Pebble's reverse psychology: Let ams lure pros

By Will GrayFebruary 10, 2016, 9:55 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The Crosby. The Clambake. The AT&T, or perhaps just simply, “Pebble.”

Call it what you want, this week’s PGA Tour stop has a rich history. It boasts some of the best views in golf and invites players to tee it up along the game’s most storied patch of coastline – outside of Scotland, anyway.

But in recent years, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been dogged by other perceptions: namely a stale list of amateur participants, many of whom hacked their way across this little strip of paradise. It meant six-plus-hour rounds for the pros, surrounded by fans who often came more for the celebrity sightings than the golf occurring inside the ropes.

It led to this becoming one of the weaker events of the West Coast swing, as players flocked to locales like Torrey Pines and Riviera but avoided Pebble Beach in droves.

That trend, though, has turned around in a big way this week. Jordan Spieth headlines a field that includes six of the top nine players in the latest world ranking, and the winner will receive 54 OWGR points – six more than the tournament’s previous high and a stark contrast to the 38 points Phil Mickelson got for his win just four years ago.

Spieth’s fourth straight appearance here comes as no surprise considering his ties to the title sponsor, but it carries more weight as the No. 1 player in the world. He attributes the deeper field not to the top-ranked pros, but to a revamped celebrity list that includes his pro-am partner, Jake Owen.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, photos and videos

“I think a lot of it has to do with guys like Jake, guys like these other incredible celebrities,” Spieth said. “I think that the celebrities actually have kind of helped build this tournament.”

Tournament director Steve John agrees. His team always strives to recruit the best field, but they hit paydirt this year by turning their usual process on its head.

“It’s the best field we’ve ever had, and I think it just speaks to what the tournament has become,” John said. “We work hard year-round to get the best pros here, but what happened this year was we actually went out and recruited the best celebrities, and they brought their pros.”

That tactic quickly paid off, as actor Mark Wahlberg persuaded Bubba Watson to make his first tournament appearance since 2007. Singer Justin Timberlake will team with Justin Rose in the Englishman’s first appearance at Pebble, while baseball all-star Josh Donaldson got his friend and fellow Auburn alum Jason Dufner to make the trip.

“We’ve been trying to keep the celebrity and athlete field fresh for years,” John said. “That’s always been the goal, but this year we just stepped on the accelerator.”

Granted, nothing has changed about the tournament format that led to many players skipping the event. Participants still must shuttle across three different golf courses, and they’ll play the first three rounds in foursomes with amateurs of varying skill. 

But players like Jason Day have experienced regular success here despite those variables. The Aussie sees the game’s elite crop getting younger and younger, and he believes that trend has led to a revised stance on this event from many of his peers.

“There was a little bit of flavor lost with the players, I think because the guys were older,” Day said. “And now we have a young group of guys that enjoy hanging around celebrities, enjoying seeing people or seeing celebrities in the tent and getting to know them and talk to them.

“Trying to get Tiger Woods and Phil and all those guys constantly going back a few years is a little bit tougher because they’re older and they have a schedule to keep and families and all that stuff.”

While this week’s field has unprecedented depth, all signs point back to Spieth as he makes his first start in the mainland U.S. since the Tour Championship. He and Owen have become a regular duo here, and Spieth has embraced the tournament’s unique format.

“Even if the rounds are a bit longer because you have foursomes, you’re still having more fun,” he said. “You’re getting to kind of in a way feel like you’re playing a team event while still kind of grinding yourself. It’s hard to explain.”

There are a myriad factors to explain why so many top players have congregated this week on the Monterey Peninsula, and each would weigh those factors differently according to his preference. But the net result is a field that could produce a star-studded finish for pros, amateurs and fans alike.

Plus, the scenery isn’t exactly a deterrent.

“Maybe it’s just these courses bring out the smiles in everybody,” Spieth suggested. “But we have them.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry