AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
It was an incredibly frustrating end for us in Phoenix to a week that had promised so much at the halfway stage with Ben An and Branden Grace, who had both been on or around the top end of the leaderboard all week and going in to Sunday, finishing in the graveyard of good all e/w bets, ninth place.
An’s finish was particularly frustrating as a three putt bogey on 15 and a three putt par on 17, compared to even a two putt on one of those holes, was basically the difference between him missing out on the places and bagging a decent return for us.
Still, if you’re going to be involved in golf betting you have to accept you’ll have these weeks on occasions and take it on the chin.
Moving on and the tour heads back to California and up the coast to Pebble Beach for the AT & T Pro Am.
Those familiar with the event will be aware that, as was the case at the Desert Classic three weeks ago, there are 3 courses in play on rotation, with Pebble Beach acting as host course.
All players get one round on each of the three courses over the first three days, with those making the 54 hole cut playing the final round at Pebble on Sunday.
Long term viewers of the tournament will also be aware that this can be a ‘double edged sword’ of an event to watch on TV over the first three days.
On one hand you have the spectacular scenery offered by the California Coast line, which I would argue is as beautiful as anywhere offered in the golfing world. On the other hand we have the 5 ½ - 6hr rounds that we have come to expect in these Pro-Am’s.
In addition a large chunk of the coverage over the first three days is given up to interviews with, and swing analysis of, a combination of has been rock stars [step forward Huey Lewis] actors from various US Cop shows and Sitcoms, American Football team coaches [the vast majority of whom with no disrespect to my US readers us guys across the pond have never heard of]…and of course Bill Murray….
Dustin Johnson fresh from an eye catching performance in Saudi Arabia heads up the market by a distance followed by Patrick Cantlay. This pair are then followed by Paul Casey, course specialist Jason Day who has done everything but win here, Brandt Snedeker and defending champion, Phil Mickelson.
As noted above the event is played across three courses. The courses used at present are as follows;
Monterey Peninsula Shore Course
This has been the rotation in play since Monterey Peninsula was added in 2010.
All three courses are short at under 7000 yards, so length of the tee is not an issue here at all.
Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hills play to a par 72, whilst Monterey Peninsula plays to a par 71 with all three par fives coming on the back 9.
The greens are Poa Annua on all three courses.
Historically Spyglass Hills has played as the toughest course of the three however with the wind being the main defence of the courses if it blows one day but not on another this can have a big effect on the scoring averages from day to day.
If the wind does blow then Pebble Beach in particular suddenly becomes a brute, but if Mother Nature is kind to the players the tracks are there for the taking.
So let’s start by taking a look at the last ten winners
2019 P Mickelson
2018 T Potter Jnr
2017 J Spieth
2016 V Taylor
2015 B Snedeker
2014 J Walker
2013 B Snedeker
2012 P Mickelson
2011 DA Points
2010 D Johnson
In 7 of the last 10yrs this been an event for the ‘big guns’ with DJ [twice], Mickelson [twice], Sneds [twice] & Walker all winning, however in the other 3yrs there have been absolute ‘skinners’ getting over the line in the form of Vaughn Taylor, DA Points [who memorably played with Bill Murray] and of course Ted Potter Jnr in 2018 who took down DJ and Day.
One thing all of the winners over the last decade or so had in common is a decent amount of course/event experience and some previous high finishes.
This can be seen by the fact that all 10 of the last 10 winners had a previous top 16 finish in the event and in most cases they had made several starts in here. In addition three of them, Mickelson, Snedeker and DJ were all repeat winners.
If we then look at the other winners over the past decade, Potter Jnr had finished 16th here previously, Walker had posted three top tens in the three years prior to his win, Taylor had finished 10th the year before and 2011 winner DA Points had finished 14th here in 2008.
On this basis I am keen to focus on players with past course experience and at least one good finish.
In essence whether it is due to the unique skill sets required to play the pro am format or just a case of getting used to the courses and not being distracted by the wonderful views, this doesn’t appear to be a week for the rookies.
Indeed the motto appears to be either go with one of the favourites, or a seasoned pro whose out with the washing in the betting, but who may just have one of those weeks where everything clicks in the relaxed company of their amateur partner.
Current form coming in is useful but not essential. West Coast specialists Snedeker, Walker and Mickelson last year had all telegraphed there win with good form over the first few weeks of the new year and DA Points had also finished in the top 20 on his previous two starts prior to victory. Equally though Potter Jnr and Vaughn Taylor had done absolutely nothing over the previous few weeks prior to their victories to warrant consideration!
The other factor to look at is form on correlating courses on events played on short coastal tracks such as the Sony Open, The RBC Heritage and the RSM Classic being obvious points of reference.
The winning score is very much dictated by the weather. Over the last 10yrs we have seen winning scores ranging from -22 [Snedeker in 2015] to – 11, [Jimmy Walker in 2014].
