No joke! Bill Murray might win this Pro-Am

Feb 13 2011 - 5:09pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Alert the authorities. The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am is in danger of becoming way too much fun on Sunday.

Bill Murray and his partner might win the whole thing.

Question: Is a PGA Tour event ready for a victory ceremony that involves someone wearing an Elmer Fudd wabbit-hunting hat? The world shudders in anticipation.

Murray has been coming to Pebble Beach since 1992 with his golf bag and his fluidly improvisational comedy game plan. He has made the cut several times in the two-man pro-am portion of the event, finishing as high as fourth place. But he has never won the thing.

This time, it really might happen. Murray and his professional partner, the previously obscure D.A. Points, are just one shot out of the pro-am lead heading into Sunday's final round. Points is only two shots out of the overall tournament lead, in fourth place.

What this means: If things break right, Points could win the $1.134 million first prize Sunday, and the 60-year-old Murray could take home the piece of crystal that is awarded the pro-am winner.

Murray, when asked if he had a special place at home to keep such a trophy, told the Bay Area News Group exclusively and emotionally: "Well, I've got a garage."

Which just shows that golfing success hasn't gone to the man's head.

Indeed, the most enjoyable part of this year's AT&T (other than the amazing weather) is the way Murray has refused to back down from his unstated mission of tweaking those who treat golf as somberly as brain surgery -- even as Points has been hovering around the lead and making some borderline sensational shots.

As we all know, golf pros are supposed to be so sensitive they can't handle a few camera clicks as they stand over the ball. Points has had to deal with Murray working the gallery rope line to kiss women, sign autographs, eat cookies and punt the occasional random football.

Points, a 34-year-old from Illinois who has won four times on the Nationwide Tour but never on the PGA Tour, has rolled with the show.

"It doesn't bother me," he said after Saturday's round at Pebble Beach, claiming that the high jinks somehow relax him. "It's a distraction, but it's a good distraction."

Because of their excellent scores, Murray and Points will play in Sunday morning's second-to-last pairing. This means that coming down the stretch, the tournament leaders had better be prepared for anything.

As a scouting report, those leaders might want to know this: Saturday at various junctures, Murray commandeered an ice cream cart and tossed out boxes of Haagen-Dazs bars to the crowd. He picked up a grade-school-aged girl from the gallery and carried her fireman-style over his shoulder up one fairway.

Oh, yes. Did we mention that Murray was doing all this while wearing the aforementioned handsome Elmer Fudd headgear?

It's hard to remember now, but when Murray first appeared at Pebble Beach, traditionalists were appalled at his act. But over the years, it's become such a tradition that now people are dying to play with him.

That's certainly true in Points' case. He had always hoped to partner with Murray but made no special request to do so -- although the suspicion is that secondhand word leaked to tournament organizers of Points' wish.

Murray's secret weapon is that he is actually a good player, especially for someone with a 12-handicap.

"Bill has played so great," Points said after the third round. "All week, he's putted well. And today he made probably one of the best pars I've seen by anybody -- including pros -- at No. 12. It was really awesome."

No argument here. On the 202-yard par 3, Murray hit his tee shot deep into the right rough. When he walked over to check his lie, he sighed and told the gallery: "Wish us luck."

With that, Murray unleashed a beauty of a flop shot that landed softly on the green four feet from the cup. After dropping the par putt, Murray nodded and doffed his cap dramatically.

This was just a warm-up for the 17th hole when, after Points rolled in his fifth birdie putt of the round, he and Murray held hands and jumped into a bunker as if they were leaping into a pond. Murray then grabbed some of the sand and dribbled it over Points.

Watching from off the green was former 49er Harris Barton, who has played with the Points-Murray group all week.

"I give D.A. a ton of credit, being able to play that way with all that's going on," Barton said. "But you know, if you watch closely, Bill's courteous. He knows when there's an important shot, and he lays off a little."

Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone about that part. We have seen other great teams in sports across the decades: The Boston Celtics of the '60s. The Cincinnati Reds of the '70s. The 49ers of the '80s. Sunday, the 2011 Points-Murrays may be added to the list.

"I want to win the team competition for him," Points said. "But I want to win the tournament for me and my family."

The advice here: Go with the fun. And take the Points.

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