AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am
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Back to the golf and It was a poor week for us in Phoenix as none of our players were able to get anything going and in the end Ben An was the only one of our team to make the weekend.
The tournament in the end was won by Brooks Koepka who used all his experience to time his run to perfection down the stretch when all of those around him were faltering.
The player who will undoubtedly be the most disappointed will be Xander Schauffele who was unable to get anything going on Sunday having been in pole position going in to the final day.
For me though the tournament will be most remembered for Jordan Spieth’s surge through the field on Saturday with a round of 61. It was fantastic to see the old Jordan back, chipping in, holing bombs on the greens and all to the backdrop of a noisy gallery. Hopefully it’s the shape of things to come!
Anyway on and the tour heads back to California and up the coast to Pebble Beach for the AT & T Pro Am.
Those familiar with the event will be aware that it is normally played over 3 courses in play on rotation, with Pebble Beach acting as host course. In addition it is of course it is known for its laid back pro-am atmosphere with the likes of Bill Murray and Larry The Cable Guy to name but, wowing the fans year in year out….
This year though similarly to the Amex event a couple of weeks ago the tournament due to the Covid 19 pandemic the event will not have any amateurs involved. In addition the tournament will be played over two courses not three, with players getting one round on Spyglass Hills over the first two days alongside Pebble Beach before the host course takes over duties for the weekend.
The course to miss out this year will be the Monterey Peninsula Shore Course.
Dustin Johnson fresh from his victory in Saudi Arabia heads up the market by a distance followed by Patrick Cantlay. This pair are then followed by Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Will Zalatoris and the resurgent Jordan Spieth.
As noted above the event will be played across two courses this year. The courses used will be as follows;
Both courses are short at under 7000 yards, so length of the tee is not an issue here at all.
Both courses play to a par 72.
The greens are Poa Annua on all three courses.
Historically Spyglass Hills has played as the toughest course of those used in the rotation however with the wind being the main defence of the courses if it blows one day but not on another this can have a big effect on the scoring averages from day to day.
If the wind does blow then Pebble Beach in particular suddenly becomes a brute, but if Mother Nature is kind to the players the tracks are there for the taking.
So let’s start by taking a look at the last ten winners
2020 N Taylor
2019 P Mickelson
2018 T Potter Jnr
2017 J Spieth
2016 V Taylor
2015 B Snedeker
2014 J Walker
2013 B Snedeker
2012 P Mickelson
2011 DA Points
In 6 of the last 10yrs this has been an event for the ‘big guns’ with Mickelson [twice], Sneds [twice], Spieth & Walker all winning, however in the other 4yrs there have been absolute ‘skinners’ getting over the line in the form of Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor, DA Points [who memorably played with Bill Murray] and of course Ted Potter Jnr who took down DJ and Day in 2018.
One thing all of the winners over the last decade or so had in common is a decent amount of course/event experience and some previous high finishes.
This can be seen by the fact that all 10 of the last 10 winners had a previous top 16 finish in the event and in most cases they had made several starts in here. In addition two of them, Mickelson, Snedeker were all repeat winners.
If we then look at the other winners over the past decade, Potter Jnr had finished 16th here previously, Walker had posted three top tens in the three years prior to his win, Vaughn Taylor had finished 10th the year before, 2011 winner DA Points had finished 14th here in 2008 and last years winner Nick Taylor had finished tenth here in 2017.
On this basis I am keen to focus on players with past course experience and at least one good finish.
Current form coming in is useful but not essential. West Coast specialists Snedeker, Walker and Mickelson last year had all telegraphed there win with good form over the first few weeks of the new year and DA Points had also finished in the top 20 on his previous two starts prior to victory. Equally though last years champion Nick Taylor had managed nothing better than 32nd in his first four starts of the year missing the cut in two of them while Potter Jnr and Vaughn Taylor had done absolutely nothing over the previous few weeks prior to their victories to warrant consideration!