This weeks forecast looks dry and sunny however cool conditions look to be the order of the day with nothing more than the mid to high 50s forecast throughout much of the week.
Wind does not look to be an issue for the first couple of days but Saturday but forecasts a slight increase to 10mph with Sunday showing gusts possibly reaching 15mph.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
BRANDT SNEDEKER – 22-1 – 2pts e/w - 1/5 odds 1st 8. - FINISHED MC
With the majority of the winners over recent years here coming from the games elite I am keen to have one from the top end of the market on side.
Whilst of course strong cases can be made for market leader Dustin Johnson and defending champion Mickelson, who found his game in the desert last week, with these two, along with last weeks winner Gmac, having to contend with the long trip back from Saudi Arabia, and of course the change in time zone, the one who makes the most appeal to me at the odds from the big names is two time former champion here Brandt Snedeker.
The case for Sneds doesn’t need much making but I shall do so briefly anyway.
Brandt who was victorious here in both 2013 and 2015 is basically a man to keep on side when he finds his game on the West Coast, which prior to last weeks unexpected missed cut in Phoenix he had done this year, finishing 12th at the Sony and third at the Farmers.
At Phoenix Brandt’s putter misbehaved on Thursday as he lost two strokes to the field in this department, while his long game was also out of shape hitting only 11 fairways in total on Thursday and Friday.
Not in theory particularly encouraging stuff then, however if we go back seven das we’ll see that Sneds was fifth for the week in putting at Torrey, 18th in DA accuracy and fifth in SGT. On that basis I am happy to put the poor showing on Thursday and Friday at TPC Scottsdale down to a couple of bad days at the office and there is every possibility that with the weekend off he will have had the time to iron out whatever the glitches were that lead to that disappointing performance.
Once we get past the poor week in Phoenix we are basically looking at a player who had not, prior to that, missed a cut since the Open Championship last July, or indeed on US soil since the Masters and with his odds looking a few ticks jucier than they would have done if he had performed well in Phoenix I am happy to have him on board this week.
SCOTT PIERCY – 66-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 18th
A man who did catch the eye in Phoenix last week was Scott Piercy and with his improving form in this event over recent years I am keen to have him onboard this week.
After three early missed cuts at the AT&T the Las Vegas man decided to strike the event off his schedule for several years however after returning here in 2017 to finish 55th and notching a 20th place the following year Scott finally cracked the top ten here last year for the first time, a result, which could have been much better had it not been for a disappointing final round of 73 on Sunday.
A three time solo winner on the PGA Tour [Scott was also victorious in the Zurich pairs alongside Billy Horschel in 2018], Piercy has over his career shown a liking for this type of track with top ten finishes at the Mayakoba, The RBC Heritage, The Sony Open and of course here at Pebble to his name.
At TPC Scottsdale last week Scott was dialled in on his long game, finishing the week, fifth for SGTTG and fifth for SGATTG and it was only his putter that held him back from an even higher finish, however it should be noted that even with the flat stick last week Scott improved dramatically from his seasons ranking of 185th to rank 34th, which shows great encouragement.
This sixth place finish at Scottsdale represented the 41yr old’s first top ten on tour since a second place at the Byron Nelson last May and what makes this particularly interesting to me is that Piercy has consistently shown over the years that he has a propensity to follow one good performance with another.
To flesh this out the second place at the Byron Nelson came directly after a third place at Hilton Head and prior to that he posted three top tens in three weeks at the back end of 2018.
Other examples include back to back top tens at the back end of 2016 and memorably back to back second place finishes at the US Open and WGC Bridgestone in 2016.
This campaign had seen a steady but unspectacular start from Piercy with only one missed cut in eight events, however last week showed him step up in all departments of his game and I am confident he can build on that this week and turn in another great performance.
PATRICK RODGERS – 100-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
One player who I just can’t bring myself to leave out this week is Patrick Rodgers.
Rodgers as we know is a hugely talented player who after a standout college career was/is expected to go right to the top of the game.
Unfortunately in his four full seasons on the tour things haven’t quite yet clicked all together in one week for Patrick enough for him to get a win under his belt, but it is no doubt only a matter of time until it does.
Since he has been on tour consistency has not been Pat’s strong point in fact this past two weeks when he has finished ninth at Torrey Pines and then 16th at the WMPO is unbelievably the first time he has posted back to back top twenty finishes since he notched four on the spin at the back end of 2015.
What was particularly encouraging about Pat’s form in Scottsdale was that his long game was in great shape and he finished the week second in SGOTT and sixth in GIR, and this of course should stand him in good stead on Pebble’s small greens this week.
