Best bets for AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Last weekend, Brooks Koepka, priced as high as 50-1, fired a final-round 65, including two Sunday eagles, to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open by one shot over Kyoung-Hoon Lee and Xander Schauffele. Schauffele fell to 0-for-4 in converting 54-hole leads in his PGA Tour career and now has 10 runner-up finishes since 2017, the most of any PGA Tour player. 

Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson won the Saudi Invitational for the second time in three years, holding on for a two-stroke victory over perennial bridesmaid Tony Finau, now with nine runner-up finishes worldwide since 2017, and Justin Rose. 

DJ was scheduled to return stateside and headline the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which he has won twice (2009 and 2010) and also finished twice as runner-up (2014 and  2018). However, the World No. 1 was a withdrawal late Monday night. 

Patrick Cantlay (8-1) fired a 61 Sunday at PGA West three weeks ago to finish second at the American Express and now assumes the role of tournament favorite. Daniel Berger (14-1) disappointed last weekend in Phoenix with a missed cut but finished fifth at Pebble Beach last year. Paul Casey (16-1) finished runner-up here in 2019. He is playing a fourth straight week, including a victory two weeks ago at the Dubai Desert Classic. 

Jordan Spieth posted his first top-5 finish since the 2019 PGA with a tie for fourth in Phoenix last weekend. Spieth, the 2017 winner at Pebble Beach, has four top-10s in eight appearances here and is priced at 20-1 along with Will Zalatoris and Jason Day, who has five top-5s in the last six seasons at Pebble Beach. 

Phil Mickelson (40-1) is a five-time winner of this event and has shot a combined 62 under par the last five years, which includes a win (2019), two seconds and a third-place finish. Defending champion Nick Taylor went wire-to-wire last year, leading after each round, and is priced at 80-1. 

THE EVENT

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was founded in 1937 as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and was played near San Diego before being moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947 after World War II. It was a 54-hole event until 1958. The Crosby name remained on the event through 1985, eight years after his death. AT&T took over as the title sponsor in 1986 and has stayed in that role ever since. 

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, chaired by the iconic Clint Eastwood, is the longtime event organizer and philanthropic organization. Eastwood was a regular participant in this event until 2016 but still serves as the tournament’s host and regularly appears in the CBS Sports booth for commentary over the tournament weekend.

The starting field typically consists of 156 professionals and 156 amateurs, with each professional paired with an amateur player. Usually a 54-hole cut is made after Saturday's round and 60 pros plus the 25 low pro-am teams will play Sunday. However, the pro-am portion of the competition has been canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monterey Peninsula Country Club also has removed from the 2021 event's course rotation. 

Many golf legends have won here, including the aforementioned Mickelson (tied with Mark O’Meara with five wins), Sam Snead (1937, 1938, 1941, 1950), Jack Nicklaus (1967, 1972, 1973), Johnny Miller (1974, 1987, 1994), Tom Watson (1977, 1978) and Tiger Woods (2000). Woods, Nicklaus, Watson and Tom Kite are the only players to win both an AT&T and a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

THE COURSES

Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the game’s most iconic courses. Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919 and renovated by Arnold Palmer and Thad Layton in 2016, it is a par-72, 6,816-yard coastal layout with nine holes played along the Pacific Ocean. It is also heavily bunkered (118 in all). Wind definitely can affect scoring on this exposed track. The Poa Annua greens are some of the smallest on tour (3,500 square feet) and slow (10.5 stimpmeter). Pebble Beach has been part of this event’s rotation since 1947 and typically plays as the hardest layout.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course is a par-72 of 7,035 yards that is a tree-lined, links-style track. It was designed in 1966 by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and was lengthened a bit in a 2019 remodel. It has substantially more protection from the wind than does Pebble Beach. Poa Annua greens also await the players as well, but they are larger (5,000 square feet) and slower (10 stimpmeter) than those at Pebble Beach. Spyglass Hill has been part of the event every year but one since 1967.

RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS 

2020: Nick Taylor (-19/268), 160-1

2019: Phil Mickelson (-19/268), 25-1

2018: Ted Potter, Jr. (-17/270), 500-1

2017: Jordan Spieth (-19/268), 9-1

2016: Vaughn Taylor (-17/270), 300-1

2015: Brandt Snedeker (-22/265), 25-1

2014: Jimmy Walker (-11/276), 30-1

2013: Brandt Snedeker (-19/267), 14-1

2012: Phil Mickelson (-17/269), 25-1

2011: D.A. Points (-15/271), 80-1

2010: Dustin Johnson (-16/270), 22-1

TRENDS AND ANGLES

Ten of the last 11 winners here ranked ninth or better for Greens in Regulation during their winning weeks. 

