The PGA Tour schedule moves to one of the most scenic and iconic spots on the schedule at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
This tournament is one of the longest running on the PGA Tour schedule and its rich history brings some of the biggest names in the sport to the Monterey Peninsula.
Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and Dustin Johnson are just some of the big names in the field this week. Rory McIlroy will make his US debut this week as well.
Like the CareerBuilder three weeks ago, this event has a celebrity amateur aspect to the competition. Unfortunately, most of the celebrities are far from A-listers, but CBS’ broadcast shoves them in your face like they are.
Saturday’s broadcast is annually the worst sports telecast of any sport. CBS barely shows any shots by the pros, but instead they feature shots from the celebrities and a subsequent breakdown of their swings.
Again, with the exception of a few elite sports figures like Larry Fitzgerald and Peyton Manning, the telecast focuses on B-list celebrities like George Lopez, Kevin James, Ray Romano, and Kenny G.
This entire broadcast operates as a public relations and marketing firm for these celebrities. It pisses of golf fans annually, but CBS refuses to change the format.
It will be interesting to see if the public backlash from last week’s hour delay (caused by the Kentucky-Missouri basketball game going long) of CBS’ broadcast on Saturday effects this week’s production.
The first three rounds are played over three courses: Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula, Spyglass Hills. Pebble is the hardest track, while Monterey Peninsula and Spyglass Hills have comparable difficulty.
The challenge this week will be handling the long rounds and weather conditions. The long rounds are a result of the challenging conditions and the amateurs in the field. The players who play well in these types of formats generally embrace the slow play and the celebrity atmosphere
The weather on the Monterey Peninsula is often fluid and unpredictable. Pebble and Monterey are right on the coast, while Spyglass is slightly inland so wind is always a factor. The conditions thus far this week have been cool, windy, and rainy and if that keeps up, players will have quite the challenge, especially on the coastal holes which have the most exposure to the elements.
After the first three rounds, there is a 54-hole cut for the pro and amateur leaderboards with Sunday’s play taking place exclusively at Pebble.
Pebble is a tale of two nines. The course is fairly gettable through the first seven holes, but becomes a bear from there. The second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh holes are all legitimate birdie holes, but starting with the eighth, players hold on for dear life.
That tough stretch to the clubhouse includes one of the hardest par-5’s in the world. The par-5 14th is a long dogleg right, which is nearly impossible to reach in two and when a player lays-up, it provides the hardest 125-yard shot in golf.
The par-5 18th maybe be more scenic and famous, but 14 often plays a bigger role in determining the champion.
The green slopes like a turtle’s back, so if the ball lands 10 feet right of the pin, it will come back down to fairway. If you miss 10 feet left, the ball will roll off to the rough, leaving yourself a treacherous chip shot.
As the picture above indicates, the uphill and blind approach makes it especially difficult to dial in the correct yardage.
Some pros bitch about the green being unfair, but it definitely has their full attention. Paul Goydos equated the approach shot to “hitting a pitching wedge on to a moving school bus.”
Goydos has first-hand knowledge of how difficult the 14th can be as he made a quadruple-bogey nine when he was in the lead in the final round in 2010.
Last Year’s Event:
Jordan Spieth made easy work of the tournament last year as the Texan rolled to a relatively stress-free four-stroke victory. The tournament marked Spieth’s 100th start on tour. The win was Spieth’s ninth overall and first on the Monterrey Peninsula. With the victory, Spieth became just the second player (Tiger Woods) to record nine wins before the age of 24.
Most Memorable Moment:
In 2000, Pebble Beach bore witness to a prelude of things to come for the rest of the 2000 season as Tiger came back from a six-stroke 54-hole deficit to earn the victory. The immensity of the comeback was impressive by itself, but Tiger’s hole out on 15 for eagle has become one of indelible images of his career.
J.B. Holmes: Don’t let the controversy surrounding his slow play distract from the fact that Holmes is one of the most consistent players on tour, especially on the west coast swing. His length is a huge advantage every time he tees it up and his play in San Diego shows that his game in good form.
Otter Room Pick:
Dustin Johnson (-14): Despite winning the event twice, Johnson’s history at Pebble is best known for his Sunday 82 in the 2010 U.S. Open. No one on tour is as well-versed at squashing internal demons like Johnson and expect his length to provide a significant advantage. As long as his putter cooperates, Johnson will find himself in contention this weekend.