The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is up next for a field of the world’s best golfers, with the scenic Monterey Peninsula set to serve as the infamous backdrop. Brandt Snedeker will defend for the second time in three seasons, and just two weeks after winning at Torrey Pines. Throw in the first time we’ve seen Jordan Spieth in the U.S. since winning at Kapalua, along with Jason Day, and we have the makings of a surprisingly big tournament.
This tournament features a 54-hole cut, as the first three rounds rotate across three courses and include a full bounty of celebrity partners in a pro-am format. Instead of the top 70 and ties making the playing cut for the finale, it’s actually the top 60. Those that finish between 61st and 70th, including all ties, will be awarded money and FedExCup points relative to their finish.
The three courses in play include the host course of Pebble Beach Golf Links, which will see 36 holes of action including Sunday’s finale, Spyglass Hill Golf Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Pebble Beach is a par-72 layout, with the expected splits of four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. It stretches out to a very modest 6,828 yards. It’s defense is the potential for wind, as well as very small greens.
Spyglass Hill will likely play the hardest of the three. It is also a par 72 of 6,960 yards. Yahoo! gamers will likely want to avoid Spyglass Hill unless strong wind comes into play, in which case Pebble Beach could be the hardest. Wind is not supposed to be a big factor as of Monday night.
Monterey Peninsula is the weird one. It is a par-71 layout, but offers four par 5s, five par 3s and just nine par 4s. It is also a sub-7,000 track, weighing in at 6,873 yards. Historically, it is the easiest, so you will want to try and load up on this as much as possible in Yahoo!.
The Stats Say
This course has identified several types of players over the last few years. We’ve seen bombers like Dustin Johnson rip this course apart, and watched as Brandt Snedeker has putted his way to multiple titles. Somewhat a combination of both, Phil Mickelson is a four-time champ as well.
Since each player will tee it up on 16 par 5s this week, par 5 scoring average comes into play. That is also why we’ve seen the bombers score well here. Consequently, par 4 scoring average is about at worthless as ever, with 39 of those holes on the card as opposed to as many as 48 some weeks. With that, there are fewer long par 4s that we typically see on the card. That, as well as the overall lack of length on these courses, is why it’s not out of the question to see shorter players with strong wedge and putting games pop up on the leaderboard.
It should be pointed out that Pebble Beach will see a much stronger field at the top than it has in previous seasons. Perhaps because of the pro-am format, many of the top players have typically given themselves a week off during this tournament. Riviera CC is a popular spot for the big guns, as is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. With the first WGC of the calendar year looming around the corner, this has been an easy skip.
For some reason, this year is different. Spieth and Day have included this on their schedule with consistency, so this is not a change for them. However, we will see Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka make their debuts. Returning for the first time since 2006 is Bill Haas and since 2007 is Bubba Watson. Perhaps this is because we are in a Ryder Cup season, and Haas and Watson are on a points grab. Perhaps not.
Either way, here we go!
1. Jordan Spieth – While there are several multiple winners of this event in the field, Spieth is the top player in the world for a reason. He also has top 10s in his last two trips to Pebble Beach, so it’s not like he hates the course. This wouldn’t be the spot for a one-and-done (OAD) play, but he’s a solid call in almost any other lineup where starts aren’t an issue.
2. Brandt Snedeker – His T33 last week is of no consequence. He’s back on a course where he is twice a winner and on poa annua surfaces that he enjoys more than most. The T3-P2-Win in his first three starts of 2016 are what should be studied. Current form meets course history in a tasty combination, and he’s a green light in most formats. If you still have him in OAD formats, shame on you and it’s probably time to pull the trigger.
3. Dustin Johnson – It’s hard to believe that someone with two wins and three other top fives at an event like this can enter somewhat under the radar, but that’s sort of the case. He’s finished T10 at Kapalua and T18 at Torrey Pines in his first two PGA TOUR starts of 2016. That isn’t bad, but isn’t blazing. DJ also tends to thrive in poor weather conditions, which probably won’t be the case this week.
4. Jason Day – Doubtful that he will fall this far in the ranking most weeks, but a couple of true course horses bumped him to fourth. That’s saying something, considering he has made each of his six cuts, with three top-six finishes including a T4 last year, in this event.
5. Jimmy Walker – The winner in 2014 broke a string of four consecutive top 10s when he settled for a T21 last year. Normally one of the kings of the West Coast Swing, he’s been steadily rounding into form in 2016. After a T10 in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a T13 in the Sony Open, he scored a T4 in the Farmers Insurance Open. He may also be the best blend of power and smooth putting on poa annua.
6. Phil Mickelson – Who really knows? Can he win? Absolutely. Can he miss the cut? Absolutely. One of the most unpredictable golfers any given week, but the four wins at Pebble speak for themselves.
7. Shane Lowry – There is a ton of upside to love here. A T13-T6 run the last two weeks have him trending very strongly into this event. The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is actually one of the tournaments he played in 2015 before he really took off, finishing a solid T21 with all four rounds under par. This is technically a links course, which should play well for an Irishman.
8. Bubba Watson – It’s already been mentioned that he last played this event in 2007, where he finished T44. He is now a much more accomplished player than he was in 2007. Despite his ability to rip apart the par 5s like a Dustin Johnson, questions remain. Perhaps the biggest is his mindset coming out of a bizarre Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he made negative comments about TPC Scottsdale and attempted to backpedal. He ultimately drew the ire of the fans and got his feelings hurt.
9. Patrick Reed – A little like Mickelson, savvy gamers have learned not to get too caught up in what Reed did last time out. Case in point, he followed up a solo second at the HTOC with T56-WD run in the CareerBuilder Challenge and the Farmers Insurance Open. His three starts at Pebble went T7-T13-T29. We know he can play this rotation, and that he’ll likely be a little off the main radar is a good thing.
10. Justin Rose – Class is permanent. Period. This is his first time to play this event, but who really cares? Rose can play anywhere. Perhaps it’s a bit concerning that he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, but only a bit.
11. Bill Haas – Another classy player who should show up on a group of shorter courses, Haas missed the cut here in 2006 in his only attempt to date. His T9 at the CareerBuilder Challenge is a nice litmus as to the state of his game. Don’t count him out.
12. Kevin Na – A T28-T3-T24 stretch in his last three starts is not a concern when one considers he has two top fives in nine tries at Pebble Beach. He’s not flash, but plenty effective.
13. Will Wilcox – Flashed a hot final-round 65 at TPC Scottsdale to steal a T6. As we learned last summer, he can run hot in spurts and this could be one of those. Improved from a T64 in 2014 to a T18 in 2015 in this event, so he’s trending nicely in both form and course history.
14. Bryce Molder – Enters off a T6 at the WMPO and has four top-12 finishes in his last six trips to Pebble Beach. If I played in a two-man OAD league, he’d be my number two without a doubt.
15. Chesson Hadley – This is purely off his course history. He has tied for 10th in both of his previous Pebble Beach Pro-Ams, and broken par in all eight rounds. In seven PGA TOUR events this season his best finish is a T58 at the Farmers Insurance Open. One has to thing he’ll best that this week.
Check back on Tuesday evening for Playing the Tips to see all of the picks for the Rotoworld staffers in the Yahoo! and Golf Channel games.
Best of luck to all!