2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Preview, Picks & Analysis
Justin Rose defends his title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and if he is going to repeat his success at one of the most iconic venues in America then he is going to have to be at his very best because he will be facing a world-class field.
Twelve months ago, Rose ended a four-year winless run on the PGA Tour with an impressive three-stroke victory in a Monday finish. The Englishman took a two-shot lead into the fifth day, with eight players separated by three shots, only to pull clear of the chasing pack with an excellent back-nine display at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Rose resumed on the 10th hole and made three birdies in a four-hole stretch from the 11th, before closing out a six-under 66 to end the week on 18 under and comfortably ahead of closest challengers Brendon Todd and Brandon Wu.
This week there is an all-star cast, featuring the likes of Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Ludvig Aberg, Sam Burns, Tommy Fleetwood and Wyndham Clark.
Fresh from his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy has a busy schedule in the run-up to The Masters. This is a tournament he has chosen to miss in past years but it is now one of the PGA Tour’s signature events and that means the leading players are all expected to take part - and they are all doing so.
McIlroy is likely to figure in the final shake-up but if you are looking for a European winner then Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick may be better options than McIlroy. Fleetwood has finally climbed back into the winners’ circle, claiming the recent Dubai Invitational. And he did so in some style, beating McIlroy in a thrilling finish.
Fleetwood is desperate to end his PGA Tour drought. He came painfully close at the Canadian Open last year and has established himself as one of the most consistent golfers on the planet. But he will be the first to admit that he should have more wins to his name than he has achieved. This tournament is played at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. Pebble Beach is made for Fleetwood’s game, so this could well be the place where he finally ends his drought.
A rare thing happened at the Sony Open - Fitzpatrick missed the cut. He has taken to life on the PGA Tour like a duck to water. In 2023 he won the RBC Heritage and finished tied second at the BMW Championship and tied ninth at the Tour Championship. He has always been a world-class putter but the former US Open champion has now added significant distance and is averaging around 300 yards from the tee. Nobody works harder on his game than Fitzpatrick and I fully expect to see him winning again this year.
Hovland had a sensational 2023 and now looks like winning every time he tees it up. It is worth reflecting on what he has achieved during his brief career. In 100 starts he has made 90 cuts, winning six times. But that only tells a small part of the story. He has finished second four times, third four times and has enjoyed an incredible 20 top-fives finishes and 25 top 10s. He only joined the PGA Tour in 2020 and has already picked up $27m in prize money. And that is without taking account of his two DP World Tour titles.
Those figures are hard to get your head around. Last season he made 23 starts and made the cut every time. He won three times, The Memorial, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. He also won the Hero World Challenge. Of those 23 starts, he finished in the top 10 nine times and in the top 25 on 18 occasions. It is a true mind-boggling level of consistency.
It seems hard to credit now, but only around 12 months ago Hovland short game skills were being questioned. You don’t achieve the sort of success he is currently enjoying unless you have a world-class short game. For me, the thing that stood out during 2023 was his ability to hole the putts that really mattered.
I have also been keeping an eye on Ben An in recent weeks and am utterly convinced that a win is just around the corner for the Korean. You may remember that he won the BMW PGA Championship way back in 2015. Much was expected of him but it never really happened. He struggled for some years before finally winning again on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022.
His playoff loss at the recent Sony Open was the culmination of a great run of form that followed a three-month suspension after he failed a routine drugs test - he bought an over-the-counter cough medicine in his native South Korea that contained a banned substance. An clearly spent that three months working on his game. I think there may be more to come from him.
It will also be fascinating to follow the progress of Aberg. He made a sensational start to his professional career but played poorly at both The Sentry and the Sony Open. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most exciting young talent to emerge on the PGA Tour for years and he will quickly sort things out. The thing that has impressed me most about Aberg has been his temperament. He takes everything in his stride, brushes off poor shots (which are few and far between) and simply cracks on with it. Exactly like Hovland.
It was won in 2016 by Vaughn Taylor, in 2017 by Jordan Spieth, in 2018 by Ted Potter, in 2019 by Phil Mickelson, in 2020 by Nick Taylor, in 2021 by Daniel Berger, in 2022 by Tom Hoge and last year by Justin Rose.
Pebble Beach is an iconic layout that measures a little over 6,800 yards and is a par 72. It features a series of stunning holes at which the Pacific Ocean comes into play. The 18th hole is one of the most famous in the game. Spyglass Hill is also a par 72, measuring just over 7,000 yards.
Rory McIlroy has already won this season and will be one of the favourites but the man to beat is surely Viktor Hovland, who enjoyed an astonishing 2023 and does not have a single weakness in his game.
Viktor Hovland. Simply sublime
Tommy Fleetwood. Ready to win on the PGA Tour
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Should love this tournament
Five to Follow:
Viktor Hovland. The complete golfer
Tommy Fleetwood. Desperate to win on American soil
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Putts like an angel
Rory McIlroy. Will be there or thereabouts
Eric Cole. Late developer
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Emiliano Grillo. Hugely inconsistent
Thomas Detry. Gorgeous golf swing
Keith Mitchell. Big, big hitter
Taylor Montgomery. Keep an eye on Montgomery
Ben Griffin. Has the game to win
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/