PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — If his match earlier this week was any indication, Jordan Spieth could be in trouble at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He couldn’t even beat a country singer.
To be fair, the world’s No. 1 player was giving Jake Owen nine shots when they played at Cypress Point. Then again, he said Owen was beating him from the same set of tees and without taking any strokes through the opening six holes. It came down to the 18th, and Spieth had a 12-foot birdie to square the match. He missed.
“Jake celebrated and that was about that,” Spieth said.
Now for the good news. Owen is his partner when the tournament for 156 pros and 156 amateurs on three golf courses in the Del Monte Forest starts on Thursday. Owen will only get two shots, though he will play from a forward set of tees and should be able to manhandle the par 5s.
The winning pro-am team gets a plaque on the rock wall below the first tee at Pebble Beach. That would be nice. But it would be only secondary for Spieth.
“I’m here to win this golf tournament,” Spieth said. “And if we can win it together, even better. That would be the ultimate for the week. But I would rather take a win and us get second than us win and me get second.”
“Yeah,” Owen said. “I don’t blame you.”
THE FIELD: Pebble Beach doesn’t always attract the best players, who either don’t like the long rounds or don’t trust the weather. But it has its loyal players, and this year, they all happen to be pretty good.
Spieth gives Pebble the No. 1 player in the world for the first time since Vijay Singh in 2005. Jason Day, another regular, happens to be No. 3. Dustin Johnson is a two-time winner and now No. 8 in the world. Patrick Reed has never missed this event since he joined the PGA Tour. He is No. 9.
Throw in a few surprises — Justin Rose (playing with Justin Timberlake) and Bubba Watson (playing with Mark Wahlberg), and Pebble has six of the top 10 players. And it would have been seven except that Jim Furyk had to pull out to have surgery on his left wrist.
And a few of the older “regulars” are still at Pebble — Singh, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III, all at the top of their games a decade ago and still playing.
THE FORECAST: No rain is in the forecast this week, with mild temperatures. That combination typically adds to a spectacular week, at least in terms of the setting.
“The golf courses are actually in the best shape I’ve ever seen them,” defending champion Brandt Snedeker said. “Firm and fast is kind of unusual for this time of year for these golf courses, so it should be exciting.”
THE ROTATION: The wind started to pick up on the eve of the opening round, and that could play in a role who gets a break.
Spyglass Hill is regarded as the toughest of the three courses in reasonable weather. But when the wind blows, that distinction goes to Pebble Beach. And the wind certainly makes Monterey Peninsula more difficult because it is so exposed along the coastal road.
The top six players in the world start out at Spyglass on Thursday before going to Monterey Peninsula and then moving to Pebble on Saturday. All of them are part of the celebrity rotation, though Reed will be teeing off the back nine on Saturday at Pebble, away from all the cameras. It should be noted Reed is playing with Mickelson.
THE DEFENDING CHAMPION: Dustin Johnson is the only back-to-back winner at Pebble Beach in the last 25 years. Snedeker will try to join him, and could surpass him by joining an elite group with three wins or more at Pebble.
Mickelson has won four times among those in the field this year. Johnson, Snedeker and Love each have won twice.
Mark O’Meara was the modern prince of Pebble from winning five times.