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Q&Gray: DJ ready to take back the spotlight at Pebble Beach?

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The views around Pebble Beach are tough to match, but there are still plenty of questions to consider as the PGA Tour gets heads down 17 Mile Drive. From DJ’s return to J-Day’s swoon, here are the burning topics ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am:

Dustin Johnson and Clint Eastwood

Is Dustin Johnson ready to take back the spotlight?

It was a quiet second half of 2019 for the former world No. 1, who struggled with a knee injury and ultimately had surgery in the offseason. His runner-up at the PGA Championship proved to be his last top-10 finish of the year, but after returning at the Presidents Cup he’s now started 2020 with a pair of top-10s including a runner-up result last week in Saudi Arabia. The gap is widening between Johnson and the handful of players now above him in the world rankings, but if ever there was a place for his skills to shine, it’s Pebble. He has won twice and finished second twice among seven top-10s in this event since 2009. Now with a little momentum on his side, he’ll begin the week as the betting favorite and could be poised for another breakthrough along Stillwater Cove.

Can Jason Day continue the Aussie mojo?

Day has watched as countrymen Cameron Smith (Sony Open) and Marc Leishman (Farmers Insurance Open) both got into the winner’s circle last month. This could be a prime spot for him to follow suit, given the fact that he’s finished worse than 11th at this event just once since 2013. But Day has surprisingly dropped all the way to 46th in the world, having missed time in the fall with injury, and his T-16 finish at Torrey Pines was his best result since June. Day has notably skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship each year since it moved from Doral, but he might now be in a position where he’s not able to pass on the free points. Should his prolonged slide drop him out of the top 50 with a poor showing at Pebble, though, that decision will be taken out of his hands.

Mackenzie: Mickelson is the king of inconsistency

Mackenzie: Mickelson is the king of inconsistency

Will an inconsistent Lefty string together two weeks in a row?

It’s been a rough stretch for Phil Mickelson, but the Hall of Famer finally broke through last week with a T-3 finish in Saudi Arabia. That marked his first top-10 finish since he won this event a year ago, and now he returns to defend that title in search of further domestic success. Mickelson’s first two starts of the year were nothing short of disastrous, missing cuts in Palm Springs and San Diego, and his status for the upcoming WGC events would be termed doubtful at best. Mickelson has thrived amid the unique aspects of this event, winning five times and finishing second in both 2016 and 2018, but he has struggled mightily with consistency in recent months and hasn’t cobbled together back-to-back top-10 finishes in nearly two years. Last week’s result was a pleasant surprise; backing it up this week could be a true sign of promise.

Despite missed cut, Spieth says, 'I'm on the rebound now'

Despite missed cut, Spieth says, 'I'm on the rebound now'

What’s next for Jordan Spieth?

Make no mistake, this is a critical two-week stretch for the former wunderkind. Spieth professed confidence in spite of a missed cut in Phoenix, but his game appears no closer to returning to its once-thrilling form. At No. 55 in the world, Spieth is now outside the top-50 bubble for Mexico, having qualified for every WGC since 2013. He shared last week that he doesn’t pay attention to the rankings and won’t lose sleep over a missed start, one that would be his fifth in a row even if he qualified. But he likely won’t offer the same nonchalance if he falls outside the top 64 and misses next month’s WGC-Dell Match Play in his home state. This week at Pebble, where he won in 2017, and next week’s trip to Riviera will both serve as important opportunities to inject some confidence into his game and psyche, both of which seem to be withering as the mediocre results pile up.