The PGA Tour heads back to California this week and for the second time in three weeks, we will visit one of the most famous courses in the world, a coastal venue, and a host course for The U.S. Open. Two weeks ago it was Torrey Pines and this week we say, welcome to Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The welcome may be the most friendly initial greeting one receives this week however, as rain is in the forecast in The Monterey Peninsula area for the first two rounds on Thursday and on Friday. The sun is expected to come out on Saturday and make for a nice weekend along Carmel Bay.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am format is exactly like The Career Builder Challenge, played three weeks ago in Palm Desert, California. Three different golf courses are played in the tournament and amateur/celebrity presence is heavy as they pair up and play with the pro’s throughout the event. This can make for long rounds of golf and the professionals must be patient if they plan on faring well. One interesting note, no player has ever won both of these events in the same season. Each course; Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club – Shore Course, has Poa Annua greens – the same surface we saw two weeks ago at Torrey Pines. MPCC is the easiest of the three and Spyglass Hill is typically the most difficult but this week will depend much on the luck of the draw. What course one is playing and at what time of the day and how this helps or hurts a player in terms of the weather. The cut comes on Saturday in this event after each player has had a turn on each of the three courses once. Sunday’s final round is held at Pebble.
To win The Pebble Beach Pro Am, one of the most important factors is to hit greens in regulation. The three golf courses are not brutally difficult but they all have relatively smaller greens than we typically see on Tour, and especially Pebble Beach which has the smallest greens of all. If and when players miss the putting surface, they will need to be able to scramble well and get their ball up and down. Length off of the tee helps and we’ve seen plenty of bombers do well here but there is quite a bit of room off of the tee so nobody, short or long hitters, can get into too much trouble. We’ve seen the shorter hitters play well here too. Most notably, Jim Furyk has had excellent success in Monterey over the years. Finally, there is putting and putting on the often spongy, bumpy, Poa Annua greens can give many players fits. Hit greens, scramble, and putt well.. and catch a few breaks with the weather, and you ought to have quite a nice week at Pebble Beach. If not, you can still enjoy one of the most scenic stretches of land and sea on the planet.
Dustin Johnson (+875 Bookmaker) DJ comes into Pebble having missed the cut at Torrey Pines two weeks ago but that could’ve had something to do with Tiger being in his pairing. It wasn’t normal. What is normal, is Johnson contending here in Monterey where he has won twice and has another four Top-10 finishes in nine appearances.
Jordan Spieth (+850 Bookmaker) Jordan Spieth was anything but under the radar in 2015 and 2016. This year however, you’d never know that he has three straight Top-10 finishes to kick off the season. He’s never missed a cut here in four tries and hasn’t ever finished worse than 22nd.
Jason Day (+1150 5Dimes) Of the favorites this week, Day is the one that appears to be leaking some oil. He too was in Johnson and Tiger’s pairing at Torrey and also missed the cut. He took three months off this Fall and still seems to be a ways away from midseason form. However, he’s never missed a cut here and has three Top-10’s and two Top-15’s in just seven visits.
Justin Rose (+1650 Bookmaker) I actually think this is a pretty nice price on Rose. He is certainly the hottest player at the top of the market, along with Spieth. Rose finished 2nd a month ago in Hawaii at The Sony and 4th two weeks ago at Torrey Pines. In his first ever visit to Pebble Beach last year, Rose took 6th. That all lines up pretty “rosey” for a guy who can hit greens and putt on Poa Annua pretty well.
Phil Mickelson (+1850 Bookmaker) And here’s another guy that is having a very strong West Coast Swing. Mickelson took 21st in Palm Desert, 14th at Torrey, and 16th last week in Scottsdale. Phil has won The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am four times. He finished 2nd last year.
Brandt Snedeker (+2500 Bookmaker) Snedeker has won this event twice but has also been cut three times in a total of nine appearances. Torrey Pines has been another excellent venue for the Vanderbilt Commodore but after holding the 54-hole lead this year two weeks ago, he slipped to finish 9th on Sunday. It seems to be a little bit feast or famine with Snedeker in California.
The Long Shots
J.B. Holmes (+3200 5Dimes) Like Mickelson, J.B. Holmes is another guy who has had tremendous success on The West Coast Swing. He has two Top-10’s and three Top-20’s at Pebble and two Top-10’s and five Top-35’s at Torrey Pines. He is not the world’s greatest putter – but he is very comfortable on Poa Annua greens.
Jim Furyk (+8000 5Dimes) Mr. 58 has played The AT&T seventeen times and has only missed the cut twice. He has four Top-10’s including a 7th last year. In the fifteen times that he’s been around for the weekend, Furyk has never finished worse than 39th.
Sean O’Hair (+9500 5Dimes) O’Hair has played here eleven times. He’s only missed the cut twice and only finished worse than 35th once in the other nine trips. He only has one Top-10 finish but he’s got quite a history of being in the Pebble conversation. O’Hair was ninth at The Career Builder and 11th at The Sony all in the last month.
Shane Lowry (+6000 Bookmaker) Lowry came off of a long Winter break, straight into Torrey Pines, and finished a very respectable 33rd, a course where he’s finished 13th and 7th in the two years prior. He followed up in Phoenix last week with a 16th. He is an excellent putter on Poa Annua greens and in just two tries here at Pebble Beach, he has finished 41st and 21st. I like the way he is playing right now, he’s got a thing for California coastal courses and the greens, and as an Irishman, he’ll be just fine in the rain.