The Crosby Clambake has been attracting eyeballs since the inaugural 1937 edition.
It's time to dust off your sweaters again for another edition as the TOUR heads to Pebble Beach for this week's AT&T Pro-Am.
Played in the pro-am format, some viewers hate this event while others love to see celebrities slap it around. For fantasy purposes, the pro-am is mostly an afterthought.
There is no Monday Qualifier for this event so the full field of 156 golfers is already set it stone, barring any pre-tourney WDs.
The event uses three courses this week to get all golfers and their amateur playing partners through before sunset. That means we will have a 54-hole cut with top 60 and ties (pros) playing the final round at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
There are three courses in play this week with golfers guaranteed to see each one of them at least once before the final round which is played at the host venue, Pebble Beach Golf Links. Let's have a look at each course to see how they set up.
Pebble Beach Golf Links (Host Course):
This course needs no introduction. It's one of the most famous courses on the planet Earth.
Used here since 1947, this classical design has not needed a lot of updates over the years. Most of the time when a course has been used this long on TOUR, we see length differentials of 300+ yards to account for modern distance. As for Pebble Beach, it was a par 72 that played to 6,815 yards back in 1947 and in 2020 it's a par 72 that plays to 6,816 yards.
Weather is it's main defense as it's typically cold (by golf standards) and sometimes rainy at this time of year. Add in the thick sea-level air, and the ball doesn't fly very far. Hugging the coastline, wind is also a frequent visitor.
It's a second-shot course where elite approach play is heavily rewarded.
The last line of defense is the greens. First, they average just 3,500 square feet which is basically half of the normal TOUR stop (6,500 sq feet average). You have tiny targets that are heavily guarded by bunkers (118). Then when you reach the green you have to deal with poa annua greens which are known to get bumpy. Weather will dictate how tough those play but looking at last year when it was soft and wet, there were just two golfers that played all four rounds without a three-putt. It's not a fun week to be sweating Shot Tracker, which is only used at Pebble Beach, the host layout.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course:
Similar to Pebble Beach, the Spyglass layout has been used here for decades. It was first added to the rota in 1967 and it's been used every year since (except for 1977).
This course has also done well to withstand the test of time. It's picked up some yardage since the inaugural usage but it's still a sub-7000 yard layout, played as a par 72 on the scorecard.
Despite the short yardage, and feastable par 5s, the field has averaged 72.14 strokes per round here since 2010. It's played remarkably consistent over that stretch, with the field averaging par plus or minus 0.8 shots in every edition since 2010.
Water comes into play on three holes here and there are about 60 bunkers. Way fewer than the other two courses this week but they are pretty well placed.
This Robert Trent Jones design has larger green targets than Pebble but they are still smaller than TOUR average at just 5,000 square feet on average. They are also poa annua greens which makes them a bit more unpredictable than the normal TOUR stop.
In the past golfers suggested that Spyglass is the toughest of the courses in normal conditions but is probably the best to play when the weather gets tough. It's a bit more tree-lined than the other layouts which can help fight off the wind, just a touch.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course):
The Shore Course was first used here in 1977 but it didn't join the semi-permanent rotation until 2010 and it's been a staple ever since.
Unlike the other courses used this week, the Shore Course is just a par 71, although it does have four par 5s (five par 3s to offset).
This course is going to yield the lowest scoring average and eagle rate of the three courses used this week.
Sung Kang holds the course record here, firing a 60 back in 2016. That is two shots lower than the course records at Pebble Beach and Spyglass.
The last 10 winners have all shot 68 or better at Monterey Peninsula CC.
MPCC is pretty generous off the tee. It's littered with bunkers and large waste areas but a lot of them don't even come into play for these pros.
Perhaps most importantly, they are easily the largest green sizes the golfers will see this week (7,000 square feet on average) and a lot of the greens have run-up areas so you don't need to always attack aerially when trying to recover from the rough.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Gary Woodland: "A lot of this week’s mental too. You’re playing with amateurs, they’re long rounds, it’s a mental grind. So I think you have to be prepared for that and be mentally prepared for it. "
Jordan Spieth: "last year was the first year where I lowered my expectations on the greens and just accepted hitting putts at the right speed and putting them around the right line, and if they fell, they fell. If they didn’t, move on and hit as many greens in regulation as possible. "
Jason Day: "that’s just the West Coast Swing, it can kind of be a little iffy with the rain and the weather up here. "
Phil Mickelson: " the greens being poa annua are what I grew up on, so it’s a grass I feel comfortable. Not just putting on, but chipping on, chipping into and hitting full shots into. It can be challenging for guys if they’re not used to it. It’s something that I’ve become very comfortable with over the years."
Justin Rose: "unfortunately, got on to that wrong side where you started to maybe see the imperfection and it is all about attitude sometimes on poa annua."
Overview: Rose talked about the mental aspect of putting on poa annua greens. Woodland talked about the mental aspect of playing slow rounds with amateur playing partners. Stay focused and stay positive this week.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Torrey Pines (Farmers)
Riviera CC (Genesis)
PGA WEST rota (The American Express)
TPC Scottsdale (Phoenix Open)
Comfort playing out West is a big priority this week but also comfort on poa annua greens in general. You'll hear it a lot in post-round pressers this week.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 57 degrees. Calm winds at 5 to 8 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 58 degrees. Calm winds at 6 to 9 MPH.
Last year this event got drenched and that led to a Monday finish. That's not uncommon for this event but this year the weather looks perfect. A little chilly but great weather overall, low chance of rain, and manageable winds.