Inside Track – Pebble Beach
Our man in Monterey, Harry Emanuel, brings you the lowdown on the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Lowest Winning Score: -19 Phil Mickelson 2005
Cut: After 54 holes, low 60 and ties
Tee Off: Thursday BST: 16:00
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is a unique tournament. 156 professionals play Monterey Peninsula CC, Spyglass Hill GC and Pebble Beach Golf Links in rotation. After three days the cut is made and the top 60 players and ties return to Pebble Beach for the final round.
Each professional plays with one amateur partner and one third of the amateurs in the field are ‘celebrities’ made up of famous names from the movie, music and sports industries. The top 25 Pro-Am pairings also return to the Pebble Beach for the last round.
Pebble Beach is an iconic golf course and hosted the US Open in 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000 and 2010 and the PGA Championship in 1977. The Shore Course at the Monterey Peninsula CC returns to the rotation for the second year after replacing Poppy Hills in 2010.
American players with winning experience seem to fit the bill this week. Only three non-Americans have won in the previous 69 AT&T Pro-Am’s and only five players since 1970 have made the AT&T their first win on the PGA Tour.
Last Time Out
Dustin Johnson insisted all week that his rain-shorted victory in the previous year’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am did not leave him with anything to prove.
Opening with an 8-under-par 64 he led from start to finish. Despite a shaky final round 74 Johnson finished with a birdie on the final hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links to beat JB Holmes and veteran David Duval by one stroke.
In the process he became only the sixth player in tournament history to win back-to-back titles – Mark O’Meara (1989-90), Tom Watson (1977-78), Jack Nicklaus (1972-73), Cary Middlecoff (1955-56), and Sam Snead (1937-38).
In the 2010 US Open Graham McDowell posted an even-par 284 to become the first European winner of the Championship since England’s Tony Jacklin in 1970.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links, the host course, opened in 1919 and is considered the Mecca of American golf courses with stunning vistas from the nine holes that run along the cliff edge.
It is a Par 72 which plays only 6,816 and is the shortest course on the PGA Tour. It is considered a bombers paradise with wide landing areas, four short par fives and very little rough. It has small slopey open fronted greens which are well protected by bunkers.
In preparation for last year’s US Open changes to some of the greens, bunkers, tees, Cyprus Trees and fairways have made Pebble a slightly more difficult test than previous years.
When the wind blows the course can play nearly six shots more difficult than on a calm day and players will be hoping to avoid it in windy conditions.
The course record of 62 is held by David Duval (1997) and Tom Kite (1983).
Spyglass Hill G.C.
Spyglass is considered the most difficult of the three golf courses. The first five holes at Spyglass are exposed to the ocean but the rest of the course is inland, tree lined and features huge changes in elevation.
It is a par 72 that plays 6,953 yards and demands accurate iron play as the greens are very small and slopey.
As a result of extensive drainage work and the rebuilding of the greens in 2006 Spyglass has the best putting surfaces of the three courses.
Low scores can be recorded here. Luke Donald (2006) and Phil Mickelson (2005) hold the course record of 62.
Monterey Peninsula C.C.
The Shore course, being used for the second year’s succession, is a links style course. The first four holes and last two holes have some protection from the Cyprus trees but the rest of the course runs along the sea front and is very exposed to wind.
It is a par 70 that plays 6,838 yards and is the second shortest course on the PGA Tour. The course has three par fives, five par threes, wide fairways and large big undulating greens.
Normally it is a par 72 for the members but the 1st and 16th have been reduced from par-fives to par-fours for this week’s event.
The course record of 63 was shot last year by J.P. Hayes.
“The greens are firm. It’s going to be tougher this year. All three golf courses are really firm, even Spyglass. If the fairways were a little bit firmer it would be like the US Open. The more you play the golf courses, the more you learn ’em and you know where to hit the ball.” – Dustin Johnson
“Last week felt like two weeks with the delays .This week has a tendency to take an extra while so rest is just as important as practice this week. I know the courses it just about executing.” – Nick Watney
“Pebble Beach is an iconic golf course. The last few years it’s gotten better and better. The golf course has gotten firmer. The golf course doesn’t necessarily favour a fader or a hooker or a long hitter or a short hitter or a straight hitter. Anybody can really kind of compete here.” – Paul Goydos
Horses for Courses
Phil Mickelson is a three time winner at Pebble Beach (1998, 2005 and 2007) and has enjoyed great success at this event with five top three finishes in 14 appearances. He is trying to become the second player to win the event four or more times – Mark O’Meara has five wins. He was also fourth in 2010 US Open.
Dustin Johnson has won back-to-back titles in this event and with another win will join Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Phil Mickelson as a three time winner. Johnson also led the 2010 US Open at Pebble after three rounds but a poor final round 82 saw him slip to eighth.
Sunny and dry weather with light winds are forecast until Sunday. There is the possibility of some rain and heavier winds for the final round.
Last year the field was reduced from 180 to 156 players and as a result rounds are now up to thirty minutes quicker but still take in excess of five hours and twenty minutes so players will need to be patient.
The courses are set up with the amateurs in mind so there is little rough, accessible pin positions and low scoring is the norm. This year there has been no rain in the lead up to the tournament and all the courses are firm which should make scoring slightly more challenging.
The draw should have little effect on the outcome this year as there is very little wind forecast for the first three days of the tournament.
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