Moving on from Patrick’s current form and there is also huge encouragement to be found in his form both at this event, where he was 8th on debut in 2018, and in form on coastal tracks on the PGA Tour, where has posted top tens at Torrey [twice], the Mayakoba and twice at the RSM, including his memorable 61 62 weekend in November 2018. Clearly therefore this is the type of test that suits his game.
Patrick’s recent solid form leads me to think that his maiden tour win may finally be on the horizon and with his liking for this type of test I am very keen to have him on side this week.
AARON BADDELEY – 200-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 25th
Another who has solid credentials in this event over the years and who caught my eye at Phoenix, particularly on Sunday is Aaron Baddeley.
Badds posted three consecutive top twelve finishes in this event from 2011 through to 2013 and having started his 19/20 campaign reasonably slowly it was good to see his stats at TPC Scottsdale show a considerable improvement to his early season numbers.
The Aussie finished his week at the WMPO 25th in SGTTG, 20th in GIR and 38th in DA. In addition and far less surprisingly he ranked first for the week in strokes-gained-around-the-green and tenth in Scrambling, short game numbers which should surely be of help at Pebble Beach, which has pretty much the smallest greens the players play on tour each year.
What was also to like about Badds’ week in Scottsdale was that he finished things off on Sunday with a five birdie solid round of 68 in the week’s toughest conditions, which was only blemished by a double bogey on the 14th hole, which was playing the toughest on the final day.
Aaron has undoubtedly been a tough man to catch right over the years however he is a four time PGA Tour winner and still only 38yrs old he has plenty of game left in front of him.
A former winner at Hilton Head and with two of his three top tens on tour last year coming at The Puerto Rico and Corales events, and of course with his bank of form here, it is clear Badds is more than comfortable on shorter coastal tracks.
There is no doubt that Badds’ long game has caused him some big headaches over the years, while his putter, which was so strong last season, has not been cooperating so far this campaign, however he is capable of finding weeks where his ball striking clicks to an extremely high level and I believe that with his solid finish at Scottsdale he can push on to that sort of level this week.
In addition of course you can’t help but think that Aaron will be inspired by the recent successes of his fellow countrymen Cam Smith, Marc Leishman and Lucas Herbert and my hope is that he will produce another great week for the Aussie’s this week.
TIM WILKINSON – 300-1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 25th
Finally, in the spirit of the success of the 40 something journeyman here over the years I am going to finish this week with a roll of the dice at huge odds on 41yr old Tim Wilkinson.
Wilkinson is the text book definition of a PGA Tour journeyman having been on and off the tour since 2008.
The New Zealander’s most recent return to the tour full time was earned after a three year hiatus through a solid season on the Korn Ferry Tour, which saw him post five top ten finishes and finish 24th on the money list.
One of the shortest off the tee on tour the lefty’s opportunities for big pay day’s in the big league will always be limited and at venues like Torrey Pines where he missed the cut a couple of weeks ago he will always be on a hiding to nothing.
Prior to that performance though Tim had been in a pretty solid groove of form making his previous four cuts on the tour and on that basis he should be relishing a return to an event where he has had some success over the years and he is able to compete.
Seventh here in 2014 to tick our previous high finish box, Wilkinson has posted three of his other six career top tens on the PGA Tour at Hilton, Head, Puerto Rico and the Mayakoba, so it is clear what type of track he is suited to.
Granted a maiden tour win for Tim here after all his time on tour would be a huge ask but buoyed by his solid year on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019 and his recent solid play, I can see him popping up and hitting the frame at huge odds in the more relaxed pro-am atmosphere that will surely suit him this week.
UPDATED 4th FEBRUARY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - DJ TRAHAN - DK VALUE - $6800 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 31
Worth noting this week that two of my outright picks for the event, Baddeley and Wilkinson sit under the $7000 threshold this section of the column focuses on. Here we go though with two further specific sub $7k DK picks, the first of which is DJ Trahan.
Trahan has quietly had something of a renaissance over the past twelve months and prior to his missed cut at the Farmers a couple of weeks ago he had made his previous five cuts on tour including an eighth place finish at the correlating RSM Classic.
Eighteenth here last year and also with a top ten finish to his name in this event prior to his slump, Trahan who sits 35th in tour in GIR is best suited to this type of shorter, accurate test these days and I would expect another solid performance from him this week.
PICK 2 - BRANDON HAGY - DK VALUE - $6700 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 43
Our second pick in this segment goes to Californian native Brandon Hagy.
Hagy struggled hugely in 2019 on the PGA Tour after returning from a wrist injury, however he secured his card with two top 5 finishes at the Korn Ferry finals and after a slow start to his 19/20 campaign he posted his first top 20 finish on the PGA Tour in Phoenix last week since the back end of 2017.
One of the longer hitters out there you wouldn't necassarily think this event would be right up Hagy's alley but two top 35 finishes in two previous vists tell us he is comfortable here and I would expect him to build on last weeks effort and perform solidly again here this time out.