Carved into California’s west coast and hugging the Pacific coastline the PGA Tour will play three superb courses for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Dustin Johnson is the man to beat.

The picturesque challenge scripted along Carmel Bay was constructed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919, having designed a masterpiece along the sun-stretched coastline.

Two-time champion Dustin Johnson has begun the 2018 season with a storm winning the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and looks rekindle his winning ways in California.

Rory McIlroy, makes his first start at Pebble Beach, after coming off a strong season start in Europe, and recent Farmers Insurance Open champ Jason Day arrives in top form.

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Defending champion Jordan Spieth arrives after missing the cut in Phoenix, last week, just the second time he’s finished outside the top 10 since last year’s FedExCup playoffs. Last season he cruised to his ninth career victory, carding 65-70 over his final two days at Pebble Beach, finishing four shots ahead of Kelly Kraft.

Phil Mickelson returns for his 22nd start on the Monterey Peninsula, in search of a fifth victory that would match Mark O’Meara atop Pebble Beach’s all-time list and end the longest winless drought of his career.

A par 72 measuring over 6,816 yards, Pebble Beach, its feature is the 201-yard scenic beauty twelfth hole, which is a must for golf fans across the world, when push-comes-to-shove can provide crucial drama. Club selection is key in approach to the wide and shallow green which looks out to sea, with the hole usually running drastically down-wind.

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THE FIELD:

  • There are 16 Major Champions. Including Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Padraig Harrington.
  • 5 of the world’s top-10 ranked players.
  • 8 of the top-20 players in the world will tee it up.
  • 6 of the past 22 champions are present. Including four-time champ Phil Mickelson and 1995 winner, 63-year-old, Peter Jacobson.

The tournament started out in 1937 at Rancho Sante Fe, California, when Bing Crosby invited friends to play a golf tournament, with a philosophy of fun and raising money for charity.

Sam Snead won the first ever tournament and in first place took home a cheque worth $500.

Ted Durein and Dan Searle approached Crosby to revive the event at Pebble Beach, this saw in 1947 the first Bing Crosby Pro-Amateur Golf Championship played on Pebble Beach, Cypress Point (now Spyglass Hill) and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

In 2017 Pebble Beach ranked the hardest course, out of the three, for green-in-regulation per round with only 11.65% hit by the field.

HOT PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Dustin Johnson

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A two-time champion here, both in ’09 and ’10, the world number one could have added a third title at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open before a mid-round blow-up.

But any doubts of the American lapsing back into that form have been erased with him going on to record a further four top-five finishes at the event since then.

DJ has played twice this season and welcomed 2018 in dramatic fashion, winning the Tournament of Champions and finishing 9th in Abu Dhabi going low over the final three days with 64, 68 and 70.

He’s second in all-time earnings at the tournament and finished solo third last year, even if his driving wasn’t up to scratch at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, with a fortnight’s recovery and fine-tune under his belt, we could see him notch win number 11 on tour.

Rory McIlroy

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It’s been a successful and yet frustrating Middle East swing for the Northern Irishman on the European Tour, coming off a runner-up and 3rd place finish, he had the chance to win in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai but was recently pipped by one shot to Li Haotong.

The world number eight has rarely featured on the West Coast and last time he was at Pebble Beach was for the 2010 U.S. Open, shooting 75-77, and his game doesn’t suit the conditions.

Not only does the wind blow but there’s a big importance on performance on the greens and not letting things get too silly. McIlroy has a high ball-flight which may prove tricky but still has performed well at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a version of the PGA Tour pro-am on the European Tour, but is yet to win.

Seems to have shaken off any concern form his irregular heart problem and his dwindling 2016-17 form, it could be beginners look this week.

Patrick Reed

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The Ryder Cup hero has two top-10s in his last five appearances in the tournament and is coming off a 17th place in Phoenix.

He put in a strong showing at the Hero World Challenge earlier this season, finishing fifth, and after missing the cut at the CareerBuilder challenge looks to have risen his game.

Finding the fairway will be key but on the PGA Tour he ranks 151st but more crucial will be flagging it close and the American ranks 8th for approaches between 100-125 yards and similar for 75 yards and in.

Already has two glorious top-ten finishes here with a final-round average of 68.20, hard to count out when he ranks fifth on tour for strokes gained, putting.

A strong week in California could see him nab his first win since the end of 2016 and get his season on track.

Phil Mickelson

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A four-time champion at Pebble beach Mickelson has started to find form at the right time.

He hasn’t won for five years – since hoisting the Claret Jug in 2013 – but there’s nothing like past soil absorbed with victorious memories to do so, finishing second here just two years ago.

The 47-year-old put in a stellar performance at the Phoenix Open where he tied for 5th and ended on a high with three successive birdies from the 15th hole.

Putting well this season, ranking sixth on the PGA Tour, he has also notched a top-3 finish at the Safeway Open and as always is deadly around the greens placing sixth for strokes gained around the green.

Sleepers

Kevin Chappell

A top-30 in Phoenix was average for the reigning Texas Open champion, however, he’s found a top-10 finish at the CareerBuilder Challenge and has shot 69 or better in six of his past seven rounds on tour.

Alongside a further two top-20 showings this season he ranks fifth for strokes gained tee-to-green as well as third for off-the-tee on tour, which could be pivotal this week.

Jason Day

Back from a week off after his gritty playoff win at the Farmers Insurance over Alex Noren. The Australian looks set to pounce on a highly successful 2018 season.

He’s made the cut here in all eight appearances and in half of those has top-10 finishes, whilst also notching a T5 last year.

Back in the winner’s circle he has two T11 places to his name this season and ranks 3rd for driving distance on tour, averaging 319 yards, with the TaylorMade M3 driver.

Pat Perez

Tasted the Middle East swing for himself this season and posted a pair of top 30s, but fourth in FedExCup points, he’s making his first start of 2017-18 Central America.

Carded back-to-back top 10s in 2014 and 2015 and found a T15 last year.

PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM RECORDS:

  • Jordan Spieth, 2017, holds the lowest 72-hole score: 268 (68-65-65-70)
  • Luke Donald has the course record at Spyglass Hill in 2006: 62
  • David Duval holds the, most recent, low round on Pebble Beach of 62 in 1997. Topping Tom Kite who claimed the record in 1983.
  • Mark O’Meara has won this event five times, with the most recent in 1997

 

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When questioned over his game world-number one Dustin Johnson said:

“I’m in a really good place. The game feels really good. I got a lot of confidence in it. I’m looking forward to the rest of this year.

“I just really enjoy coming here. I enjoy the courses, they’re a lot of fun to play. This event is a special event.”

Turning to his ‘in-danger’ world ranking, which Jon Rahm could have overtaken last week if he won:

“If I keep playing well and keep winning then, no, I’m going to stay No. 1.

“But, yeah, I mean if I don’t play well, there’s a lot of really good players that are playing really well right now.

So it’s going to be tough for me to keep it, but if I keep playing like I am and how I should, then, yeah, I’ll be there at the end of the year.

Venue: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula, California

Date: February 8-11

Forecast: 0-1mph winds. 10% chance of rain and clear and humid throughout.

Purse: $7,400,000

Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth (-19)