With the Masters fast approaching the world’s top golfers gather at the spectacular Pebble Beach looking to build some form leading up to the first Major of the year. Leading golf website Golf365 gives you the lowdown of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am including the favourites and who best to back at the iconic tournament.
This tournament ranks as one of the most important in PGA Tour history, with a storied past that traces back over 80 years to the inaugural running in 1937 when it was known – in honour of its creator – the Bing Crosby Clambake.
Although successful from the outset it exploded into life with the advent of colour television. TV executives couldn’t get enough of the stunning scenery of the Monterrey Peninsula, the bright clothing of the golfers and the comic potential of the celebrities who play alongside the pros all week – by the 1970s there were many tournaments copying the brand.
Golf clothing has tended to become more, rather than less, restrained since the 1960s, whilst the antics of the amateur golfers can strain the patience of some.
But what has never changed is the drama and beauty of the backdrop for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am – it is one of golf’s greatest stages and is why this tournament remains on the schedule.
The Winner’s Profile
Multiple winners abound. Mark O’Meara won fives times, Phil Mickelson four, in recent times both Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker have two wins. Tiger Woods won it just the once in 2000, but later the same year he obliterated the field by 15 strokes at the host course Pebble Beach.
The fact that Mickelson, Johnson and Snedeker thrive here provides a big clue about likely winners, as does the victory of Jimmy Walker in 2014. All of these players boast a strong record on Californian coastal courses with Poa Annua grass on the greens. In other words, Torrey Pines in San Diego, which the Tour always plays a couple of weeks before this event, is a good guide.
Snedeker finished top 20 at Torrey Pines before his two wins here, Johnson did so before one of his wins (for the other he dropped a hint at Riviera CC, another similar challenge), back in 2010 D.A. Points also signposted his win here with a top five in San Diego. Furthermore, very few winners fail to have shown a fondness for the event in previous years.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 2016
Vaughn Taylor wasn’t having the best start to 2016: he’d lost his card the previous season, hadn’t won in 11 years and his first start on the second tier Web.com Tour had been disastrous – after the luxuries of years playing on the PGA he’d ventured to Colombia, fallen ill and had to withdraw. To make matters worse, he was just days away from turning 40.
Golf has a funny way of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, however, and that’s precisely what happened for Taylor.
He wasn’t even in the field at the start of the week, but he got a break as first alternate and didn’t look back. He entered the final round six shots behind the leader Phil Mickelson and spent all of Sunday hunting him down.
He birdied 13, 14, 15 and 16 to card 65 and set a target which Mickelson missed a five foot putt to match.
“I worked so hard and just kept getting knocked down,” the emotional champion said afterwards. “I just can’t believe it actually happened.” The big 4-0 suddenly seemed a lot less scary.
About Pebble Beach
The field plays three courses on a rotation prior to a 54-hole cut. Pebble Beach Golf Links, which also hosts the final round, is the most famous, a stunning track which sits atop the cliffs of the Californian coast. It’s hosted the U.S. Open five times, most recently in 2010 when Graeme McDowell prevailed, and it ranks high on just about every golfer’s bucket list of worldwide courses to play. It’s a layout that overflows with standout holes but two draw most attention.
The par-three seventh can play as short at 96-yards, even for the pros, but don’t let that fool you – it’s a brutal hole, played straight towards the ocean, to a tiny green perched on the edge of the property. The final hole is played directly along the coast line, with the sea to the left and two trees threatening to impede the over-cautious golfer who aims right.
Spyglass Hill GC is a rugged, linksy track which takes inspiration from the novel Treasure Island, whilst Monterrey Peninsula CC is set amongst forest and dunes along the coast. This entire stretch of land is one of golf’s greatest and the tournament is a long and lavish advertisement for it.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Favourites
In four visits to this tournament he has never finished outside the top 25, but also never bettered his T4 in 2014. He led the field after 36 holes that year before a Saturday 78 dropped him 18 places and a final-round 67 couldn’t bridge the gap.
He’s on record as disliking the Poa Annua greens but he did card a final-day 66 last year; he can go low at Pebble Beach. Opened the season with a pair of T3s in Hawaii.
A boom or bust venue for DJ. Nine starts in the event have reaped six finishes of T7 or better (including back-to-back wins in 2009-10) but he was T41 or worse on the other three starts. His experience at the 2010 U.S. Open was boom AND bust over just one week.
He opened 71-70-66 to claim a three-shot 54-hole lead only to collapse with a final-round 82. Missed the cut at Torrey Pines.
The Englishman missed the 2010 U.S. Open here and only made his debut in this tournament 12 months ago, but he took to it immediately; an opening round of 66 setting him up for a week which eventually reaped T6.
It’s nearly two years since he lifted a PGA Tour title, but he has been close this year: T4 in the Sony Open and then T2 at Torrey Pines, having led after 36 holes.
His last five results in the tournament read: MC-1-MC-1-35. Coincidence? Or is he due a good week? Went into the final round at Torrey Pines two weeks ago with a share of the lead, only for a 73 to derail his hopes of defending that title.
It shows he’s in good nick and, in contrast to Spieth, says: “I love the golf courses, the greens are Poa Annua, which I’m a big fan of, and I love the format.”
As noted in the Farmers Insurance Open preview, Walker can never be overlooked in this part of the world and although he missed the cut there his record in this event speaks for itself.
His last six results read: T9-T9-T3-WIN-T21-T11. Quirky fact: in that run he has carded 67 or better five times on Saturday. They call it Moving Day and Walker usually moves in the right direction.
His final round of level-par 72 allowed Vaughn Taylor to pass him by 12 months ago, wrecking his hopes of winning the title for a fifth time. Can he go one better this year?
After surgery over the winter he has played well in stretches and arrives with form reading T21-T14-T16. He’s close, but since he last lifted a trophy (the 2014 Open Championship) he has eight top-three finishes without converting.
The explosive Reed hasn’t quite got the recipe right in this event, but he’s not far away. On debut in 2013 he was T4 heading into the final round, but a 70 wasn’t enough to contend.
A couple of top 30s followed and last year he smashed a pair of 65s, but his inability to break par in the other circuits meant he ended the week T6. He has won just once in his last 40 starts but finished top 15 no less than 23 times in that period.
About Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper is a contributor for Golf365, which has all the latest from tour events, plus news, features and course reviews.