The PGA Tour returns to the Monterey Peninsula this week for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which will have fewer celebrities, more highly ranked pro golfers and a lot more money on the line.
As the second of eight signature events this season, the pro-am field was reduced from 156 two-man teams to 80 in the no-cut event. That means you won’t see Bill Murray, Ray Romano and other celebrities this week. In fact, you won’t see any non-PGA Tour golfers competing on the weekend, as the 80 amateurs will only play Thursday and Friday, weather permitting.
The tournament is also being played on two courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course in the first two rounds and only the former on the weekend. With a smaller field, the tournament won’t have to use Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
While there might not be as many laughs, the actual golf could be much more entertaining. Forty-eight of the top 50 players who made the BMW Championship, the second FedEx Cup playoff event in 2023, are in the field. Twelve players, including world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler, Ludvig Åberg, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young, are making their 2024 debuts in the event.
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Among the celebrities who are expected to tee it up this week are quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, catcher Buster Posey and country singer Jake Owen.
Here’s what to watch on the PGA Tour this week:
What’s next on the PGA Tour
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Where: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
Defending champion: Justin Rose
Purse: $20 million ($3.6 million to winner)
Dunlap’s pro debut
Former Alabama star Nick Dunlap, who became the first amateur in more than 30 years to win a PGA Tour event at the American Express on Jan. 21, is making his pro debut this week. Dunlap couldn’t accept the $1.5 million purse at La Quinta Country Club, but he’ll get to keep whatever he wins this week.
Another former Alabama star, Justin Thomas, saw Dunlap at a dinner in Pebble Beach on Monday night.
“He looked tired,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “He was like, ‘Man, I’m so tired.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t really care, you should be sleeping right now getting ready to go to class tomorrow morning, and I’m pretty sure all of your teammates would happily switch with you, so be careful who you say that to.’
“I was needling him, giving him a hard time. I talked to him a little bit last week, just remember who he is and stay true to that. I think it’s very easy for any rookie, doesn’t matter if they’re 20, 30 or 40, when you have access to the equipment trucks, when you have access to all these coaches, trainers, caddies, like whatever it is, it’s easy to want to tinker and want to change.”
Dunlap, who turned pro on Jan. 24, earned a PGA Tour card through the 2026 season. He’ll get to play in seven of the eight signature events this year, as well as the Players Championship in March.
He also qualified for three of the four majors — the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open. He could still play in The Open at Royal Troon Golf Course in Scotland in July by climbing into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. He rose from 4,129th to 68th after winning, the biggest jump in history, and is currently ranked 72nd.
Dunlap, 20, is keeping caddie Hunter Hamrick, who was on his bag at the American Express. Hamrick met Dunlap for the first time when Dunlap was caddying for a Korn Ferry Tour player as a 13-year-old.
“He just has maturity about him, he’s a hard worker and he’s not scared in the big moment,” Hamrick told ESPN. “He’s just got all the intangibles that make him great. I mean, plenty of people can hit the ball pretty straight and hit it far. He does those things, but that’s not what makes him who he is.”
Hamrick, a former Crimson Tide player, competed on the PGA Tour in parts of three seasons. He tied for 46th at the 2012 U.S. Open and had one top-10 finish, a tie for 10th at the 2012 True South Classic. After bouncing around the Web.com Tour and other circuits, he was an assistant coach at Alabama in 2021-22 before leaving his alma mater for an insurance job.
Now, Hamrick might have found him another full-time gig in golf.
“I guess weirder things could happen?” Hamrick said. “Life’s kind of strange. You never know what the next turn’s going to take, but we’ll see. It definitely wasn’t the plan, but who knows?”
JT is back (maybe)
The 2022-23 wraparound season is one Thomas would like to forget. He had just four top-10 finishes in 21 starts on tour, missing the cut at the Masters (carded a 78 in second round), U.S. Open (81 in second round) and The Open (82 in first round). He tied for 65th in the PGA Championship.
Thomas, 30, missed the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time in his career and was a controversial captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He fell from No. 8 in the world at the start of 2023 to No. 29 at the start of this year.
Thomas finally started seeing the light in mid-September. He has posted four straight top-five finishes in worldwide events, including a tie for third at the American Express. His last victory came in the 2022 PGA Championship.
“I’m very close,” Thomas said. “I think at this point it’s just starting to win tournaments again. I feel like I’m very, very close to doing that and starting to do it, you know, often again. But I fully understand that just because you think that doesn’t mean you deserve it or it’s going to happen.”
Thomas said he developed bad swing habits last year and couldn’t get away from them. He and his father, Mike Thomas, who is his swing coach, worked on getting his hands lower so his swing wasn’t so steep.
“To be perfectly honest, I think it just took a little bit of time to get out of some of those,” Thomas said. “Just for me personally, I felt like I compare a lot and look a lot at old swing videos and current [ones]. I understand that things change and body changes, so on and so forth, but I still know there’s certain characteristics that kind of make my swing what it is, at least when I’m swinging well.”
“I got pretty far away from those last year, so it honestly just took some time to kind of get that muscle memory out. It just took a lot of reps. Then once I feel like it got into a better place, it can get more consistent, and then with that comes more positivity, more confidence in myself, more belief in myself.”
The weather forecast isn’t great
There’s never a bad day at Pebble Beach Golf Links, but the weather can be pretty unpleasant on the Monterey Peninsula this time of year. This week will be no exception with forecasts calling for an 80% chance of rain Thursday with highs in the low 50s. About three inches of rain is expected from Wednesday through Friday. It’s expected to dry out Saturday before another system pushes in rain Sunday and Monday.
“I think all the holes that are exposed and right on the coastline [will be impacted],” Rory McIlroy said. “So, jeez, there’s not many that aren’t. I’d say that [Nos.] 7, 8, 9, 10 stretch is going to be pretty gnarly if the weather is what we’re expecting. It can change and hopefully it does, but yeah, I think we’re going to have to just knuckle down and get through some of those tough stretches.”
Last year, inclement weather plagued the tournament, and Rose ended a four-year drought without a victory by winning by 3 shots in a Monday finish.
New PAC committee members
Lanto Griffin, who has publicly criticized the PGA Tour’s move to smaller fields and increased FedEx Cup points in signature events, and Grayson Murray, an outspoken critic of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, are among the new members on the tour’s player advisory council.
The pair were also among 21 rank-and-file players who co-signed a letter sent to the PGA Tour policy board in December, demanding transparency and a meeting with the board’s independent directors to discuss potential deals with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of billionaire sports team owners.
Griffin told Golfweek in November that the PAC wasn’t doing enough for non-stars on tour: “To have the deck stacked against us — we’re losing points, money, starts, it feels like, ‘Who’s making these decisions?’ Then you have what Jay did to us, and I don’t know how he still has his job at this point.
During a meeting at the RBC Canadian Open last year, a day after the tour announced its stunning alliance with the PIF and the DP World Tour, Murray went after Monahan, “We don’t trust you, Jay! You lied to our face.”
The other PAC members are Sam Burns, Nick Hardy, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Mackenzie Hughes, Keith Mitchell, Séamus Power, Scheffler, Adam Schenk, Kevin Streelman, Nick Taylor, Josh Teater, Thomas and Camilo Villegas.