

"Probably until the next Wednesday in the pro-am in China when it was 55 degrees, raining sideways and I couldn't talk to anyone in my group," Thomas said.

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PLAYING WITH THE LEAD: Playing with a big lead going into the final round isn't always easy. Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia share a PGA Tour record for losing six-shot leads, Norman famously at the 1996 Masters, Garcia at Quail Hollow in 2005.

Sometimes, it helps to play a game within the game.

Tiger Woods had a 10-shot lead going into the final round of the 2000 U.S. Open and was driven by one goal - to play the final round without a bogey. He played bogey-free in the final round at Pebble Beach for a 67 - the best score of the day - and won by 15 shots.

Jordan Spieth seems to have figured it out. He had a five-shot lead going into the final round at Kapalua last month and set a target of 30-under par to keep his drive. That would require a 67, and he got it with a birdie on the last hole to win by eight shots.

Lanny Watkins was talking about his 1985 victory at Riviera on Tuesday when he explained how he pulled away from the field.

"I set a goal for when I was leading - I did this once or twice before, and I did it at Riviera - not to have a 5 on my card," Watkins said. "I was still grinding to make birdie on the 17th (a par 5). I shot 64, and if Hal Sutton hadn't birdied the 18th, I would have won by eight.

"It's really important to do that," he said. "It helped me keep my focus."

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NICKLAUS MEMORIES: Golf Channel's latest special to air during the Masters will be known by a number, not a name - '86.

Golf Channel will commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the last major Jack Nicklaus won with a one-hour special on his 1986 Masters victory, when he shot 30 on the back nine to win a sixth green jacket (and 18th professional major) at age 46.

As part of the special, the network is asking fans to submit their own stories on where they were when Nicklaus won and it will select which stories to include.

"Nicklaus' remarkable comeback win is one of those rare moments in sports where we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on that Sunday three decades ago," said Keith Allo, Golf Channel vice president of programming development and original productions. "To help celebrate this anniversary, we are eager to hear recollections from fans who were watching history in the making."

Fans can go to www.golfchannel.com/jack to submit their stories.

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DIVOTS: Arnold Palmer has his tournament at Bay Hill. Jack Nicklaus has his tournament at Muirfield Village. And now Gary Player has his tournament. Player is the official host of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, which this year becomes part of the Finals Series in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. ... Craig Watson has been appointed captain of Great Britain and Ireland for the 2017 Walker Cup matches at Los Angeles Country Club. He takes over for Nigel Edwards, who led GB&I to a 16-9 victory last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. ... All five PGA Tour winners in 2016 already were eligible for the Masters.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Pebble Beach was the only course on the PGA Tour last year (where Shotlink is used) that no one made a putt longer than 50 feet.

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FINAL WORD: "Life is difficult. Golf is even more difficult. When you mix the two, you know, it's a tough sport that we play." - James Hahn.

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