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NOBODY WINS WITH AT&T CANCELLATION

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Remember how people used to talk about how the spirit of the Crosby lived on at the AT&T Pro-Am? Forget it. The Crosby is dead and the funeral was Sunday, when a patch of mud no bigger than the patio at the Hog's Breath Inn canceled the tournament.

It was a decision that pleased absolutely no one, except the grand poo-bahs of the game, who reinforced the idea that this is the sport of wienies. Never mind what you heard, the tournament never happened."It was as if we weren't here," said PGA tour media official Wes Sealy. "except that we were all here."

The official word was that the 16th fairway at Spyglass Hill was unplayable. There was talk of "ponds" of standing water up to two inches deep and incredibly unfair conditions.

I walked the 16th fairway minutes after the decision to cancel, and it was mushy, soupy, muddy and perfectly playable. Water oozed up from underfoot at every step, but reports of whitecaps on the grass were ridiculous. Bill Murray spilled that much at the Tap Room this week.

The other factor was that, compared with the howling winds at Pebble Beach, the calm air in the tree-lined Spyglass layout would have been an advantage. But that's speaking logically, and there was no place for that.

Asked about any number of solutions to the problem: increasing the size of the drop area, playing through the mud, etc., David Eger, the vice president of competition for the PGA, had the same reply for each idea, "It would contravene the rules of golf." So does letting Murray hit an exploding golf ball, but nobody seems to mind.

And who was unhappy? Let us count the souls. Don't blame the tournament pros, who were eager to rush out in gale-force winds and scattered showers. Paul Azinger said he would have "run to the first tee." The pros said they wanted to compete for the good of the game, the integrity of the tournament and - oh yeah - because they wouldn't get paid if they didn't finish 54 holes.

Instead, everyone in the field was handed a check for $5,000. Asked if that would cover his expenses for six days here, Jeff Maggert, who led after two days and was in line for the first-place prize of $270,000, was diplomatic.

"It doesn't really matter whether I make money or not," he said. "AT&T was very generous."

We'll take that as a no.

As an additional slap in the wallet, the $5,000 won't even count as "official" money, meaning that it won't help the year-end money total. As Maggert said, that meant "the guys that stayed home come out the same."

And how about those happy ticket-holders who laid out $70 for a four-day pass and were given a cheery slap on the back and a big swing and a miss for two days of golf? No refunds, no makeups. That's the risk you take, said tournament executive director Lou Russo.

Not that Russo was copping an attitude. This was one big black eye for the tournament, and everyone knew it. Local officials were bitterly disappointed, although they had to go along with the PGA party line.

This is already an event with some problems. Pros are starting their season later, sometimes skipping the early West Coast swing altogether. How do you think they will remember their AT&T experience when it comes time to send in next year's entry forms? Let's see, the tournament was canceled and I didn't get paid, but how about that Monterey coastline?

Consider CBS. The network slapped together a wacky celebrity shootout when Saturday's round went under, but the network was completely lost Sunday. For a while, the CBS people were taking phone calls, like some local radio show.

And here's the real irony. It could have been sensational, one of the really memorable afternoons of golf on television. In 1992 the final round of the U.S. Open was contested at Pebble Beach in the same kind of winds.

When Tom Kite stood just off the 7th green - that wind-whipped platform of turf suspended over the foam - and chipped into the cup, it was an instant classic. Watching the greatest golfers in the world handle the winds would have been a kick - not to mention great ratings.

And watching the likes of Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood and Murray hit everything from a 4-iron to a dead driver into the teeth of the gale on the 107-yard 7th would have fueled stories for the next 50 years.

That's what they did in the old days. They played this tournament through enough rain to float a lifeboat in the sand traps. In 1962 it snowed. Part of the charm of the event was that everyone knocked back a hot toddy and went out and grinned through the raindrops.

"What would I do?" asked Ben Crenshaw Sunday morning when there was still a chance to play. "I'd get all the pros who were still left and take them to the Peter Hay (nine-hole) course and say, `Go around twice,' and we'll get a winner."

That's what Bing would have done, but he's gone. Now, so is the spirit of his tournament.