By TOM LaMARRE
Somewhere, Bing Crosby is smiling as the tournament that bore his name for many years will be played this week for the 82nd time at the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links and two other spectacular courses on the Monterey Peninsula.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which was first played in 1937, when the great Sam Snead claimed the first of his four titles in the event, will start on Thursday at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Matt Fitzpatrick (pictured) of England is the favorite and every golfer will play all three courses, and after the 54-hole cut is made, the final round will be played at Pebble Beach, recognized one of the great courses in the world, which finishes with one of the greatest 18th holes in golf on the edge of Stillwater Cove.
“Pebble Beach is the greatest meeting of land and water in the world,” is a quote credited to the great Robert Louis Stevenson, but actually it was made by Francis McComas, who came from Australia to paint on the Monterey Peninsula in the early 1900s.
McComas actually said that Pebble Beach was “the most felicitous meeting of land and sea in creation.”
Golfers have also followed suit in their praise of the landscape at Pebble.
“If I had only one more round of golf to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach,” said Jack Nicklaus, considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all-time, who won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble in 1961 and the U.S. Open there in 1972, not to mention this tournament three times.
“I’ve loved this golf course from the first time I saw it, at the 1961 U.S. Amateur. I can’t imagine anyone ever creating a finer all-around test of golf in a more sensational setting.”
Said Johnny Miller after winning what they called the Crosby Clambake for the first of three times in 1974: “They say it’s the greatest course meeting of land and sea in the world. This course was heaven designed.”
Tiger Woods captured the 100th U.S. Open by 15 strokes in 2000 at Pebble Beach and Phil Mickelson said: “What he did at Pebble Beach that year is still the greatest performance in golf of all time.”
Woods also won at Pebble Beach that year in the regular-season event and now has designed the par-3 Hay Course on the property.
“Not only was it great to win here at Pebble, but it’s a huge honor to be able to add my name to this facility,” Woods said when the Hay Course Opened in 20212. “Short courses–that’s how I started. I grew up playing a par-3 course in Long Beach. I always thought it’s the easiest way to learn. It can attract the youth to play our sport.”
Other winners of the regular-season event at Pebble Beach included Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Billy Casper, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Ben Crenshaw, Lloyd Mangrum, Jimmy Demaret, Cary Middlecoff, Ken Venturi, Bob Rosburg, Tony Lema, Bruce Crampton, George Archer, Gene Littler, John Cook, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Mark O’Meara, Fuzzy Zoeller, Paul Azinger, Peter Jacobsen, Davis Love III and Dustin Johnson.
Tom Hoge is the defending champion and other former winners in the field this week include Jordan Spieth, Nick Taylor of Canada and Ted Potter Jr.
Among the 156 celebrities in the pro-am field are recently-retired soccer superstar Gareth Bale, NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen, and Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Eric Church, Darius Rucker and Bill Murray from the entertainment field.
1. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 10th-ranked Fitzpatrick is the reigning U.S. Open champion and has started this season with a tie for 13th in the CJ Cup in South Carolina and a tie for seventh in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He made his debut in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last season and finished in a tie for sixth by posting four straight rounds in the 70s.
2. Jordan Spieth, United States – This might be Spieth’s favorite tournament as he has played at Pebble Beach the last 10 seasons, won the tournament in 2017 and has five other results in the top 10, including second last year when he shot 63 in round two. He claimed his 13th PGA Tour victory in the 2022 RBC Heritage and his best this season was a tie for 13th in the Sentry TOC.
3. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The 11th-ranked Hovland, who has won each of the last three seasons on the PGA Tour and has five victories as a pro, tied for fifth in the Zozo, tied for 10th at Mayakoba and tied for 18th in the Sentry Tournament of Champions this season. In his only start at Pebble Beach in 2020, he was tied for 15th before closing with a 77 to finish tied for 38th.
4. Tom Hoge, United States – The defending champion at Pebble Beach picked a great spot for his first PGA Tour victory and fourth as a pro last season after finishing 12th the year before. Hoge has gotten off to a strong start this season with a tie for third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, a tie for fourth in the Shriners Children’s Open and a tie for ninth in the Zozo.
5. Seamus Power, Ireland – Claimed his second PGA Tour victory last year in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship after winning the 2021 Barbasol Championship. Power also tied for third at Mayakoba, tied for fifth in the RSM Classic and tied for 25th in the Sentry TOC this season. Posted his best result at Pebble last year when he opened with 64-64 and tied for ninth.
6. Justin Rose, England – The 2013 U.S. Open champion also tied for third in the third major of 2019 at Pebble Beach, and his best result in the AT&T Pro-Am was a tie for sixth in 2016, when he opened 66-68. This season, Rose tied for sixth in the Cadence Bank Houston Open, tied for 18th in the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for 26th in the American Express with a closing 65.
7. Maverick McNealy, United States – Went to college right up the road at Stanford and would love to claim his first PGA victory at Pebble Beach. He’s been close there, finishing second behind Daniel Berger two years ago and tying for sixth in 2020. So far this season, McNealy tied for seventh in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for 10th both at Mayakoba and in the Shriners.
8. Matt Kuchar, United States – Has won nine times on the PGA Tour, but not since 2019 at Mayakoba, although he was close last year with a tie for second in the Texas Open and a tie for third in the RBC Heritage. This season, Kooch tied for seventh in the Sony Open and tied for 12th in the Fortinet. His best result in 16 tries at Pebble was a tie for sixth his first one in 2006.
9. Andrew Putnam, United States – The Pepperdine graduate claimed his only PGA Tour victory in the 2018 Barracuda Championship, but seems to be close again with a tie for second in the Zozo Championship and a tie for fourth in the Sony Open in Hawaii. Putnam held the lead at 65-67-68 last season after three rounds at Pebble Beach, but closed with a 73 to tie for sixth.
10. Nick Taylor, Canada – Opened with 63-66 three years ago at Pebble Beach, led most of the way and wound up claiming his second PGA Tour victory by four strokes. Taylor also tied for 10th there in 2017 and tied for 14th last season with four straight 69s. So far this season, he tied for sixth in the Fortinet Championship and tied for seventh at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kevin Streelman, United States; Russell Knox, Scotland; Joel Dahmen, United States; Troy Merritt, United States; Denny McCarthy, United States; Taylor Pendrith, Canada; Keith Mitchell, United States; Erik Van Rooyen, South Africa; Webb Simpson, United States; Ted Potter Jr., United States.
1. Joseph Bramlett, United States – Another Stanford grad, Bramlett won 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship but has not won on PGA Tour. T-9 in Houston, T-12 in Fortinet, T-13 in Farmers.
2. Garrick Higgo, South Africa – Seven-time winner as a pro, including the 2021 Palmetto, Higgo was third at Sanderson Farms, T-11 in The American Express. Making his Pebble debut.
3. Ben Taylor, England – 2018 Club Colombia champions on Korn Ferry Tour, Taylor was third in Houston and T-4 in Sony Open this season. Shot 68 to start, but was T-50 at Pebble in 2021.
4. Kevin Yu, Taiwan – Winless as a pro after losing playoff on Korn Ferry Tour in 2021, Yu was T-3 in Bermuda, T-19 at Sanderson Farms, T-21 in Sony Open so far in PGA Tour rookie year.
5. Zac Blair, United States – Won 2019 Ellie Mae Classic on Korn Ferry Tour and two other pro events. Blair opened rookie year with T-12 in Fortinet. T-18 at Pebble in 2020 after 69-69 start.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html