It’s ironic that the thing which made what is now the Pebble Beach Pro-Am such a success is the very same thing which has seen it lose much of its lustre in recent years.
When it began life as the Crosby Clambake back in the 1940’s (the tournament started earlier but it was Bing Crosby who made it famous) the draw was the heady mix of big time celebrities and top notch golfers.
Fast forward to today and it’s the presence of those same celebrities (and assorted other wealthy though less high profile amateurs) which turns off many of the game’s biggest names.
There will be 10 of the world’s top-50 in the field this week but only Patrick Cantlay from the top-10 (the Saudi event and its sizeable appearance fees are partly responsible for this).
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Daniel Berger came to the final hole last year tied for the lead with California native Maverick McNealy but a 30-foot eagle putt on Pebble Beach’s par-5 18th sealed a two-shot victory.
RIGHT: Florida's Daniel Berger claimed the trophy here last year, defeating local Maverick McNealy by two strokes. PHOTO: Harry How/Getty Images.
His final round 65 was the best of the day by one from runner-up McNealy and the win was Berger’s fourth on the PGA Tour.
COURSES: With such a big field courtesy of the amateur portion of the tournament the event is played over three courses.
Players tee of once each at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club over the first three days with those making the cut playing the final round at Pebble Beach on Sunday.
Pebble Beach is one of America’s most iconic courses and is clearly the star of the show in the rotation, hogging the bulk of the TV coverage as well as two of the four rounds.
Famous for its spectacular clifftop holes and the 1-2 punch that is the par-3 17th and par-5 18th, Pebble needs little introduction.
The other two courses in the rotation are less well known outside California but broadly speaking Spyglass Hill is considered the toughest of the three while Monterey Peninsula is the easiest.
Spyglass Hill is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design with the first five holes playing down to and around the oceanside before heading back inland.
Unusually, it features back-to-back par-3s at the second and third to make the best use of the ocean views then another one shotter at the fifth.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club might be the most interesting of the three layouts after it was revamped by famed architect Mike Stranz in 2004.
Stranz was known for his bold and sometimes controversial designs but his rework of the Shore course here is almost universally acclaimed.
As the easiest of the three courses for the pros, Monterey is often the make or break round of the four.
Fail to shoot in the 60’s here and you’re unlikely to be at the business end of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: There will be a lot of interest in Patrick Cantlay this week as the only top-10 player in the world, especially after a third place finish here last year.
However, his record at this event is decent without being spectacular with just two top-10 finishes in five starts.
However, there is no question he is a vastly improved player the past two years, and it would be no surprise to see him in the mix again this week.
2021 runner-up and fellow Californian Maverick McNealy will also be high on many people’s lists as the 26-year-old tends to lift when playing in his home state.
In his three starts at this event he has missed the cut once (2018) but finished T5 and T2 the past two years.
The only player who may have a more impressive record at Pebble Beach is the resurgent Jason Day.
With eight top-10 finishes from 12 starts – and the beginnings of some renewed confidence after missing last week’s play-off by just a shot – he will be in a comfortable place this week.
Day has never won at Pebble Beach and while one swallow doesn’t make a summer his play last week would make it less of a surprise if he were to get the job done this week.
The final player worth keeping an eye on this week is 2017 champion Jordan Spieth. Like Day, he is a perennial contender here with five top-10 finishes in nine starts and no missed cuts to his name.
He wasn’t part of the weekend at Torrey courtesy of a horrible second round 78 but that is likely more a blip than a trend.
72-HOLE RECORD: 265 (Brandt Snedeker, 2015)
18-HOLE RECORD: 60 (Monterey Peninsula CC, Sung Kang, 2016); 62 (Pebble Beach, Tom Kite 1983, David Duval 1997, Patrick Cantlay 2021); 62 (Spyglass Hill, Phil Mickelson, 2005, Luke Donald, 2006).
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Bruce Crampton (1965) and Brett Ogle (1993).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Aaron Baddeley, Min Woo Lee, Jason Day, Cameron Percy, Brett Drewitt, Matt Jones and John Senden.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7am –10am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7am – 10am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5am – 10am)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5am – 10.30am)
*AEDT, check local guides