Rory McIlroy and his dad live Pebble Beach dream with Lefty

Rory McIlroy shot a 68 on Thursday and Phil Mickelson carded a 69 on Pebble Beach's Spyglass course. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The dateline is as famous as any in the game outside of St. Andrews and Augusta, and playing golf at any of the iconic courses along 17-Mile Drive is a treasured goal among avid players and hackers alike.

To do so in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am takes the experience to another level, and so it is this weekend for Gerry McIlroy, getting his first taste of golf on the Monterey Peninsula.

"I'm living the dream,'' McIlroy said between shots Thursday at Spyglass Hill, one of three courses used in the rotation for the annual PGA Tour event that got its start in the 1930s with the backing of entertainer Bing Crosby, an avid and excellent golfer in his own right.

In the case of Mr. McIlroy, it certainly helps to have a multimillionaire son whose golf prowess is well documented. Rory McIlroy, 28, elected to put this tournament on his schedule for the first time, and inviting his dad along as his amateur partner makes for a special week.

"It was awesome,'' Rory McIlroy said after shooting 4-under par 68. "It was great being out there with him. It's been such a good week so far. He went over and abandoned me on Monday to go play Cypress [Point], which is understandable.

"We played Pebble [Beach] on Tuesday, Monterey [Peninsula] yesterday and then here today and it's awesome. The weather and just everything, it's been a really good week so far.''

The other pro in the group is Phil Mickelson, who was 2 over par through 11 holes but rallied to make five birdies over the last seven to shoot 69. Playing at Pebble Beach for the 22nd time, Mickelson has won the tournament four times.

After all these years, it would be understandable if Mickelson wanted to skip the tournament. The days are long, with rounds typically stretching well beyond five hours. That is the nature of the tournament, with foursomes including two amateurs in each group.

Throw in three courses to learn, some years when the weather can be brutal and bumpy greens, and there are many players who have been apt to overlook its beauty.

Mickelson, 47, sees a bigger picture.

"I really enjoy this event, and it's a great opportunity to use the strength of the game of golf, which is the ability to play and compete with fans of the game and to be able to interact with many of the people that support and sponsor the game of golf,'' he said.

"This is a big tournament for us -- having that personal relationship really adds to the PGA Tour and its partnerships. But more than that, I love the golf courses and I love coming up here and playing on days like this that make it just spectacular. Even the bad-weather days you come to enjoy and appreciate the challenge of this place. I just love everything about it.''

Besides the celebrities and athletes who typically dot the amateur field -- Wayne Gretzky, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Young, Alex Smith, Justin Verlander, Darius Rucker, Jake Owen, Billy Murray and Tony Romo, to name some -- a number of corporate executives also participate.

It's safe to say that many of them sport income levels that make top golfer earnings look modest.

Mickelson's partner this week is Jimmy Dunne III, the senior managing principal for Sandler O'Neill & Partners, an investment banking firm in New York. Dunne is an avid golfer and said to be among a very few who claim memberships at Augusta National, Pine Valley, Cypress Point and Seminole.

So it is no stretch to say that this is one of the rare weeks when players might be as much in awe of their amateur partners as the amateurs are of them.

Dunne has a 3 handicap and looked totally at ease playing golf inside the ropes and among spectators. The experience is a bit more fresh for the older McIlroy, who has a 5 handicap and has teed it up with his son several times in the Dunhill Links Championship, a similar format to Pebble Beach that is played each year at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

Gerry McIlroy was wearing a Seminole sweater and has spent a good amount of time this winter at the South Florida club practicing. "No place better,'' he said.

"I was worried he would peak before this week,'' quipped Rory McIlroy.

The younger McIlroy had originally planned to put the tournament on his schedule in 2019. He figured he could get a look at Pebble Beach, which will host next year's U.S. Open, and also use the tournament as a celebration of his dad's 60th birthday.

But it worked out to come this year, and here they are enjoying playing together while Rory also tries to separate the team aspect from his individual game. His only other experience at Pebble Beach was a missed cut in the 2010 U.S. Open.

"I sometimes get too carried away with the team aspect,'' he said. "This is a golf tournament with world rankings points at stake and whatever. So I sort of made a conscious effort this week to treat it as that and not warm up right next to him, get my game hat on and just sort of try and go through the things that I need to do to play well. It worked today.''

McIlroy has started 2018 with eight of nine rounds in the 60s after finishing third at a European Tour event in Abu Dhabi and second in Dubai. After not winning in 2017, he is trending in the proper direction.

On Friday, the foursome moves onto Monterey Peninsula before getting Pebble Beach on Saturday with the weather expected to be glorious. It's a pretty nice way to spend a few days, whether you are playing the game for a living or not.

For Gerry McIlory, who worked three jobs at times as his son aspired to golf greatness, there is not much better.

As Rory said, "Yeah, Gerry McIlroy post-50 is pretty good.''