Last week Webb Simpson (14/1) trailed Tony Finau (33/1) by two shots with two holes to play but birdied the 17th and 18th to send the Waste Management Phoenix Open to a playoff. Once again, Finau struggled to close out a victory, and Simpson won on the first playoff hole. Five of the seven selections last week finished T9 or better (Bubba Watson T3, Max Homa T6, Branden Grace, Byeong Hun An and Daniel Berger all T9).
This week the PGA Tour returns to the Monterey Peninsula in Northern California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. This event is popular with fans for an annually strong field of professionals and celebrities as a pro-am championship is decided along with the regular event. Two-time champion Dustin Johnson returns stateside off a runner-up finish last week at the Saudi International to head the field at 7/1. Johnson has finished seventh or better in this event in eight of 12 appearances, including two wins (2009-10), two runners-up (2014, ‘18) and three other top-5 finishes (2012, ‘13, ‘17). He’s tough to bet at such a short price. Perhaps the jet lag from the Middle East gets him off to a slow start, and bettors may get better value on him with in-progress wagering. Patrick Cantlay, ranked No. 8 in the world, follows as the second choice at 13/1. He and Johnson are the only top-10 players in the field. Paul Casey has two top-10 finishes here in the last two years, including a runner-up last year, and is priced at 22/1. Jason Day (24/1) has a history of being a great horse for this course with five top-6 finishes, but he was ranked No. 11 in the world going into Pebble Beach last year and this year is No. 46 as injuries have plagued him. Brandt Snedeker (26/1) is another player with great history on the Monterey Peninsula, as he has won here in 2013 and ‘15. European Tour regular Matthew Fitzpatrick makes his U.S. debut in 2020 as a 29/1 shot along with defending champion Phil Mickelson, who has won here in 1998, 2005, ‘07, ‘12 and ‘19 and posted his best finish since his Pebble Beach win last year with a T3 last week in Saudi Arabia.
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. 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 title sponsor in 1986.. The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, chaired by the iconic Clint Eastwood, is the longtime event organizer and philanthropic organization. Eastwood was a regular participant until 2016 and still serves as tournament host. He regularly appears in the CBS Sports booth over tournament weekend.
The field consists of 156 professionals and 156 amateurs. Each pro is paired with an amateur. On the first three days, 156 two-man teams will play a better-ball format, with one round on each of three courses — Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The pros also play an individual stroke-play format. On Sunday, professionals and pro-am teams making the 54-hole cut will play at Pebble Beach. The low 60 pros and ties advance to Sunday, as do the low 25 pro-am teams.
Many golf legends have won here, including Mickelson (tied with Mark O’Meara with five wins), Sam Snead (1937, ‘38, ‘41, ‘50), Jack Nicklaus (1967, ‘72, ‘73), Johnny Miller (1974, ‘87, ‘94), Tom Watson (1977, ‘78) and Tiger Woods (2000). Woods, along with Nicklaus, Watson and Tom Kite, are the only players to win an AT&T and a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the game’s most iconic courses. It is a par-72, 6,816-yard coastal layout with nine holes played on the Pacific Ocean. It is also heavily bunkered, with 118 in all. Wind can affect scoring on the exposed track. The Poa Annua greens are relatively small (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 6,953 yards that is a tree-lined links-style track. It has substantially more protection from the wind than the other two courses. Its Poa Annua greens are larger (5,000 square feet) and slower (10 Stimpmeter) than Pebble Beach. Spyglass Hill has been part of the event every year but one since 1967.
The Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club is the newest course of the three and returned in 2010 after a 33-year absence. It is a par-71 of 6,958 yards that is a seaside links, with 13 holes played by the water. Like Pebble, it is relatively exposed to wind. The Poa Annua greens are the largest of the three (7,000 square feet) and the fastest (11.5 Stimpmeter). Monterey Peninsula usually plays as the easiest course of the three.
The importance of tee shots are a bit lessened here because not much rough exists and these tracks are essentially classic second-shot golf courses. Greens In Regulation and Strokes Gained: Approach are the most pertinent statistics to examine this week. The last 10 winners have averaged sixth in the field in GIR. Since Strokes Gained statistics became official on the PGA Tour in 2016, the last four winners here have averaged eighth in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee To Green. Another non-statistical factor to consider is that many elite players and bigger-name celebrities play Monterey Peninsula-Spyglass Hill-Pebble Beach in that order for television broadcast purposes. Four of the last seven winners have played that sequence, and the other three started on Pebble Beach for their first rounds.
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
Brandt Snedeker 26/1
Snedeker is a two-time winner here (2013, ‘15) and was fourth in 2017. He also finished eighth here in the 2010 U.S. Open. Pebble Beach tends to have a strong correlation with Torrey Pines in San Diego, and Snedeker finished third there two weeks ago and claimed wins at Torrey Pines in 2012 and ‘16.
Viktor Hovland 30/1
He’s one of the short favorites to win the Rookie of the Year Award on the PGA Tour this season. While off to a slow start after missing two of his first three cuts, Hovland returns to Pebble Beach, where he has had a great deal of success at just 22. In 2018, he won the U.S. Amateur here. He followed up last year with a T12 at the U.S. Open and ended up being the low amateur.
Jordan Spieth 45/1
Spieth won here three years ago. Clearly he hasn’t been in the best form and has fallen out of the top 50 to 55th in the world. His last top-5 finish was a T3 at the PGA Championship in May. A return to a course where he has had success could be just what he needs, and at over double his price at this venue last year, he’s worth a stab.
Cameron Champ 55/1
Champ has already won on Poa Annua greens in a West Coast event, winning the Safeway Open last fall in Napa Valley. He also finished 16th two weeks ago at Torrey Pines and was on the first page of the leaderboard most of the weekend. Champ ranked first that week in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.
Max Homa 60/1
Homa is a good recent-form play, considering he is off back-to-back top-10 finishes with a sixth last week at Scottsdale and a ninth the week before at Torrey Pines. Homa finished 10th at this event last year.
Kevin Na 75/1
A big price here for the sixth-highest-rated player in the field in the Official World Golf Rankings at No. 28. He has three victories in the last 18 months and is in the best form of his career. Na also has a couple of top-5s in this event. Three weeks ago he finished 17th at the American Express in Palm Springs but rated first in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach.
Jimmy Walker 150/1
Walker won here in 2014. He also has five top-10s in his last nine appearances. The form has not been there, as his last top-10 was at the Byron Nelson in May 2018. But the ball striking has been better of late, and he has gained strokes with his second shots in five of his last six events.