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Dottie Pepper On AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: 'Ball Striking Is Key'

By Dave Shedloski

Few events can match the splendor and entertainment value of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where celebrities and many of golf's top players mingle along the California coast at one of the most iconic courses in the world -- Pebble Beach Golf Links.

This year will be no exception, and, in fact, could be one of the most memorable editions since Bing Crosby got his Clambake going in 1937. The top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking -- Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth -- headline a field that also includes former world No. 1 players Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, four-time winner Phil Mickelson and past Masters champions Adam Scott and Bubba Watson.

The amateur field includes a roll call of celebrities, including Bill Murray, Mark Wahlberg, Wayne Gretzky (playing with Johnson), Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who now is lead football analyst for THE NFL ON CBS.

In all, 156 pros and their amateur partners compete at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club for three rounds. Then the field is cut to the top 60 professionals and top 25 pro-am teams for a Sunday finish at the seaside gem Pebble Beach, which remains a solid par-72 challenge at just 6,816 yards.

Spieth, coming off a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is the defending champion in the $7.4 million affair, after cruising to a four-stroke victory over Kelly Kraft.

CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper assesses this week's potential storylines.

>>MORE: Golf Expert Interviews

First off, just talk about the identity of Pebble Beach.

It's one of those places where people feel like they've been there, even when they haven't. It's stunning, and the tournament comes at the perfect time of the year. The finishes that we've seen there, the players who have won the event, and the celebrities that play, it's all part of the wonderful lore of Pebble Beach.

The weather forecast is stellar with sunshine every day. Are we in for a shootout on the three Monterey Peninsula courses?

I think so. Ball in hand last year and Jordan got to 19-under par. I'm not sure we're going to see that kind of scoring when it's dry and the greens are firmer, but good weather could put a lot of guys in the mix for Sunday. And with the weather in most of the United States not looking great, good weather at Pebble Beach should make people tune in. 

We haven't seen world No. 1 Dustin Johnson on the PGA TOUR since he won the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. He did have one start abroad, at Abu Dhabi. We know he plays well at Pebble Beach. Could he be in for a huge season?

He's in that stretch of golf tournaments he plays well in. It will be interesting to see if he takes that momentum from Hawaii. That was a dominating performance at Kapalua. He is certainly capable of stringing wins together, as we saw last year. [It] would not surprise me if he is sitting at the top come Sunday.

Thoughts on Rory McIlroy so far this year? He has never played in this event, but he has looked good in his early starts on the European Tour. He is paired with his father, Gerry.

He's looked great so far this year. Last year was a wake-up call, not winning a tournament. I look for him to play really well this week. And we're hitting that stretch where guys start thinking of that first week in April. It's six weeks now until the Masters, and guys like Rory are going to have even more focus. It's nice that he's playing with his dad this week. There's no heavy lifting, no maintenance. Just go play.

Can Jordan Spieth bounce back and become the seventh player to win back-to-back in this event?

His game hasn't been shiny so far. It's been okay, but he was off a bit in Phoenix. I would guess he has to have good vibes from a year ago. If he drives the ball well, his iron game has a chance to shine. And if that happens, he only has to putt decently. If he doesn't drive it well, then he has to putt really well. And that's tough, depending on your putting on those bumpy greens. Ball striking is the key.

Give us your favorites and dark horses.

I like Jason Day. Seeing other guys playing well and knowing he should be doing that, he showed how motivated he is. And winning the way he did in San Diego, playing tremendous golf in the playoff, had to feel good. If the golf courses play fast this week, the wedge game Jason had at Torrey Pines will be a factor. For dark horses, a guy who can sneak in there is Pat Perez. He has his eye on the Ryder Cup. And Phil [Mickelson] had some good stuff going last week. He loves Pebble and won there four times.

Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of five books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of "Golf For Dummies," with Gary McCord. His last book was a collaboration with Arnold Palmer for his final autobiography, "A Life Well Played," published in 2016. He's a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.

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