The Monterey Peninsula isn't only home to this week's AT&T National Pro-Am at one of the game's most iconic courses - Pebble Beach - it's also the home of one of PGA.com's first-ballot Hall-of-Fame, all-time favorite people to interview - Pebble Beach PGA Head Professional Chuck Dunbar.
We caught up with Dunbar earlier this week before the start of what sure to be a memorable one for the folks at Pebble, where Tiger Woods is making his 2012 PGA Tour debut. As you might expect, Dunbar says Tiger's presence there for the first time in 10 years for a non-major has brought about quite a bit of excitement.
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We covered Daniel Chopra's amazing accomplishment on Monday, talked a little about tournament staple Bill Murray and more.
PGA.com: Chuck, as always, thank you for joining us. Is it safe to say that there's a touch more excitement in the air at Pebble Beach this week, seeing as Tiger Woods will be there for the first time in ages, making his 2012 PGA Tour debut?
Dunbar: Umm… yeah. It's definitely safe to say there's some excitement in the air, T.J.!
Absolutely there is. I can tell you that because: 1. It's Tiger Woods we're talking about; and 2. My phone won't stop ringing. I'm getting a barrage of calls with people wanting to know exactly where he's going to be and when he's going to be there. I've been working here at Pebble Beach for 13 years and - aside from the U.S. Opens in 2005 and 2010 - Tiger hasn't been here for 10 years.
I think he's here for a few reasons. First, he really does love Pebble Beach and has said as much over the years. Secondly, I think he may have had a little pressure from a particular former sponsor, who also sponsors this tournament and Tiger's tournament in the summer. Finally, he can win here. He's proven that. And, he wants to get back in the winner's circle. He knows that's a possibility here.
There's always a buzz about Tiger. Adding to the buzz is the fact that he's playing with Tony Romo this week. They're not playing in the A rotation. Tiger wanted to do his own thing, which I understand and I think makes sense. Basically, you won't be seeing him with the celebrity flight at Pebble on Saturday with all the cameras on him. Phil Mickelson has done this in the past too and I think it's great for the tournament - it spreads out the traffic with all the spectators.
PGA.com: OK, let's talk about Daniel Chopra for a second. In a practice round at Pebble Beach on Monday, the guy had not one, but two holes in one! First at the par-3 seventh and then another on the 17th - arguably two of the most iconic par-3 holes in all of golf. What can you say about that, Chuck?
Dunbar: What are the odds, huh? That's pretty cool.
We had a guy in a Toyota corporate event make an ace on No. 5, a birdie on No. 6 and then another hole-in-one on No. 7. At the end of the day, he shot 79 and it was the first time he broke 80. Imagine that? He went 1-4-1 over a three-hole stretch for his best score ever. Not bad.
But, back to Daniel. I'm not sure where the pin was on No. 17 Monday, but if it was left, it's got to be the hardest ace to make on the course. If it's on the right, it's not the hardest. We get most of our aces on No. 7, it's a short hole and, of course, it all depends on the wind. After that, it's probably No. 17 if the pins on the right side, then No. 5, No. 12 and finally left on No. 17.
I'd imagine that Daniel's probably going to want to put together a nice little shadowbox for those two aces. But, he did it too early! It would have been really cool in a tournament round.
PGA.com: Let's go back to 2011 for a minute. D.A. Points picked up his first Tour win and was also a winner on the pro-am side with partner Bill Murray. It was Murray's first pro-am win at Pebble, a place where he's been a staple for years. Antics aside, what did that mean for the tournament?
Dunbar: You know, when I think of Bill Murray, I kind of think of him as the bridge between the old and the new. You know what I mean? When people think of the old Clambake, the Bing Crosby Clambake, you think of Crosby, Dean Martin, John Denver, Clint Eastwood when he would play, Jack Lemmon, the older guys.
Now, we have a lot more sports stars playing. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Romo, etc. Murray is the bridge. He played both eras. I think that's real healthy for the tournament. He's a crowd favorite for the young and the old crowds because he's still relevant.
Regardless of what people think of his antics on the course, I don't think he's a distraction that takes away from the tournament. If anyone doesn't believe that, just look at last year. As you pointed out, D.A. Points won the tournament with Murray as his Pro-Am partner. He didn't get in D.A.'s way. I could be wrong, but I don't think they had even met prior to that week last year. If anything, it was probably a great pairing for D.A. Maybe Murray calmed him down.
It'll be interesting to see what D.A. does this week. Personally, I think he'll be even more comfortable.
PGA.com: Spencer Levin tied for fourth in your tournament a year ago. Last week in Phoenix, he unfortunately surrendered a big final-round lead falling to Kyle Stanley who did precisely the same thing a week earlier at Torrey Pines. Two-part question: 1. How important do you think it is for Spencer to play this week to put last week behind him?; and 2. Do you think he's the type of player who's capable of turning it around as quickly as Stanley did?
Dunbar: I really don't know Spencer well enough to be able to say either way how he'll bounce back.
But, you can look at the Kyle Stanley situation and there are a lot of people who became fans of his because of it. It was cool to see the reversal take place so quickly. That shows some serious backbone.
Spencer can look at what Stanley's just done and say, 'wow that turnaround happened in just a week.'
Also, Spencer has won a State Amateur here. This is a good place for him to get those demons out. I think the timing is favorable for him to have a good week.
PGA.com: Final question, Chuck. You work at arguably the most famous place in all of golf? What do you enjoy most?
Dunbar: So many things have happened here. I'm trying to think of one thing that I enjoy most. There isn't just one. Each day, you don't know who's going to walk through those doors - celebrities, athletes, actors, etc. It's great.
Also, I love this community and it's a great company to work for. I have a great staff, I know that's cliché, but it's true. There's nothing to not like here.
But honestly, I get more of a kick out guys walking off the course who are not celebrities, and are able to cross this off their bucket list. I routinely have people finish and come back in to tell me how it was the best golf experience of their life. I never get tired of hearing that.