Hideki Matsuyama won last week. This is something golf news outlets everywhere have been typing consistently over the last couple of months. He has now won 5 times in his last 9 starts worldwide, a truly incredible feat. The good news for everyone teeing it up this week? Matsuyama isn’t.
This week is the turn of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am which is held on three courses in Pebble Beach, California. As suggested in the event name, this event is of the Pro-Am format, which is unique. Normally each event has a Pro-Am day on a Wednesday but players are paired with celebrity amateurs all week at this event.
On top of the actual winner of the individual tournament, there will also be a winning Pro-Am team crowned at the end of the week. This television coverage of this event is often criticised due to the amount of focus on the celebrity play (you’ll see a lot of Bill Murray!) but it is clearly a fun event.
There will be 156 spots in the field. Standard eligibility rankings apply, whilst the following shall first be eligible:
- AT&T Pebble Beach winners prior to 2000 and in the last five seasons
- The Players Championship and major championship winners prior to 2000 and in the last five years
In addition there is no Open Monday Qualifying for this event.
Headlining the field is World No.1, Jason Day who is also joined by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed from the world’s top-10. Day and Johnson will be looking for much better performances than they managed at Torrey Pines two weeks ago, as both players missed the cut in an event they were rightly favourites for.
Spieth managed a back-door top-10 last week after being out of contention for the most part. Reed disappointed last week finishing T68, after deciding before the off to not go at Torrey Pines the week before. He was a late entry before then deciding not to go at all.
Despite struggling last week, Reed will be looking to build on the 6th place finish at the Tournament of Champions and T12 at the Career Builder Challenge he has accumulated so far in 2017.
Another notable in the field this week is Phil Mickelson who is a four-time Pebble Beach winner. Mickelson has not finished outside the top-21 so far this season and finished T16 in Phoenix last week.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, 6,816 yards, Par 72 – Stroke average in 2016: 72.654
Spyglass Hill GC, 6,963 yards, Par 72 – Stroke average in 2016: 72.506
Monterey Peninsula CC (Shore Course), 6,958 yards, Par 71 – Stroke average in 2016: 70.699
The feature course is Pebble Beach Golf Links but each player will also have to play rounds at both Monterey Peninsula CC and Spyglass Hill before a 54-hole cut is made. The top-60 and ties that do make the 54-hole cut will play the final round on Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Monterey is where you need to score, as this is comfortably the easiest of the three courses. This was highlighted by Sung Kang’s course-record round of 60 last year. He was a birdie at the last away from the magic 59. The greens at Monterey are a lot bigger than those at Pebble Beach, giving players much more to aim at.
The record at Pebble Beach is 62, shot by Tom Kite in 1983 and David Duval in 1997. 62 is also the 18-hole record at Spyglass Hill, shot by Mickelson in 2005 and Luke Donald a year later in 2006.
The 72-hole record for the event is Brandt Snedeker’s 265 in 2015. Snedeker has won this event twice (2013 & 2015) and was in contention thru three rounds at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. A final round 73 put to sword any chances of a third win that week, but he will be hoping he can do the three-peat here at Pebble Beach.
All three courses feature Poa Annua greens.
What it will take to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Hitting a solid amount of greens will be important, especially at Pebble Beach. Whilst Monterey is notably easier in this respect, to shoot the low numbers required to win this event solid Greens in Regulation numbers across the week will be key.
Other than that, good putting on the Poa Annua greens here will be required to shoot double-digits under par, which is most definitely required to contend. The players recently putted on Poa Annua greens at Torrey Pines, so how a player putted that week might be a good indicator.
Vaughan Taylor won from nowhere last year, but generally speaking a good performance in recent weeks is also important. Even though he was out of form and ill coming into the event, Taylor had finished 10th at this event the year before so he did at least have some previous.
This is not an event you want to come into out of form, especially if the weather conditions are tough when playing Pebble or Spyglass Hill.
Past champions enjoy returning to this event. 12 of the last 29 renewals of this event have been won by past champions. You have Timothy Frank (@FantasyGolfMan on Twitter) to thank for that stat and he is well worth a follow.
Value in the field
With four of the world’s top-10 in the field, we should get some good odds on those that are capable of taking “the big 4” on. Whilst you tend to get classy winners here, there have been upsets in recent years, notably Taylor getting the better of Mickelson last year.
With all this in mind, here are my selections for the 2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Phil Mickelson 22/1 (Betfair and PaddyPower) 1.5pts e/w:
I picked Mickelson to win last week and I am going to chance him again, despite the shorter odds. Mickelson was 28/1 last week to win an event he has won three times, this week he is 22/1 to win an event he is looking to win for a fifth time.
That fifth win could easily have come last year, however a final round 65 from Vaughan Taylor compared to Mickelson’s 72 was costly. Mickelson lost out by just one shot and he will be looking for redemption this week.
He has still finished no worse than 21st this season, after finishing 16th in Phoenix last week and he looks in perfect shape to compete at one of, if not his favourite stop.
Mickelson is clearly desperate for a win, as he showed again this past Sunday. He got himself close to contention after an impressive front-9 but his back-9 was his undoing. This may be his desperation costing him. He looks to be forcing the issue too much, even by his standards! We know Mickelson is not a player to shy away from an outrageous shot or two and taking away that facet of his game would almost be criminal.
