Five of the world’s top 10 – and all of the top three – enter the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week all in form worthy of their lofty ranking.
Atop the tree, Dustin Johnson is making his first PGA Tour start since his commanding eight-shot victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions; since then he has earned a solid tied ninth at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship despite not being at the races all week.
Johnson enters an event here that he won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Before the ’09 win he was ranked a modest 119th.Embed from Getty Images
Next in the rankings is world-number-two Jon Rahm who looked on course to continue his spellbinding run at both the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Farmers Insurance Open but for disappointing weekend rounds. His form before that read win-second-win. In Rahm’s sole appearance at this event – last year – he racked up a respectable tied fifth.
Jordan Spieth, ranked world-number-three, is next and is defending his title this year after a dominant display in 2017. Since the FedExCup Play-Offs began in August Spieth has only finished outside the top 10 twice, although one of those times was a missed cut at TPC Scottsdale last week.Embed from Getty Images
There’s a maiden appearance at this Californian event for Rory McIlroy who is in the midst of a resounding return to golf in 2018. The Northern-Irishman’s humbling 2017 swayed him to take three months out of the game between October and January. He has come back with a vengeance, though, grasping a tied third and solo second finish in his two starts since his comeback.
And lastly when Jason Day entered this event last year he was world-number-one but a 2017 marred by personal issues saw the Australian slip all the way to 14th. Day is back on the up though and after his win at the Farmers Insurance Open just two weeks ago he now sits back inside the world’s top 10 and is adamant his fortunes will turn this campaign.
Outside the elite heights of the rankings there is a start from Phil Mickelson this week who had a promising outing in Arizona last week with a tied fifth finish. A fifth win at this event would make him the joint-most successful player along with Mark O’Meara, and would end his winless drought that now dates back the the 2013 Open Championship.
Many players have multiple wins here and Brant Snedeker (2013 and 2015) joins Mickelson and Johnson as a returning multiple-winners whilst Spieth will be accompanied by Vaughn Taylor (2016), Jimmy Walker (2014), D.A. Points (2011) and Vijay Singh (2004) as single-title returners.
Spieth’s victory last year was emphatic. A 65 on Friday and on Saturday allowed a comfortable 70 on Sunday for Spieth to stroll to a four-shot victory – the largest winning margin since Mickelson’s five in 2007.
A unique format at this event means the cut is made at 54 holes with the players – and the pro-am teams – rotating through Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula on the opening three days. The cut is then made for the lowest 60 pros and ties and the lowest 25 pro-am teams and ties to play the final round at Pebble Beach on Sunday.Embed from Getty Images
All three of the courses sit at approximately 6,900 yards, but Monterey plays to a 71 with the other two set at 72. Spyglass Hill provides a significant test, despite the amateur inclusion, with holes six, eight and 16 considered a collection of some of the hardest holes on tour. However, winning scores here usually reach the high teens for the pros and Snedeker set the tournament record of 22-under in 2015.
Despite the amateur presence this event still holds significant weight. The $7.4m prize fund, with $1.3m for the winner, accompanies a full 500 FedExCup points.
Amateurs do play their part in the popular proceedings of this week though, so look out for sporting icons such as Wayne Gretsky and Tony Romo as well as entertainment stars like Pat Monahan and Bill Murray.