Ron Agostini

Agostini: AT&T moves forward without Mickelson, Woods

A slumping Phil Mickelson has not entered and Tiger Woods and his aching game and physique also will be absent. Will the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am survive without them?

It has flourished before them and, I believe, will manage just fine this week.

There’s something about the timeless beauty of Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula that has made this event a PGA Tour staple since the late 1940s. The purse of $6.8 million and $1,224,000 first prize remains a strong magnet, of course.

This year, Jim Furyk is in the field along with defending champion Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson (2009 and ‘10 champion), Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh (2004 champion), Davis Love III (2001 and ‘03 champion) and Brandt Snedeker.

Johnson, who tied for second place last year behind Walker, missed the cut last week at the Farmer’s Insurance Open in his first tournament following a mysterious six-month layoff. His amateur partner will be hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, his future father-in-law.

Unlike Woods, Mickelson – a four-time champion – has been a regular at Pebble Beach since 1994. Now 44, he’s spending more time with his children and is gearing toward the majors later this year.

It’s the rapidly advancing younger generation, however, that is worth watching this week. Blossoming stars such as Patrick Reed, Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day (last week’s winner at Torrey Pines) will be tested at Spyglass Hill, the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Pebble Beach.

Beyer High graduate Matt Bettencourt, the 2010 Reno-Tahoe Open winner, also tees it up along with former Modesto Junior College star David Carr. It’s the second consecutive appearance for Carr, the longtime director of instruction at Teal Bend near Sacramento, who’s won the NorCal PGA Player of the Year award the last two years.

San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey, who’s increased ticket sales, will make his AT&T debut. He’ll be joined by teammate Matt Cain and former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Bill Murray returns after missing last year. Other celebrities in the field are Ray Romano, Chris O’Donnell, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Josh Duhamel and Kenny G.

The late Billy Casper, one of golf’s best in the 1950s and ‘60s, made his mark at Pebble with wins in the “Crosby” in 1958 and ‘63. Casper’s death last weekend reminded golf observers of his incredible career that included two U.S. Open wins, a Masters title and distinguished success at the Ryder Cup.

Complimentary parking is available today through Sunday at Cal State Monterey Bay, where free shuttles to the tournament are available. For more information on parking and tickets, visit www.attpbgolf.com.

The Shag Bag – Longtime Escalon High golf coach Rusty Fachner has received the 2014 Ambassador Award, which recognizes people who have been prolific in promoting golf and growing the game for the younger generation, by the San Joaquin Valley chapter of the Northern California PGA. It is the first time the local PGA chapter has given this award. ... Also honored last week at Brookside CC in Stockton was Shelley O’Keefe, who was named the Junior Golf Professional of the Year. O’Keefe, an instructor at Spring Creek CC in Ripon, was cited for her work with young players. Spring Creek’s Sean King received the Assistant Pro of the Year award. ...

Paul Biocini, a longtime club pro in the area, has retired but still lives near the 17th fairway at La Contenta in Valley Springs. He shot a 66 recently at La Contenta. Why is this newsworthy, you ask? Biocini is 76. “I’ve shot my age many times,” he said, and we believe him. ... Coming up: The 2105 open house and registration day for The First Tee of Central Valley, to be held Feb. 21 at Modesto Municipal, from 10 a.m. until noon.

Holes-In-One – Kristy Nicholson, Oakdale, 115-yard 17th at Brookside CC, Stockton, hybrid ... Damean Sheets, Birch Bay, Wash., 173-yard 12th at Creekside (no club identified).

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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