7 hour rounds, Celebrity interviews on the course and three courses to play – it must be AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am time. What once seemed to be an event people would circle on their calendar has now come under serious criticism in recent years, and this is now well and truly an event you either love or hate as a viewer.
Whatever your thoughts on it, one thing that can be said about this event, is it’s quite clear on its requirements for a player, in order to succeed. Links form, course experience and the ability to ignore the lengthy rounds you are going to play, there is certain profile for a winner here.
Even in the past, when we have had surprising winners such as Ted Potter Jr and Vaughn Taylor, a deeper dive into the course form shows a previous top-17 finish produced by both, with the latter finishing inside the top-14 twice before.
Pebble Beach Golf Links – 6,816 Yards, Par 72, 2019 Tour Difficulty 12/49
Monterey Peninsula Country Club – 6,958 Yards, Par 71, 2019 Tour Difficulty 22/49
Spyglass Hill Golf Club – 6,960 Yards, Par 72, 2019 Tour Difficulty 20/49
With Pebble Beach the host course, it is imperative you play this course well as a player will have to play once over the first three days and then again on Sunday.
Each of the courses best defence is the weather, so should there be calm conditions this week as anticipated, there should be some low scoring on all three layouts. Over the past five renewals the winning score has ranged from 17-under-par to 22-under-par, with the latter the tournament record posted by Brandt Snedeker in 2015.
All three courses are short in comparison to the other PGA Tour courses, but Pebble in particular has six par 4’s under 400 yards, so players will look to take advantage of this opportunities. With this in mind, there will be a lot of clubbing-down from players, which may suit those that have been erratic off-the-tee this season.
Key Stats and Trends
11 of the last 13 winners have ranked inside the top-10 for Greens in Regulation
20 of the last 21 winners have ranked inside the top-10 for Par 4 Scoring – Dustin Johnson the exception in 2009 when the event was reduced to 54 holes
Only three international winners of this event, including Brett Ogle (1993) who is also the only debutant to win the event.
As we can see, debutants and international players don’t generally win here, but not all debutants are equal, so it is worth weighing up a player’s profile before writing them off. The key stats I will be looking at ahead of this week are:
Greens in Regulation (on the season and over the past 12 rounds)
Par 4 scoring average
For my selections this week, I have broken the field down into four price categories and will give a play from each to target. Ownership is obviously a factor in some of the plays, but generally I will point out those that make the most sense, and let you decide if they are worth plugging in line-ups at whatever cost.
Jason Day ($10,500)
Day has been making steady progress in his return from injury and barring a missed cut at the Mayakoba, he has shown some positive signs early in the season. A T16 finish last time out at the Farmers may not jump off the page, given he’s a two-time winner at the event but it was a good outing as he continues to shake off the rust. He was just two strokes outside the top-10 that week, with a first-round 73 on the South Course a considerable factor. The same can be said for his T17 finish at the ZOZO, where he had to bounce back from an opening-round 73, and did so by shooting 66-67-68 over the next three days, to sit three strokes off the top-10. If he can get going quicker this week, he must be in for a chance of winning for the first time here after finishing inside the top-5 on his last three starts here and inside the top-11 in six of his last seven starts in total. We won’t know where he is playing his first round until Wednesday evening, but given his experience in this event and the expected calm conditions, it shouldn’t be too much of a factor.
Brandt Snedeker ($10,100)
Snedeker missed the cut last week in Phoenix and that is reason for concern, but he was 3rd two starts ago in Torrey Pines, which is another course he has two victories at. With obvious concerns around the likes of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson due to the time zone adjustment from Saudi, it’s worth plugging Snedeker into your line-ups, with the belief he can make it three wins here. Last week was his first missed cut on the season and with T17 and T12 finishes at the Safeway and Sony Open’s preceding his 3rd at Torrey, it’s clear he’s playing his favourite spots well and chances are he’ll be fine here. Statistically Snedeker ticks the Par-4 Scoring Average box as he ranks T9 for the season, whilst he’s also typically solid on and around the greens – sitting T12 in SG: Putting and T15 in SG: Around-the-Green.
I am going with Day and Snedeker largely due to the fact that I can see DJ struggling with the travel/time zone adjustment from Saudi, and I also think with everyone getting three full rounds, it’s hard to imagine he will score a ton more points without winning anyway. Obviously if you think he wins, you need him in your lineups, but a top-5/10 finish isn’t really enough for me to play him this week. Casey is the obvious selection but I expect him to be highly owned due to his consistency.
