PEBBLE BEACH -- With the golf ball stuck hopelessly behind a cypress tree off the 18th fairway, Jim Harbaugh pulled his quarterback aside for a huddle.

There was no strategy for removing the tree. They'd need axes and hoes, not X's and O's.

So Harbaugh simply gave Alex Smith another dose of his Zen-like advice.

"I just told him that there's a lot more air than there is tree," the 49ers coach said.

As always, Smith understood his coach perfectly. He blasted a wedge from 60 feet that sailed over the tree and onto the green for one of the most memorable moments of the Birdies for Charity Shootout on Tuesday at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

The event pitted four two-man teams made up of big hitters from the 49ers and Giants. The Dwight Clark-Harris Barton pairing won the most money for their charity, thanks to a sweaty-palmed Clark, who drained a 3-foot putt on the final hole.

As Clark lined up for that putt, a fan from the gallery shouted, "It's just like 'The Catch!' "

Clark winced. "With that, at least I knew what I was doing," he said, mostly to himself. The former receiver regrouped and sank a putt worth $30,000 for Community Bridges and another $30,000 for the 49ers Foundation.

Such was the nature of a five-hole tournament featuring far more laughs than it did birdies. Consider the pre-round trash talk from former 49ers tight end Brent Jones, who said of Mike Krukow's garish golf pants:


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"I woke up this morning to find all my bedsheets all gone. Imagine my surprise when I got here to see Krukow was wearing them."

The jovial vibe is part of what made the playing tandem of Harbaugh and Smith so noteworthy.

The back slaps and high-fives never would have happened with Harbaugh's predecessors, Mike Nolan or Mike Singletary. Suffice it to say that Smith's relationship with his previous bosses was considerably below par.

But Harbaugh and Smith are so linked that the quarterback is going to caddie for his head coach Thursday when Harbaugh tees off in the real thing, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "Hopefully I can help with his game," Smith joked shortly after Harbaugh missed a short putt on Tuesday's third hole.

Whether Smith and Harbaugh will continue to pair up with the 49ers is one of the offseason's most easily solved mysteries. After six seasons of being booed, benched or both, Smith flourished under Harbaugh. The 49ers went 13-3 in the tandem's first season together and advanced to the brink of a Super Bowl with a narrow loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.

No contract discussions are under way, but if the Smith-Harbaugh rapport on the course Tuesday was any indication, the negotiations will progress rapidly.

"Obviously, Alex is as high a priority as anybody on our team," Harbaugh said after stepping off the course.

Though Smith and Harbaugh played well in flashes Tuesday, they were no match for some of their fellow Bay Area stars. The Giants duo of Matt Cain and Will Clark captured the first two holes and $20,000 for the Health and Care foundation and another $20,000 for the Giants Community Fund, based largely on the strength of Cain's powerful drives.

Cain, a pitcher with a powerful swing rarely seen around AT&T Park last season, hit his tee shot on No. 18 an estimated 330 yards, according to a course official.

"Bruce Bochy may want to put Cain in the three-hole this year," quipped KNBR radio host Brian Murphy, who emceed the event.

Cain looked like a polished golfer -- right down to the hideous checkered pants. But no one mistook any of these guys for Tiger Woods. Barton, the beefy former 49ers lineman, even joked about the peril for fans outside the ropes as he prepared to smack a 6-iron down the edge of the fairway.

"I hope everybody signed a waiver," Barton shouted to the crowd.

The teams all played holes No. 1, 2, 3, 17 and 18, with an alternate-shot format that required the two players to take turns. So on No. 18, for example, Smith hit a massive tee shot, followed by Harbaugh getting a lucky bounce with an errant iron shot off the hospitality suite.

That's when Smith gave the 49ers team hope with his majestic wedge shot over the tree.

How to explain Smith's sweet, powerful swing? Murphy joked about an imaginary conversation.

"I asked Alex how he could possibly hit the ball so hard," the radio host joked. "And Alex told me, 'I picture the face of every media critic I've ever had on the ball -- and then I crush it.' "