By Dave Shedloski
It’s hard to argue that this portion of the PGA TOUR schedule isn’t one of the most entertaining stretches of the season. One week after the gala atmosphere of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the TOUR is in Pebble Beach, California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the glitziest and most fun-filled events in the game.
Begun in 1937, the $7.2 million Pebble Beach Pro-Am features 156 professionals and 156 amateurs, many of them athletes and celebrities, playing not only iconic Pebble Beach, but also Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Among the celebs this year: Bill Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Mark Wahlberg and winning Super Bowl coach Bill Belichick. The top 60 pros and the top 25 pro-am teams advance to Sunday’s final round at Pebble Beach.
Last year, alternate Vaughn Taylor was the surprise winner, edging Phil Mickelson. He also won the pro-am portion of the event, only the 10th player to pull off that double.
World No. 1 Jason Day and No. 3 Dustin Johnson headline a field that also includes Mickelson (a four-time winner), Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker, Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and U.S. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker.
Veteran CBS Sports on-course reporter Peter Kostis assesses this week’s potential story lines.
Pebble Beach is an iconic golf course used as part of a three-course rotation. We know that the location makes it special, but what makes it challenging at just a little over 6,800 yards?
I’ve always felt like the Poa annua greens are so difficult to putt well consistently, that it always favors the ball strikers. It’s been raining, so a huge advantage this week [goes] to the ball strikers. Putting will be tough, and it will be difficult to get up and down. Look at the guys who’ve won here. Not necessarily great ball strikers, but they were great ball strikers that week. Weather, of course, is always an issue that adds to the challenge.
We always talk about Pebble Beach. What do you like about the other two venues?
Spyglass is just a really long, hard golf course. With the rain they’ve had, there’s not a lot of roll out there. Spyglass will be a backbreaker. It’s a big-boy golf course, not unlike Torrey Pines South. Monterey Peninsula might be one of the great renovations ever done. (The late) Mike Strantz did a wonderful job. It’s a very fun and enjoyable golf course.
Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are coming off missing the cut at their last event, the Farmers Insurance Open. Is this a great place for their next start, where the atmosphere is a bit more relaxing, even if it is a busy place with a lot of fans gawking at celebrities?
You have to be able to deal with [the] amateur element and the format, because there is a lot going on and the rounds are long. Affable personalities do well there. The player has to let all the commotion go by and think about what he’s doing. What’s also happened in favor of the players is that they’re allowed to choose their partner, and that makes the experience more enjoyable. So I expect both men to play well, DJ in particular, who is playing with Wayne Gretzky again.
Give us your favorites and dark horses.
This is the kind of golf course, even though he just won, that Jon Rahm should do well. I think Jordan Spieth can do well. He’s a good enough putter to handle the greens and stay patient, sort of defying the odds. Clearly Dustin Johnson is good enough. You can’t ever count out Phil Mickelson. My dark horse is Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, who has the personality to really enjoy the atmosphere, and he can play these golf courses, whatever the weather might be.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.