Get ready for an AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am unlike any other.
Bye bye Bill Murray, Ray Romano and Steve Young, hello world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, former major champion Rory McIlroy and reigning FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland.
The old Crosby Clambake, in its 87th year, will have a reduced field from 156 two-man teams down to 80, with amateurs playing just two rounds instead of three or possibly four, on only two courses with Monterey Peninsula CC cut out of the equation, and the weekend reserved simply for the best pros in the game.
It’s all happening as a result of the PGA Tour selecting the tournament as one of eight signature events offering a purse of $20 million at a limited-field, no-cut event with elevated FedEx Cup points (750 for the winner compared to 500 at regular events).
“If you turned it around and we were never a pro-am and the Tour said, hey, guys, guess what? We’re going to give you two days of a pro-am, Thursday and Friday. We would be elated,” said Steve John, CEO and tournament director of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, the non-profit that runs the tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill. “Yes, we’re two days instead of three, possibly four, but it’s going to be a darn good two days. The experience for the amateurs will be the best ever.”
In recent years, the tournament has struggled to attract an elite field, and something needed to be done to restore the luster of a once-beloved event: just 21 of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking were in last year’s field and more than half of it was ranked outside the top 300.
“For years I’d hear I’d love to come to Pebble, but it just isn’t working for me,” said John, who is in his 12th year overseeing the tournament.
Of the Tour’s efforts to breathe new life into the event by making the star-studded field the attraction rather than the celebrities of music, the big screen and the sports world, John said, “It worked. They are coming.”
He’s no longer recruiting; he’s enrolling. He boasted that 48 of the top 50 in the world already have committed, and he expressed confidence the other two would soon join, too. Ticket sales reflect the appetite to see the tournament’s best field: John said sales are $200,000 ahead of last year’s pace.
“To see nearly every person that is eligible come, that is a statement,” John said. “This is as close as you’re going to get to a major.”
But John recognizes that change is never…