2020-2021 PGA Tour Greens in Regulation Leaders

1. Jim Furyk (T-1) 77.78%

2. Matthew NeSmith (3) 77.43%

3. Russell Knox (5) 75.65%

4. Stewart Cink (6) 75.52%

5. Kevin Streelman (14) 74.07%

6. Cameron Percy (16) 74.00%

7. James Hahn (17) 73.96%

8. Sam Burns (18) 73.81%

9. Henrik Norlander (19) 73.61%

10. Cameron Tringale (21) 73.21%

11. Kyle Stanley (24) 72.95%

The last five winners here have averaged ninth for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning weeks. 

2020-2021 PGA Tour Strokes Gained: Approach Leaders

1. Ricky Barnes (1) 1.874

2. Will Zalatoris (4) 1.084

3. Ryan Blaum (7) 1.025

4. Matthew Nesmith (12) 0.850

5. Kyle Stanley (13) 0.821

6. Harold Varner III (16) 0.770

7. Francesco Molinari (17) 0.733

8. Rob Oppenheim (24) 0.655

9. Doug Ghim (25) 0.652

10. Chez Reavie (26) 0.628

11. Akshay Bhatia (28) 0.601

Players will putt on Poa Annua greens just like at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. 

Here are the players in this week's field who have won PGA Tour events on Poa Annua or Bentgrass/Poa Annua:

5 – Phil Mickelson.

4 – Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker.

3 – Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker.

2 – Hunter Mahan, Scott Piercy, Brendan Steele, Nick Watney.

1 – Aaron Baddeley, Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Max Homa, Russell Knox, Nate Lashley, William McGirt, Sean O’Hair, D.A. Points, Ted Potter Jr., Andrew Putnam, Chez Reavie, Scott Stallings, Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor, Bo Van Pelt.

Horses for Courses

Here are the top 10 players in this week's field for historical Strokes Gained at Pebble Beach:

1. Phil Mickelson + 2.39 (40 Rounds)

2. Jason Day + 2.24 (35)

3. Jordan Spieth + 2.06 (32)

4. Kevin Streelman + 1.46 (39)

5. Paul Casey + 1.46 (12)

6. Patrick Cantlay + 1.36 (16)

7. Brandt Snedeker + 1.27 (36)

8. Nick Taylor + 1.19 (22)

9. Jimmy Walker + 1.17 (41)

10. Brian Gay + 0.95 (34) 

SELECTIONS

Francesco Molinari 26-1

Molinari dropped out of the OWGR Top 100 rankings because of an eight-month layoff. He and his family were in the process of relocating to Southern California and then COVID-19 prolonged the break. 

The 2018 British Open champion has started 2021 refreshed with two top-10s. In those events, he ranked 15th and sixth, respectively, for Greens in Regulation. Molinari was ninth for SG: Approach (17th overall on the PGA Tour) and third for SG: Tee-to-Green (sixth overall on the PGA Tour) in San Diego two weeks ago. Keep in mind, those numbers were on a 7,700-yard Torrey Pines Golf Course. They have the potential to be even better on a 7,000-yard Pebble Beach course. 

Although he is a debutant in this event, Molinari finished 16th at Pebble Beach during the 2019 U.S. Open. Winds are expected to pick up this week, and he has thrived on these setups in these conditions over the years as evident by his winning of the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 2018. 

Kevin Streelman 35-1

Streelman has three straight top-7 finishes, including a tie for second last year, and five straight top-20 finishes at Pebble Beach. 

He also comes into this event with some progressively good form having finished tied for 37th at Torrey Pines (8th for SG: Tee-to-Green) and finishing tied for 22nd last week in Phoenix (seventh for SG: Approach). 

Streelman was third or better in SG: Tee-to-Green in each of his last two years at Pebble Beach.

Henrik Norlander 52-1

Norlander finished tied for second (second for SG: Tee-to-Green) among several players two weeks ago at Torrey Pines and has good recent history on coastal courses. 

He ranks in the top 20 on the PGA Tour for Greens in Regulation. 

Brendan Steele 80-1

Steele began his 2021 season much like he did his 2020 season contending for a victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii only to come up just short. 

However, he has not let that close defeat prohibit him from playing solid golf in the two events since. Steele finished 21st at the American Express and 30th last week in Phoenix. Last weekend, he ranked third for SG: Tee-to-Green just behind event winner Koepka and runner-up Lee. He lost five strokes on the greens and perhaps a move to a different surface will prove beneficial for a player who is obviously hitting the ball very well. 

Chris Kirk 85-1

Kirk missed the cut last week in Phoenix, but his game has come around lately. A tie for second at the Sony Open earned him enough points to earn his full PGA Tour playing privileges from his Major Medical Extension. 

He ranked sixth at the Sony for SG: Tee-to-Green and was 10th SG: Total at the American Express. Recent form here has not been great, but he does have a runner-up here in 2013 and has always played well on coastal courses. 

Bo Hoag 125-1

Despite missing the cut here last year in his first appearance, Hoag has made three straight cuts, including back-to-back top-20s at the American Express and the Farmers Insurance Open. 

Two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, Hoag rated fifth in the field for SG: Putting and returns to the same Poa Annua putting surface that he fared so well on in San Diego.

 

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