-- As usual, the weather was the talk of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -- only this year, it's the complete absence of rain, wind and gloom that is bedeviling pros and amateurs alike.
Under a warm sun and windless skies today, northern California native Kevin Sutherland shot a 6-under-par 66 for a one-stroke lead over Mike Weir and Robert Gamez.
Golfers expect weather trouble at Pebble Beach, which made the surprisingly calm conditions nearly as difficult to battle. Sutherland and a few others managed the fast fairways and hard greens -- and the tournament's usual six-hour rounds -- resulting from the absence of recent rain at the tournament's three gorgeous courses.
"I've never seen the course as hard and as fast as this," said Sutherland, who had five birdies on the front nine at Pebble Beach Golf Links. "The fairways are really hard. The balls are going a tremendous distance. I'm in places I've never been before."
Sutherland was born, raised and trained a short drive away in California's central valley, from his childhood in Sacramento to his college days at Fresno State. Since he first tried Pebble Beach in the high school state championship, he estimates he has played here 70 times.
A lot of good it did him in these kind of conditions. "This is going to throw a lot of people for a loop, but these courses are challenging enough," Sutherland said.
Though Bill Murray led another bumper crop of entertaining amateurs, the professional field at the popular pro-am is less star-studded than usual. Tiger Woods skipped the tournament for the first time since 1995, and just seven of the world's top 25 players are in the field.
Girl, 13, in Pearl Open
While the golf world waits for Suzy Whaley to play in the PGA Tour's Greater Hartford Open, 13-year-old Michelle Wie is making playing against the men commonplace.
The eighth grader from Honolulu tees off today in the Hawaii Pearl Open against 191 other golfers, all men. She will play from same tees as her male competitors. The three-day event will be played at Pearl Country Club, where Wie tried to qualify for last month's Sony Open. Playing the back tees, Wie shot a 1-over 73 and tied for 47th against 96 men.