By Norm Elrod
(CBS SF/CBS Local) — The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is one of the more unique events on the PGA Tour. Professionals and amateurs, including celebrities and business types, team up to tackle three of the world’s most scenic courses, nestled along the rocky coast of the Pacific. This year’s event also serves as a sort of U.S Open preview, since the host course, Pebble Beach Golf Links, will welcome the season’s third major in June.
At the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, each of the 156 teams will play Pebble Beach, along with Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course, using the better-ball format. The pros also compete in individual stroke play. The 25 low-scoring teams and 60 low-scoring pros will advance to Sunday’s final round back at Pebble Beach. The pro winner will pocket over $1.3 million and 500 FedExCup points.
Ted Potter Jr. is the event’s defending champion. The journeyman was tied with Dustin Johnson after Saturday last year, then defied expectations on Sunday to get his second PGA Tour win. Other recent winners returning this year include Jordan Spieth (2017), Vaughn Taylor (2016), Brandt Snedeker (2015) and Jimmy Walker (2014). The field also features some of the world’s top-ranked players, like Johnson (3), Tony Finau (11), Jason Day (12) and Tommy Fleetwood (14). Phil Mickelson, who has won the event four times, will also be on hand.
Celebrity participants range from professional athletes, like quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, to musicians like Darius Rucker and Toby Keith, to comedians like Ray Romano and Larry The Cable Guy. NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo, who has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open and missed the cut in his 2018 PGA Tour debut, will also play.
The courses that make up the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am are as much the stars as the players. The iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links will serve as the center piece of this year’s event. The par-72, 6,828-yard course abuts the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean, with dramatic vistas all around. Some of the more spectacular holes — the memorable par-3 No. 7 and the stunning par-4 No. 8 among them — are the stuff dreams are made of. As Jack Nicklaus described it, “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.”
Johnson checks in as the pro favorite. He won Pebble Beach in 2009 and 2010 and is coming off a win at the Saudi International, where he birdied his last two holes (and four of his last eight) to close with a 67. Jet-lag could be a concern, given that these tournaments are halfway around the world from each other.
Day logged a T5 at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago and garners strong odds at the Pebble Beach. He’s finished in the top 11 here the last four years. Spieth only managed a T35 at the Farmers, and has 20-1 odds at Pebble Beach. Fleetwood, Finau and Adam Scott also look to contend. How players handle Pebble Beach this weekend could indicated how they’ll fare at the U.S. Open. in four months.
While Johnson looks to be the odds-on favorite, the weather along the California coast could make things interesting. A strong storm ripped through the area early Saturday morning, destroying a hospitality structure. Beyond the need for a little cleanup, the actual courses were unaffected. Looking ahead, Mother Nature could make things a little messy, particularly on Friday, when rain looks likely for much of the day.