AT&T Pro-Am preview, picks and analysis
DUSTIN JOHNSON heads to Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pro-Am hoping to continue his incredible run of form at a tournament and venue that he loves.
He won in 2009 and successfully defended the title the following year, and he could have won it again last year. Most top pros hate pro-ams because they involve six-hour rounds of golf, but Johnson is a laidback fellow and seems to relish the format. Perhaps it helps that he partners his father-in-law, the legendary ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who is no mean player himself.
Much has changed in the Dustinator's life since his well-publicised break from the game. He is married and has a baby and seems to have got his life back on track. He still finds new ways to throw away majors, three-putting from nowhere on the final green at Chambers Bay last June to hand the US Open to Jordan Spieth and then imploding at the Old Course at St Andrews after leading The Open.
Johnson is capable of bringing any golf course to its knees, such are the distances he propels the ball. But he has serious problems controlling his short irons, especially when he is under pressure. And his putting is not exactly out of the top drawer either.
As far as he is concerned, there is no pressure at the AT&T Pro-Am, during which two rounds are played at Pebble Beach, with one each at Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula (these are the courses where the low scores are made). Pebble Beach is among the most spectacular pieces of golfing real estate on the planet and a fitting setting for the Sunday climax, with the tournament usually being decided by the way the leaders play the par-three 17th and stunning par-five finishing hole, with the Pacific Ocean on the left, and trees and rough on the right.
With the notable exception of Rory McIlroy, the best field of the season will assemble at Pebble Beach - and that means Jordan Spieth is back on the PGA Tour after playing in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, where he recorded top-five finishes in alien conditions. There are concerns that Spieth may be in danger of burning himself out, but we should give him the benefit of the doubt for now and assume that he knows what he is doing. He takes his responsibilities as world No1 very seriously and wants to do all he can to spread the word about this game. When all is said and done, he is still only 22 and has plenty of time to slow down later in his career.
JB Holmes enjoys playing in this part of the world and he adores Pebble Beach. It would be a mistake to dismiss Holmes as just another bomber - he is a fabulous iron player and when his putting is on song he holes everything in sight. Shane Lowry, of Ireland, seems right at home in America now - don't rule out his chances of winning.
Dustin Johnson. Would love to play here every week
Jordan Spieth. How can you ever bet against him?
JB Holmes. Smash it, find it and smash it again
Dustin Johnson. Looking for third win here
Jordan Spieth. Will be revitalised after a week off
JB Holmes. Therre's more to JB than big hitting
Shane Lowry. Should feel at home here
Matt Jones. Terrific Aussie golfer
Geoff Ogilvy. A links specialist
Hunter Mahan. Looking to get his season going
Russell Knox. These courses are made for the Scot
Patrick Reed. As consistent and gutsy as anybody out here
Jimmy Walker. Still fuming after Torrey Pines collapse
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