PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tiger Woods will be nowhere near the place, so it was quite intriguing to hear AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament Director Steve John tell Golf Digest that the event this year will feature "the very best pro and celebrity field we've had in the history of the tournament."
He just might be right, at least in the post-Crosby era. Transitioning out of the Tiger-Phil Mickelson era hasn't been easy for American golf, but this week's AT&T stands as proof that the sport just might survive without them.
Mickelson actually will be here after missing last year's tournament for the first time in 20 years. Phil's still on the marquee, as he should be having won the tournament four times, but at age 45 and ranked just 29th in the world, his name appears slightly smaller considering the field assembled for this year's event.
Six players in the world's top 10, headlined by 22-year-old No. 1 Jordan Spieth, make up a glittering field that is definitely the most impressive in recent memory – topping even 2012, when Woods played in the AT&T for the first time in 10 years and was matched with Mickelson in a final-round showdown that Phil won handily with scorching 64 finish. In retrospect, that might be the last best Woods-Mickelson confrontation we'll ever see, although Woods didn't make much of it with a final-round 75.
Tiger hasn't been back since, and might never be back considering his myriad health issues and disappearance from the elite list – he's 440th in the world rankings, largely the result of inactivity. His future is uncertain, and golf is trying to move on. The AT&T itself has had a bit of face-lift, with a new logo and a shorter name, having dropped the word "National" from its moniker.
AT&T organizers would never pull back an open invitation to Woods, but at the same time, there's no reason to worry when you have Spieth, No. 3 Jason Day, No. 6 Bubba Watson, No. 7 Justin Rose, No. 8 Dustin Johnson and No. 9 Patrick Reed in the field. Oh, and don't forget Brandt Snedeker, the defending champion and two-time winner who set the tournament scoring record a year ago. He made just one bogey in his 72-hole run (Pebble Beach's par-4 third hole, third round) and 23 birdies en route to a 22 under 265.
The professional side of the tournament may enjoy great health for many years to come considering that Spieth signed a major endorsement deal with AT&T in 2014, which will likely lock his participation for the foreseeable future. The 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion sports an AT&T logo on his golf bag, and he even belongs to the same Dallas golf club as company chief executive Randall Stephenson.
But the celebrity amateur side has had a fresh makeover as well, and it helped stoke the pro marquee. Yes, there are regular favorites such as Bill Murray and Ray Romano in the celeb field, but there are some new heavyweight names in actor Mark Wahlberg and singer-entertainer Justin Timberlake. Wahlberg agreed to play if his buddy Watson would join him as a his pro partner, and similar hookups were made between Timberlake and Rose, as well as veteran Steve Stricker and country singer Toby Keith.
On the sports side of the celebrity field, former Oakland A's slugger and current American League MVP Josh Donaldson will make his first appearance, as will Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh (remember him?), Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and 49ers Hall of Famer Steve Young are also in the pro-am.
The lineups for the annual Giants-49ers Charity Shootout on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. will include manager Bruce Bochy, pitchers Matt Cain and George Kontos and former outfielder Randy Winn for the Giants; for the 49ers, the foursome will be Young, Dwight Clark, Harris Barton and Brent Jones.
This article was written by Carl Steward from The Oakland Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.