An A-list cast of golfers and C-list celebrities tee it up at on Thursday in the three-course smash up that is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Reigning champ Brandt Snedeker is looking for his third win in four years along the California coast where the last 11 victors have all come from the US of A.
Rory McIlroy sits this one out in Florida before upping his pre-US Masters schedule to avoid going into the first Major of the season in April colder than Hilary Clinton’s election campaign.
And with the money still coming for World No 1 Jordan Spieth and World No 3 Jason Day, these are the best-backed players in Paddy’s book at 3pm on Wednesday in a tournament he’s paying each-way on the first 7 finishers.
1. Shane Lowry
The Irish pro popped his cherry on the US Tour at WGC Bridgestone last season to secure his full Tour card and has bolted out of the blocks already this term. Lowry trousered $200k when T6 to Hideki Matsuyama in Phoenix after earlier coming home T13 with compatriot Paul Dunne at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Another Top 15 finish this week will see him break into the World’s Top 20 for the first time and with confidence sky high and solid form at links course to call on, the Irishman is no back number and has the strong possibility of a first Ryder Cup spot on Darren Clarke’s team next September as extra motivation.
2. Phil Mickleson
What’s not to love about the reinvigorated Leftie?
The all-time leading money winner at this track thanks to four victories is back in the groove after posting a T11 in Phoenix last weekend. A new coach and swing adjustment has the five-time Major winner in a good place again and he shares the Spyglass Hill course record (61) from 2005 as he looks for win number 20 on the West Coast Swing series.
3. Brandt Snedeker
Snedeker has either seriously got his eye in over course and distance or is just very good at dodging Huey Lewis as a playing partner for the first three days in the Pro-Am. Either way, he’s burnt it up at Pebble Beach.
Often flattered to deceive in the past, but the reigning champ here was winning for the second time in three years last season when setting the 72-hole course record.
Laid down a Ryder Cup marker nice and early with a battling Monday win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month after scrambling through the cut on the number at the half-way stage.
With four of Snedeker’s eight PGA Tour wins coming in California, he could be a shoo-in for Davis Love III’s US Ryder Cup team next September if he makes it win number five in the Golden State this weekend.
4. Dustin Johnson
While DJ has blown more chances to win a Major than Arsenal have the Premier League, he can still make the game look very easy when he’s on song.
Another dual winner here (2009,2010) he’ll have to erase last season’s three-putt shocker at the US Open from his mind as he rips it up with last season’s Chambers Bay conqueror Jordan Spieth in the first three days of action here.
Limbered up for a hat-trick bid with a T-10 and T-18 in recent weeks but given past form don’t go counting your money until he’s navigated the back nine on the final day.
5. Jimmy Walker
Walker has been getting his oversized-cheques in early these past few seasons and while the 2014 champion hasn’t hit the bulls-eye just yet since the turn of the year, the graph is trending in the right direction.
Opened up with a T10 and T13 in Hawaii before knocking in a T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. With a win and three other top 10 finishes here already it could pay to follow the Texan if it comes to another shoot-out this year.
6. J B Holmes
A tee-box boomer who recorded a pre-Masters victory at the Shell Houston Open last year before his form trailed off mid-season. But he kick-started a solid six months with a strong Fed Ex Cup finish (2 x Top 10 in the BMW Championship & Tour Championship) down the stretch last year and was part of the winning American team in the Presidents Cup in South Korea.
Two T6 performances at the Farmers Insurance and in Phoenix last weekend have kept that run going and he knows the tracks here too having posted a second-place finish in 2010 and was T10 last year.
7. Patrick Reed
Mr. Angry pulled out of a storm-delayed Monday finish at the Farmers Open with a ‘sore ankle’ that apparently had nothing to do with him having as much chance of him finishing upsides the leaders as Donald Trump becoming the White Houses’s next cultural ambassador to Mexico.
Swerved the Phoenix Open last weekend but showed early-season form to chase home Jordan Spieth – albeit it at a safe distance eight shots back – in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.
One of the best players in the world in his own mind but will need to keep a lid on his combustible temper among the gentler souls of stage and screen before getting his ‘game-face’ on when the shackles are off on Sunday.