Alex Noren ($8,700)
Noren along with Snedeker is one of my outright selections to win this week and for good reason. He may well be an International and a Debutant, which is seemingly a poor combination here, but as I mentioned before, not all debutants are created equal. Outside the elite players in this field, not many have as much links pedigree as the Swede and he has proven over the years that he loves this tough tests. He has gone close in an Open Championship (T6 in 2017), he’s won a Scottish Open (2016) and finished 3rd (2012), in addition to a top-3 finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links (2012). Add to that his recent efforts at The Farmers (T2 2018), the Honda Classic (3rd 2018), the RSM Classic (T10 2019) and the FedEx St Jude (T12 2019) and its fair to assume he’s happy on exposed courses, where wind be a factor. Statistically Noren currently ranks highly in; Par 5 Scoring Average (3rd), Scoring Average (4th), SG: Around-the-Green (8th), SG: Tee-to-Green (9th), Par 4 Scoring Average (15th) and SG: Approach (18th). He also ranks 16th in SG: Total and 11th in Par 4 Efficiency 350-400 yards, which may be helpful during his two rounds at Pebble. These rankings are certain to dip as he plays more rounds, but 16 rounds is enough to give us an idea that he’s playing good golf, as is his 4/4 start to the PGA Tour season. Noren hasn’t missed a cut worldwide since last September (11 starts ago), so he should give you a chance going into the weekend. He’s finished no worse than T32 on the PGA Tour this season, highlighted by his top-15 finishes at the Bermuda Championship (T15), RSM Classic (T10) and the American Express (T14) all of which correlate nicely to this week’s event. At $8,700 you’re getting a world-class talent, who’s finding his form once again.
Russell Knox ($8,400)
Another European in this spot, this time in the shape of Russell Knox. Along with his obvious links pedigree, some of Knox’s best efforts on the PGA Tour have come at events that correlate with this one. Top-3 finishes at; The Honda (T2 in 2014, T3 in 2015), The Mayakoba (T2 in 2015, 3rd in 2016) and also the The Heritage (T2 in 2016,) it is clear to see what type of event allows him to contend. He was just one stroke outside the top-10 in Phoenix last week and he has made all of his cuts this season, with three more top-21 finishes, including a T11 finish in Bermuda. He’s playing as solid as you could hope and whilst I still can’t pull the trigger on him as an outright bet, I think he’s a fantastic DraftKings play. The Scot ranks 15th in SG: Approach and Par 4 Scoring Average and 21st in Greens in Regulation, making him a perfect fit here. Form figures of 14-15 here in the last two years further indicate his suitability to this test and the former Irish Open winner will hope to break the top-10 for the first time here and on the season. Like Noren he hasn’t missed a cut in a while (made his last 11 straight), so the consistency is there, he just needs to take another step to contend.
I am hoping a lot of ownership goes in Daniel Berger and Max Homa’s direction in this price range, as well as the obvious candidates in Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell. With the latter two I am hoping the same applies to them as it does DJ in the fact that the travel/adjustment from Saudi stood then from fulfilling their price obligation. I still think many will plump for Knox as well however. Either way I really like the tandem or Noren-Knox at this price point and think they are rock solid plays.
J.B. Holmes ($7,900)
J.B. is in fine form, has plenty of links experience and has four top-13 finishes (including a runner-up) here since 2010. A T2 finish at the 2016 Open Championship is further evidence of his quality on links layouts as well. He was also the 36-hole leader at last year’s Open, but a final-round 87 saw him fall from 3rd to T67. Back-to-back T16 finishes at the Farmers and Waste Management in his past two starts show he’s in good form, and last week in particular he had a real opportunity to win. A final-round 75 put a stop to his chances but he is playing well enough to put himself in position to win again this week, should his tennis elbow not flare up. Two top-4 finishes at Torrey since 2015 translates well to this event as does his 3rd at the 2018 FedEx St.Jude and he’s bound to go well barring injury. He is likely to be a popular play this week, unless people are worried about his potential injury
Patrick Rodgers ($7,400)
Bound to be a popular selection this week and to may choose to fade Rodgers but I am still like him and alongside Snedeker and Noren he is part of my outright staking plan. Rodgers has put together back-to-back top-20’s for the first time since he strung together four in a row at the tail-end of 2015 and that’s a huge positive. Statistically he may not look the best fit so far this season, but Rodgers ranked 6th in GIR and Par 4 Scoring Average in Phoenix and a similar performance this week should see him right up there on the leaderboard. Rodgers also sits T13 in SG: Putting for the season, the highest of any player to play 42+ rounds and T24 in Par 5 Scoring Average. Looking at Rodgers’ best performances, he finished 2nd at the RSM Classic in 2018, T4 and T9 at the Farmers in 2017 and 2020 respectively, T8 here in 2018 and T10 at the 2016 RSM Classic, so he should relish this test coming off the back of his top-10 at Torrey and his T16 finish in Phoenix. He was just one stroke off another top-10 last week, so I expect him to go well once. Hopefully, there is enough interest in other guys in the same price range, that the ownership is lower than expected.