Whilst he finished 11th at Phoenix the week before this event last year, he had just missed the cut at Torrey Pines. This time he has been much more consistent, finishing T14 at Torrey before his T16 last week, so I am full of confidence once again, that Mickelson can get his first win since the 2013 Open Championship.
Patrick Reed 33/1 (Betfred, Boylesports & StanJames) 1pt e/w:
I am hoping that after pulling out before the off at Torrey Pines and finishing just 68th last week, that Reed is in the right mind frame to contend, at a course he clearly loves.
In four starts at this event, Reed has finished 6-29-13-7, so he does plenty right here. His 7th on debut was bettered last year and if he is in the right frame of mind, Reed can definitely win here.
We know low scoring is Reed’s forte, with three of his five wins coming by way of double-digit scores. He won the Wyndham Championship with -14, shot -28 at the Humana Challenge (Now CareerBuilder) and -21 at the Tournament of Champions.
Reed’s last win was in the FedEx Cup play-offs last year, when he was victorious at The Barclays
Before his below-par play last week, Reed was in fine form. In his first two starts in 2017, Reed finished T6 at the Tournament of Champions and T12 at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Given he was a late entry into the Farmers Insurance Open anyway, I am not too concerned he decided not to start. Torrey Pines is not a course he has played well at and he may just have decided against playing, rather than there being a problem.
Similarly, there was only really one bad round last week in Phoenix (final round 76), so hopefully he will good to go here at Pebble.
This is the perfect chance for Reed to kick-start his year, as he prepares for the first major of the season – The Masters in April. His course form was a big factor into picking him this week and generally speaking 33/1 is a big price for a player of Reed’s calibre, especially at a course he tends to play well at.
Matt Jones 125/1 (Bet365, Betfred, StanJames) 0.5pt e/w:
Matt Jones no longer has a PGA Tour card, so he will be relying on good performances in his limited starts.
Pebble Beach has been one of the better spots for the Australian in recent years, missing just two cuts in his last eight. In that span, Jones has managed to accumulate three top-15 finishes, including an 11th and 7th in the last two renewals.
Jones has made four starts in the 2016/17 and played just the once since the turn of the new year. In those four starts he has two missed cuts, but when he has made the weekend has looked fairly good.
At the Shriners Hopsitals for Children Open, Jones shot four sub-70 rounds, including an opening-round 65 to finish T15. Despite missing his next cut, two weeks later at the RSM Classic, Jones has since bounced back.
Jones played in his first event of 2017 last week in Phoenix, saving his best round until last. A final-round 66 saw Jones climb the leaderboard, finishing T36.
On the face of it, T36 doesn’t exactly jump off the page but it was a good way to blow away the cobwebs in his first start of the year. He played his way into the event, opening with a 72 and closing with a 66 and hopefully that final-round form carries over to this week.
Jones cruelly lost out on a 2016/17 PGA Tour card last season, needing just 9 more FedEx Cup points or $5,168 to retain it. After coming so close to keeping his playing privileges, Jones will keen to ensure he has them back, in full by the end of the year. A win here will give him just that, something that doesn’t seem unrealistic given his fine form in the event.
He may only have two professional wins (One on the PGA Tour) but he beat Matt Kuchar in a play-off at the 2013 Shell Houston Open and also held off a red-hot Jordan Spieth and home favourite Adam Scott at the Emirates Australian Open in 2015. It is clear the quality is there, just by looking at those who has beat in the past, he now just needs to believe. At 36, whilst he is no spring chicken, he still has ten or more years ahead of him if he can find add some consistency to his game.
James Hahn 200/1 (Bet365) 0.5pt e/w:
James Hahn is another player of top quality, even if he to struggles with consistency.
Hahn beat two top-class opponents, in Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a play-off at Riviera in 2015, and also got the better of Roberto Castro at the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship. Going 2-for-2 in play-off goal is no easy task, so he clearly has a winning mentality.
In four appearances at Pebble Beach, he has a 3rd (on debut) and a 29th place finish alongside two missed cuts.
When 3rd in 2013, Hahn came into the week in some good form. He has already finished T4 at the Humana Challenge but added to that with a T16 in Phoenix the week before teeing it up here.
This time around his recent form has been a bit sketchier, but his form over the course of the new season gives plenty of reason for hope.
Hahn has missed his last two cuts, hardly ideal preparation for this week, however he was on a fine run before that.
After missing the cut on his first start of the season, at the Safeway Open, Hahn went on to make four consecutive cuts, with his T36 finish at the Sony Open the worst in that span. Top-15 finishes at both the CIMB Classic (9th) and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T15).
Another huge plus for me this week is the fact Hahn ranks T26 in Greens in Regulation.
With these factors in mind I thought it was well worth rolling the dice at 200/1.
As we have seen before, Hahn can win, from out of the blue. Leading into his win Quail Hollow win last year, he had missed his previous eight cuts, so no one saw that win coming.
Whilst he had made five straight cuts leading into his 2015 Northern Trust Open win, he had not finished better than T20 in that span. His best finish on the year before that win was T17, so he’s not a player who relies on form.
Whilst he doesn’t rely on form, a top-10 already to his name this season amongst other positive factors can only help his cause as he plays an event he has previous at.
Total points staked this week: 7
Profit/Loss for 2017: +2