Given the seaside nature of Pebble Beach Golf Links, and the fact that wind and inclement weather seem to always factor heavily into the Pro-Am each year, you’d think it would be a home away from home for European-born players. Hey, it’s even got ‘links’ in the name?
It’s actually been anything but, however. In the Pro-Am’s long history, no European-born player had ever won up until Monday, when England’s Justin Rose pulled off the shocking statistical first that was pointed out by stats guru Justin Ray as Rose was closing the deal in California:
Incredibly, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am has never had a European winner in its long history as a PGA Tour event.
Justin Rose would be the first.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 6, 2023
Almost hard to believe, but 100 per cent true upon closer look. In 82 editions of the event which dates back to 1937, an American has won 77 times. The four other non-USA victories belong to Canada’s Nick Taylor (2020), Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2004), Australia’s Brett Ogle (1993) and Bruce Crampton (1965). Between 1937 and 1992, Crampton was the only non-US-born player to win the event.
It should be noted that way back when, European-born players would not play much in the US for the first few months of the season, and they wouldn’t have much success even when they did. Even today, many of the bigger European names will leave Pebble off their early-season schedule thanks to a number of bigger Asian Tour and DP World Tour events taking place right before or right after. This year, only 19 European-born players were in the field, and Rose was the only one to even finish in the top 10. And still, it’s hard to fathom that a European player didn’t even randomly win this tournament once.
Rose also added some important context during his victory press conference.
“European players I think throughout the 1980s and 1990s didn’t have a lot of success on the PGA Tour, period,” Rose said after claiming his 11th PGA Tour win. “I don’t think. Faldo did decently. But even he didn’t win prolifically over here in the States. Westie [Lee Westwood], [Darren] Clarke, those guys that were at the peak of the powers in the European Tour days, never really won a lot over here.
“So there’s really only been the emergence of Jon Rahm and maybe myself even in the last sort of decade or so that there’s been more opportunities for European players,” he added. “So, yeah, it doesn’t surprise me a ton actually. But Pebble is the type of golf course with the conditions and the elements that you think you could argue would suit European players a little bit more. Maybe there should have been more opportunity for them.”
Only a pair of outliers came close to winning the event, the most recent being Paul Casey, who finished runner-up on a Monday in 2019 to Phil Mickelson. Before that, you have to go back to 1977 to find another European runner-up, England’s Tony Jacklin. And while neither victory came in the Pro-Am, two well-known European players in Graeme McDowell and Viktor Hovland won rather important events at Pebble, the former the 2010 US Open and the latter the 2018 US Amateur.