10 Players to Watch: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

  1. Jordan Spieth, United States — The top player in the World Golf Rankings returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to start the year. Since then, he tied for fifth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and finished second in the Singapore Open. He has finished no worse than a tie for seventh while recording two victories in his past seven starts around the world. Spieth is making his fourth appearance at Pebble Beach. After tying for 22nd in 2013, he tied for fourth two years ago and tied for seventh last year. He was in the lead two years ago with the first two of his three 67s, but a 78 in round three cost him a chance to win.
  1. Jason Day, Australia — Hampered by a virus that nearly forced him to withdraw before the tournament, Day missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago, ending a streak of having finished 12th or better in his 10 events since last June — including four victories. He started 2016 with a tie for 10th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and he will try to get back on track this week at Pebble, where he has finished in the top 10 in three of his six starts. Day’s best result in the AT&T was a tie for fourth last year, when he bounced back from an opening 72 with 62-69-67 to wind up five shots behind winner Brandt Snedeker. He also finished solo sixth in both 2008 and 2013.
  1. Brandt Snedeker, United States — The defending champion will be trying to with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the third time in four years, and he comes in playing some of the best golf of his career. He had a hiccup last week with a tie for 33rd in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but that came after he tied for third in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, lost in a playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii and won the Farmers Insurance Open for the second time. Snedeker closed with a 65 to beat Chris Kirk by two strokes two years ago at Pebble. Last year, he led most of the way after starting with 64, adding three consecutive 67s to win by three over Nick Watney.
  1. Dustin Johnson, United States — Johnson is a two-time winner at Pebble Beach, having taken home the title in 2009, when the tournament was shortened to 54 holes by rain, and then repeating in 2010. In addition, he has recorded four other top-10 finishes in his eight appearances in the AT&T. However, he is known most for blowing a three-stroke lead after 54 holes of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble, closing with an 82 that did not include a single birdie while sliding to a tie for eighth. Johnson stumbled to an 80 in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago to tie for 18th after starting the 2015-16 season with a tie for fifth in the WGC-HSBC Champions and a tie for 10th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
  1. Bubba Watson, United States — After apologizing, sort of, for trashing the course at TPC Scottsdale, Watson finished in a tie for 13th in the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week. Even though he seemingly has all the shots and a game that should play well anywhere, he sometimes seems to talk himself into subpar performances even before he tees off. That could happen again this week to the No. 6 player in the World Golf Rankings, because in his two previous appearances at Pebble he shot 73-70-74–217 to miss the 54-hole cut by three strokes in 2006, then tied for 44th the following year. Watson didn’t break 70 on any of his seven rounds in the tournament, perhaps explaining while he has not been back until now.
  1. Jimmy Walker, United States — Returning to the scene of the third of his five PGA Tour titles in 2014, Walker might be ready to win again after starting 2016 with a tie for 10th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a tie for 13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a tie for fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open. In his victory two years ago at Pebble, he blew most of a five-stroke lead while shooting 74 in the final round, but he sank a clutch 5-foot putt for par on the 18th hole to beat Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner by one stroke. Walker also tied for ninth in the AT&T in both 2011 and 2012, and he tied for third in 2013. In his title defense last year, he tied for 21st.
  1. Justin Rose, England — The seventh-ranked player in the world stumbled out of the gate in 2016 when he shot 71-73–144 to miss the cut by one stroke two weeks ago in the Farmers Insurance Open. That was his first event on the PGA Tour since he started the new season in October with a tie for sixth in the Frys.com Open, the first event of the wraparound schedule. Surprisingly, Rose is playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in his career, and he also didn’t qualify when the U.S. Open was played there in 2010. He will partner in the pro-am portion of the tournament with his friend, entertainer Justin Timberlake, who convinced Rose to make the trip to the Monterey Peninsula for the first time.
  1. Patrick Reed, United States — After shooting 81 in the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open and withdrawing two weeks ago because of an ankle injury, Reed is back this week for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. This will be his fourth start in the old Crosby Clambake, and he tied for seventh his first trip around the Monterey Peninsula in 2013 before tying for 13th in 2014 and tying for 29th a year ago. Reed, who is No. 9 in the World Golf Rankings, started 2016 on a high note when he tied for second behind top-ranked Jordan Spieth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but then he tied for 56th in the CareerBuilder Challenge before his withdrawal at Torrey Pines.
  1. Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty has shown that there is life in his game by tying for third in the CareerBuilder Challenge and tying for 11th in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open sandwiched in between. He is returning to another of his favorite venues, Pebble Beach, where he has won four times while becoming the all-time leading money winner in AT&T history. Mickelson claimed the title on the Monterey Peninsula in 1998, 2005, 2007 and 2012, four of his 19 victories on the West Coast swing and his 42 on the PGA Tour. However, he hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, where he claimed his fifth major championship to move within a U.S. Open victory of the career Grand Slam.
  1. Shane Lowry, Ireland — By tying for 13th in the Farmers Insurance Open and tying for sixth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Lowry climbed to No. 21 in the World Rankings, and he seems to be a good bet to join his pal Rory McIlroy on the Irish team for the Olympic Games in August. He is making his second start in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and last year he showed that he enjoys American-style links golf when he tied for 21st, posting three scores in the 60s before closing with a 71. Lowry, who helped Europe retain the Eurasia Cup last month, earned his first PGA Tour victory last year in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, his third title as a pro. The way he is playing, there figure to be more on the way.

Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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