James Garner Calls Bill Murray's Golf Antics a 'Disgrace'

Every year the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am includes celebrities in the PGA Tour event, and every year the most popular celebrity is, by far, Bill Murray. And Murray has a lot of fun, and gets a lot of laughs (and along the way plays some pretty good golf). The fans love him, the PGA Tour pros appear to love him, the television network cameras certainly love him.

James Garner hates him.

Rather, Garner hates Murray's often-silly, attention-grabbing antics during the tournament. You know Garner, right? The veteran actor of many, many movies, but probably best-known as private detective Jim Rockford from the classic 1970s series The Rockford Files.

Garner is (or was, until his health and advancing age got in the way) an avid golfer, and played in the PGA Tour's celebrity pro-ams for many years himself. His love of golf and experiences in the game play a big enough part in Garner's memoir, The Garner Files, that Golf Digest excerpts the book in its December 2011 issue.

That excerpt includes Garner's thoughts about Murray, which start off with Garner saying Murray's "behavior at the AT&T is a disgrace," and continues thusly:

"He thinks he's mocking the whole thing by dressing like a slob and putting with the wrong end of the putter, but he's only making an ass of himself. He should have been banned from the tournament years ago after he tried to dance with that old lady in the bunker, and she fell down. I don't care if she didn't mind - I did. I'm glad I was never paired with him, because I would have refused to play."
Well. Alrighty, then.

I'm not a fan of the tour's pro-ams myself; coverage of the celebrities and other amateurs gets in the way of watching the good golf — the tour players. That's just me, and I'm probably in the minority. But there's a reason a few tournaments do include celebrities. That reason is that they believe having Bill Murray and other celebs raises the profile of the event, increases attendance and increases ratings. If tour players were complaining about Murray's behavior, if fans were complaining, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am would have uninvited Murray long ago. Most of all, if the television networks thought that Murray was turning off viewers, rather than causing them to tune in, they'd stop showing so much of Murray during their broadcasts.

Instead, they sometimes seem to show more of Murray than of the PGA Tour guys. Because Murray is hugely popular with golfers. Not popular with all golfers, clearly, but with most golfers.

Garner himself has always been very popular, both as an actor and as a seemingly unassuming, and obviously straight-shooting, person. The excerpt of his book in Golf Digest is worth seeking out; it includes many interesting tidbits.

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