PEBBLE BEACH — Stripped of its usual vibe, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am will begin Thursday singularly focused, like the rest of the PGA Tour, on competition.
The tournament’s 75th anniversary will be streamlined in nearly every conceivable manner, unfortunately including a conspicuous absence of many of the circuit’s current best players.
No players in the top-10 of the World Golf Ranking will be in the field. There will also be no spectators. No amateurs. No celebrity field. No grandstands. No Monterey Peninsula Country Club in the usual three-course rotation. No signature third-round cut. No frivolity. No expensive cocktails from makeshift bars to consume while meandering along the Pacific Ocean.
With the departure of No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson earlier in the week, Patrick Cantlay, the three-time PGA Tour winner, will be the tournament’s highest-ranked player at No. 11.
Only the 156-player field and a stealth collection of course officials and other essential workers will dot host Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. There may be more deer on-site than humans for the $7.8 million event.
The star-streamed field will significantly add to the event’s unique status.
“I think maybe the weather has a big part to do with it and then also the upcoming schedule, I think, maybe has the biggest issue to do with it,” said Cantlay, addressing the odd field. “I think the next three tournaments are L.A., which is obviously a big tournament, then the WGC, and then Bay Hill, and then maybe The Players Championship, I think is right.
“So those are four big tournaments all in a row and you just can’t play all of them. I decided to play here and I’m not going to play Bay Hill, so it worked in my schedule for that reason. But if I was going to play Bay Hill, it probably wouldn’t make sense for me to play here.”
The first round is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on the first and 10th holes on both courses, with pros playing in threesomes. Final groups on both courses will start at 10:42 a.m.
The cut will occur after the second round, resulting in weekend play only at Pebble Beach.
Cantlay, 28, has three top-10 finishes in his last 10 events, including a victory last October at the Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks.
“I always like being up here in Monterey,” he said. “Even though it’s cold this time of year, I like playing Pebble Beach. I like Spyglass. So I’m excited for this year.
“It looks like we’re going to get some rain, which isn’t uncommon, but I always like being here and I like the golf courses and I like the California golf.”
Cantlay, who will play in his fifth AT&T, tied for ninth at The American Express on Jan. 24 with a final-round 61. He has a career-best ninth at the AT&T in 2013.
“My game’s been good,” he said. “Obviously how I played my last round on Tour was unbelievable, even I was a little surprised I was able to shoot 11-under on that golf course.
“But I think it bodes well for the future, and my game’s in a good spot, my processes are all really good. If I can make a bunch of putts like I did on that Sunday, look out.”
Defending AT&T titlist Nick Taylor and former event winners Phil Mickelson, Ted Potter Jr. (2016), Jordan Spieth (2017), Vaughn Taylor (2015), Brandt Snedeker (2015, 2013), Jimmy Walker (2014), D.A. Points (2011) and Matt Gogel (2002) are in the field.
“It’s been an interesting year, as everyone can experience,” said Taylor, who will play in his 11th tournament of the season. “I’ve been here, it felt like on one hand that it was 10 years ago and then all of a sudden it came up here pretty fast. A lot of great memories of the golf course, a different setup this year without amateurs, without Monterey Peninsula, and a few different changes.
“I feel like whenever I show up here I feel like my game just feels pretty solid. So my game does feel good. Like I said, having Pebble Beach being three rounds this year instead of two, I think I’m going to enjoy that, and Spyglass I’ve always seemed to play pretty solid there as well.”
Mickelson, 50, posted his third career AT&T third-place finish last year. He’s placed second twice and has five AT&T titles, the record he shares with Mark O’Meara. Mickelson’s AT&T win in 2018 was the last of his 44 PGA Tour victories. He won his only two appearances on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.
Francesco Molinari, the 2018 British Open titlist who will make his AT&T debut, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are also participating. Day has 12 PGA Tour titles. Fowler, a five-time PGA Tour winner, is playing in the event for the first time since 2012.
Daniel Berger (15th) and Paul Casey (17th) are the only other players in the field among the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings.
Nature is the only other factor that hasn’t already altered the event.
Temperatures are expected to reach only into the mid-50s and rain is predicted Thursday and Saturday.
“I think (the rain) will make everything just a little tougher,” Cantlay said. “It’s already cold, so it might feel a little colder even, and I think that will make scores just a little worse, especially if the wind were to blow.
“And then depending if they play lift, clean, and place or not, mud on the golf ball always adds a little bit of unpredictability and that would make it a little harder. And then the golf ball will go a lot shorter. It already goes very short here compared to the rest of the country, so if it rains, it will go even shorter.”
Contributed by local news sources