How Pebble Beach Is Suffering From Saudi Riches

Many of the world’s leading players have chosen the riches of the Saudi International ahead of the historic AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Saudi vs Pebble
(Image credit: Future)

The Saudi International, held this week for the first time on the Asian Tour, and the ongoing speculation of a Saudi-backed Super League continues to dominate headlines. All the while, the PGA Tour’s west coast swing continues with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the iconic and picturesque Pebble Beach, California.

Alan Shipnuck, Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated, said it best, “The beauty is unsurpassed and so is the drama created by so many thrilling, famous holes. No golfing life is complete until you’ve experienced Pebble’s coastline, following in the footsteps of Nicklaus, Watson and Woods and an untold number of everyday dreamers”.

Daniel Berger won the tournament last year when he closed with an eagle on the 72nd hole for a final round 65 (-7), finishing two clear of fellow American, Maverick McNealy. The tournament took place without spectators or celebrities as the world continued its battle with Covid-19 but this year, they’re back.

Of the 156 players in the field, a handful of big names are on hand. Daniel Berger and Maverick McNealy return alongside Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick. Home-state kid, Will Zalatoris, was unfortunately forced to withdraw after contracting Covid earlier in the week.

Whilst the tournament will no doubt prove to be as enthralling and entertaining as ever, particularly with the return of spectators and celebrities, you can’t help but notice a significant lack of firepower. Patrick Cantlay (No. 4) is the best ranked player at Pebble Beach, alongside only four others in the top-30. Meanwhile, over in Saudi Arabia, 11 of the top 30 and 21 of the world’s top 50 players are taking part; which includes three in the top 10 - Dustin Johnson, a two-time champion at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, as well as Bryson DeChambeau and Olympic Gold Medal winner, Xander Schauffele. It is rumoured the players received substantial appearance fees to convince them to take part.

Pebble Beach is one of golf’s most romantic venues, which is why it is significant that Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell chose to take part in Saudi Arabia. With five victories to his name, no one has won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am more times than Phil Mickelson whereas Graeme McDowell has neglected the opportunity to return to the scene of his US Open victory in 2010.

The PGA & DP World Tours initially blocked its members from taking part in the Saudi International, only to grant permission with special conditions. The PGA Tour now requires players who have played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at least once in the past five years to commit to play it at least once in the next two years (2023, 2024). For those that had not played in the past five years, they must now commit to playing at least twice in the next three years (2023, 2024, 2025). 

The DP World Tour released its members in a decision it described as “not precedent setting”. Whilst the field this week might be noticeably different to what we will see in Saudi Arabia, the firepower must return to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in future.

James Hibbitt

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.