Aaron Wise ($7,200)
Aaron Wise is currently on a streak of five missed cuts, which makes for a risky play, but on two occasions he’s missed the cut on the number, and last week he missed by two shots, so he’s not a million miles away. He’s been struggling for quite a while, after a Rookie of the Year season in 2018, which included a win and four more top-10’s. A slight reprieve came in Bermuda where he finished T3 before the turn of the year, but he needs to find some consistency to get back to his 2018 level and he can start here. A T15 finish here on debut in 2018 was a promising effort, and it could have been a lot better were it not for a third-round 74. Wise also ranks 18th in Greens in Regulation, so if he can find some improvements elsewhere he could have a chance of a revival. He showed a bit of promise on the greens last week and returning to an event he finished 15th last time, as well as at a course where he finished T35 at last year’s U.S. Open, he may just find some form again.
Wise is obviously a risky play, but Holmes has huge winning upside in this price range and Rodgers looks good value to put a decent performance in, so I see this as a very valuable price point for roster building this week.
Brian Gay ($6,900)
A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, all of Brian Gay’s wins have come at correlating events. Wins at; The Mayakoba, The Heritage, the St.Jude Classic and lastly the Humana Challenge (now the American Express) suggest he likes coastal tests and is ok with the pro-am format. Form figures of 7-8 over the past two years here and his four top-20’s in his past eight starts in the event overall are a further indication he likes this stop on the schedule. He is of course on the run of four-straight missed cuts, hence his price but I think that can be overlooked given his performances earlier in the season. He was T23 at the Safeway, where a final-round 73 cost him a top-10, and he followed that up with a 7th place finish in Vegas, where he shot rounds of 64-65 and broke 70 all week. In an obviously weaker field he went well again, finishing T3 in Bermuda, before another top-20 at the Mayakoba (T14). He once again shot low rounds in Mexico, with rounds of 65 and 66, but a second-round 72 halted him in his tracks. In this price range, it’s hard to predict who can make a run at the title, but Gay might make one last run at a PGA Tour title here. Gay also ranks 13th in Birdie Average so he should be able to go low here.
James Hahn ($6,900)
West-Coast Hahn as I affectionately call him because it sounds gangster, likes this time of year. Before his first of two wins his best finish came at this course, when he finished 3rd behind Snedeker and Chris Kirk in 2013. He’s made 6 starts here since, going 3/6 but last year he played hurt so it’s no surprise he missed the weekend. Two other top-29 finishes amongst those six starts suggests he can play well here when in form, and he showed promise last week when T25 in Phoenix. Hahn ranked 12th last week in SG: Approach and hit the 2nd most greens in the field, finding an incredible 81.94% of them in regulation over four rounds. If his short game clicks, which we know it can on these three courses, and on the West Coast in general, Hahn could be in for a huge week.
Doc Redman ($6,700)
Doc Redman has made 20 starts as a professional on the PGA Tour and he’s made 13 cuts which is pretty good going – even if he isn’t consistently finishing high on the leaderboard. He has played in two majors as well, missing the cut at Augusta but impressing at the 2019 Open Championship, where he finished T20 and never shot worse than 71 – something only four other players in the field could boast that week. He of course didn’t go low enough to get himself in contention, as shooting around par wasn’t going to get him a trophy but it was impressive nonetheless that his game never got out of control in a testing week, and that could serve him well here. Redman also has a 2nd on the PGA Tour, albeit six strokes behind Nate Lashley at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last year. He Monday qualified for that event and Lashley was also an alternate, but he’s clearly got good pedigree as a winner of the 2017 U.S. Amateur and he fits the mould here statistically. Redman ranks 38th in GIR and considering he’s played 42 rounds (only two other players have done so) that’s quite an achievement. He is hitting 72.35% of greens in regulation and most of those above him have played 30 rounds or less so he’s striking it well. He also ranks 30th in SG: Approach, averaging .597 strokes gained across 32 measured rounds – six more rounds than anyone above him. For context that average was good enough for 15th at the end of the 2018/19 season. Similar can be said for his rankings in SG: Tee-to-Green (30th) and Par 4 Scoring average (24th), so to sit top-30 in all these areas with that many rounds under his belt is an achievement. As a result he has made 9/12 cuts this season, highlighted by top-29 finishes at the Houston Open (T13), the RSM Classic (T23) and the American Express (T29). He was just one stroke off another top-25 last week in Phoenix where he hit the 10th most greens, and even when 64that Torrey Pines he ranked 7th in SG: Approach, so if his short game starts to behave, he could contend for his first PGA Tour title – but that’s a big if, hence being sub-7k this week.
This week feels like a week where you look to the mid-range and sub-7k ranges, to offset a pick or two at the head of the field. With questions marks over a lot of the favourites, I think there’s a few opportunities, maybe even more so than other years. The only issue is that there is no adverse weather conditions expected, so the cream may well rise to the top.