McIlroy set for PGA Tour season debut at Pebble Beach

Mark McGowan
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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The new-look Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the second PGA Tour ‘Signature Event’ of 2024, sees a top-class 80-man field assemble on the Monterey Peninsula with $20 million overall and a $3.6 million winner’s cheque up for grabs.

Rory McIlroy, fresh off a record fourth Dubai Desert Classic victory a fortnight ago, makes his first PGA Tour appearance of the season, with Séamus Power completing Irish participation as he hopes to bounce back from a disappointing missed cut at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

But it’s a ‘who’s who’ of the PGA Tour, with world number one Scottie Scheffler headlining alongside number two, McIlroy, and only Jon Rahm missing from the leading ten in the world rankings.

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Typically a full-field Pro-Am spread across three courses and the cut coming after 56 holes, the revamped format for 2024 sees just Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill used, with players alternating course in rounds one and two, before the amateurs exit stage left and the remaining 80 pros play rounds three and four on the legendary six-time US Open host venue.

Pebble Beach hasn’t been a particularly happing hunting ground for McIlroy, competing in the AT&T Pro-Am just once back in 2018 ahead of the US Open that was to be staged at Pebble a year later, but he departed after just one look at the course, courtesy of a missed cut. He fared better at the 2019 US Open, but trailing by five going into the final round, a closing one-over 72 saw him slip back to ninth overall. His only other competitive start at Pebble Beach was in the 2010 US Open, where he watched from afar as Graeme McDowell lifted the trophy on Sunday and McIlroy had gone home on Friday evening.

But there’s a consistency to McIlroy’s game these days, that even the 2018 and 2019 versions lacked, and that’s why he’s the bookmakers’ favourite this week, even though course form should suggest otherwise.

Course form is not Power’s problem – he finished 15th here last year and ninth the year before – but after returning to PGA Tour action following a hip injury that curtailed his Ryder Cup chances last season, he’s struggled to find his groove, finishing well down the field at both The Sentry and Sony Open in Hawaii, before missing the cut by three at Torrey Pines.

Whilst the shortened PGA Tour season has increased the pressure on those who know they need to hit the ground running in order to keep their job for 2025, Power has no such worries as he’s exempt until the end of next year at least, but having slipped to 100th in the world rankings, the highest he’s been since capturing his maiden PGA Tour win in Bermuda in late 2021, he’s got serious ground to make up if he’s to make it to Augusta for the third year in succession.

Course specialist Jordan Spieth always fancies his chances around here, and has a victory and five top 10s in his last 10 Pebble Beach Pro-Am starts, but the talent pool is greater this year, and Viktor Hovland, winner of the US Amateur here in 2018 and followed that up with a T12 and low-amateur honours in 2019, could well be the man to beat.

But the PGA Tour has delivered plenty of unexpected winners this season already, with Chris Kirk and Grayson Murray winning the Hawaiian events, amateur Nick Dunlap winning in Palm Springs, and French DP World Tour graduate Matthieu Pavon winning last week. Dunlap’s decision to turn pro means that he makes his professional debut this week, whereas remaining amateur would’ve left him on the sidelines, and he’s sure to feature heavily on TV coverage throughout.

Justin Rose is the defending champion, having ended a four-year winless drought with a three-shot triumph over Brendon Todd and Brandon Wu, both of whom are also in the field this week.

Given it’s location of the cliff tops of the Monterey Peninsula, the weather and wind in particular is always a potential factor at Pebble Beach, though moderate-to-heavy rain forecast on each of the first three tournament days and for the last day of practice means that the notoriously small greens will be relatively receptive, with the wind due to be a minor factor over rounds one-to-three as well.

Sunday’s final round, however, is forecast to see an inch of rain fall during the course of the day and for winds ranging from 25-30 mph, and gusts reaching as high as 50 mph, which could cause havoc and lead to a potential Monday finish should play be forced to stop for electrical activity at any stage throughout.

McIlroy will join Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg at Spyglass Hill for the opening round at 16:45 Irish time, while Power starts his tournament at Pebble Beach at 17:45 alongside Lucas Glover. It has not yet been announced which groups will form the marquee and featured groupings for early coverage, but it is likely that Pebble Beach will be the primary venue for television cameras with secondary coverage coming from Spyglass Hill.

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