The multi-course swing comes to an end this week on the California coast.
It’s the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where a full field of PGA TOUR pros will team up with pro-am partners, many of those partners having celebrity status, while taking on some iconic courses. Most notably, the host course, Pebble Beach Golf Links.
While 156 pros will start the week, that number will be trimmed to the Low 60 and ties after 54 holes. The top pro-am teams will continue to duke it out on Sunday.
It’s another week of splitting courses before the cut. This week lines up similarly with the recent AmEx where he saw a trio of courses utilized to account for hours of daylight and the usage of pro-am partners.
Pebble Beach Golf Links (Host Course):
This course needs no introduction. If you’ve played any golf video game or simulator, you’ve likely seen Pebble Beach Golf Links.
It’s also hosted six U.S. Opens, a PGA Championship, along with a handful of U.S. Amateurs.
Exposed to the California coast, the difficulty of this track can fluctuate greatly based on the weather conditions.
For example, we’ve seen it play about a shot under par over the last two editions but it’s played over par in five of the last nine editions overall.
One of the main features we can highlight is the tiny greens. They have an average square footage of just 3,500 which is well below the TOUR average of around 6,500.
The tiny greens put an emphasis on smart approach play and the ability to scramble. The tricky, poa annua surfaces emphasize that even more because you want to avoid as many five-foot, knee-knockers as possible on these often bumpy surfaces.
This track is a par 72 that sets up just over 7,000 yards (7,041 on the card)
The par 5s are not easily accessed here as the field finds just 0.27 eagles per 72 holes at Spyglass Hill (0.39 at Pebble Beach and 0.50 at MPCC).
That puts a cap on the expected ceiling rounds, as a result, it plays as the toughest course most years at the AT&T Pro-Am.
The exception would be with Mother Nature pops into the equation. A bit more guarded from the coastal winds, this course can often be a safe heaven of sorts during windy rounds.
Joel Dahmen agreed back in 2017, “That’s what we were kind of talking about [Spyglass being the easiest in tough weather]. We might have got a break. We might have caught a break today. Being up here in the trees, but it’s still tough.”
This course has a similar turf setup as Pebble Beach with poa annua and ryegrass from tee-to-green with poa annua putting surfaces.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club:
Last but not least is MPCC. This course will often play as the easiest of the bunch during tournament week. This is often where the “low round” will occur for a golfer before the 54-hole cut.
Set up as a par 71, this 6,394-yard layout is another short track.
It should be noted it’s not a traditional par 71 as there are still four par 5s on the card.
The most notable feature here is the extremely generous fairways. At 250 yards, we’re looking at widths of 50 yards and 40 yards up at the 300 mark. As a result, it’s probably least impacted by any windy conditions because the pros will still be able to manage fairways and the greens are the largest of the bunch as well with an average square footage of around 6,000.
For turf, they’ll see bentgrass and fescue on the fairways with ryegrass rough and poa annua greens.
Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Phil Mickelson in 2016: “the greens being poa annua are what I grew up on, so it’s a grass I feel comfortable. Not just putting on, but chipping on, chipping into and hitting full shots into. It can be challenging for guys if they’re not used to it. It’s something that I’ve become very comfortable with over the years.”
Vaughn Taylor in 2022: “I can get some short irons in my hands and some wedges on some holes. So just scoring clubs in my hands. Where, some weeks, I’m not the longest hitter, so it’s hard to compete hitting 4-irons into some greens.”
Patrick Cantlay in 2022: “Spyglass, the greens are so undulating that you really have to leave your golf ball in the right spot. And there’s a few hole locations that you really have to know exactly what you’re doing. And it’s lucky we don’t play four rounds at that place because I don’t know if there’s four hole locations on every green
Mickelson talks about the comfort of having grown up on poa annua. Cantlay talks about the importance of leaving it below the hole to avoid dropping unnecessary shots. Taylor talks about the approach buckets as there are many more wedges and short irons here compared to last week at Torrey Pines.
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week’s host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
Harbour Town GL
Muirfield Village GC
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 59 degrees. Winds at 8 to 14 MPH with gusts flirting with 30 MPH.
Friday: Potential rain with a high of 57 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH with gusts around 20 MPH.
Saturday: Sunny with a high of 56 degrees. Winds at 6 to 15 MPH.
It’s rare to find too many calm days at this event but round one looks particularly tough in terms of expected winds.