The other factor to look at is form on correlating courses on events played on short coastal tracks such as the Sony Open, The RBC Heritage and the RSM Classic being obvious points of reference.
In addition of course with Pebble Beach hosting three rounds this year and with the pins perhaps set up slightly tougher than they would normally be when amateurs are playing form from the 2019 US Open which was held here should certainly be factored in.
The winning score is very much dictated by the weather. Over the last 10yrs we have seen winning scores ranging from -22 [Snedeker in 2015] to – 11, [Jimmy Walker in 2014].
This week’s forecast looks dry although a shower or two can’t be ruled out. Temperatures look to sit around 60 degrees throughout much of the week.
The wind, which is obviously the key factor here looks set to be around 10- 15mph for much of the week so it will certainly be a factor in the players thinking.
As I always say though this could all change!
Before I start the picks just a reminder to take a look at what’s on offer at Sounder Golf. To obtain the discount copy and paste the link below or manually enter the code SUNDOGPEBBLE10 at the checkout.
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
PATRICK CANTLAY – 10-1 – 3pts Win - FINISHED 3rd
As regular readers will know I’m certainly not averse to rolling the dice on big three figure priced shots, when I feel appropriate, [or indeed four figure in the case of Martin Trainer the other week!], however equally when the time is right you have to weigh in with a short priced fancy and to me this is one such week.
The man in question I can’t get away from is Patrick Cantlay.
The case for Cantlay is a pretty straight forward one however I will make it anyway.
Firstly of course we have a player who surely will arrive here in a perfect frame of mind on the back of his 65 61 weekend last time out at the American Express, which could have so easily put paid to our chances of bagging the winner with Si Woo Kim.
Over that weekend Cantlay gained over 6.5 strokes in approach play an area that will be key this week and needless to say all departments of his game were in full working order.
Now a three time winner on tour Cantlay bagged his most recent title at the Zozo Championship last Fall when the event was played at Sherwood CC meaning that the Californian has now finished first and second in his last two starts in his home state.
Looking at Cantlay’s form in this event and he is yet to produce anything spectacular however he has finished in the top 11 in two of his four visits including a ninth place way back in 2013 and 11th place last year when he opened up with a 66 on Spyglass Hills, historically the toughest course in the rotation and one that remains in play this year alongside Pebble. It is also worth noting that Cantlay when arriving here last year hadn’t tee’d it up since the Sentry ToC, whereas of course this year he should be much sharper after his perform at the Amex.
I also can’t help but think that the ditching of the Monterey Peninsula course this year, historically the easiest, and potentially slightly tougher pin placements due to the lack of amateurs will also be in Patrick’s favour.
If we then look at other correlating courses Cantlay has finished third, seventh and third on his last three visits to Hilton Head so he is clearly comfortable on a short coastal track.
Dustin Johnson is of course a worthy favourite this week however the last two years he has finished down the pack here after returning straight from Saudi Arabia and a similar scenario is quite possible this week.
On that basis and with question marks in my mind alongside the others at the top of the market apart from Cantlay the 28yr old looks the one to have onside from the market leaders and I find him impossible to leave out.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI – 28-1 – 1.5pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 59th
The other player who I find it hard to ignore this week from the top end of the betting is Francesco Molinari.
The Italian withdrew from his defence of the API in 2020 just before the enforced hiatus with a back injury and during this break he then made a decision with his family to relocate from the UK to California.
Due to this process Molinari didn’t tee it up again until the start of the 2021 season when he missed the cut first time out at the Shriners.
Whether it be that the Californian climate agrees with him or whether it be thought of making a big push to renewing the ‘Moliwood’ partnership later this year Francesco has now begun 2021 in flying fashion with an eighth place at the American Express and a 10th place at Torrey Pines the following week.
At Torrey Pines the 38yr old finished the week third in strokes-gained-tee-to-green and ninth in approach play in the measured rounds on the South Course, and it was only a slightly cool putter, which held him back. He did though close out the week with a bogey free 66 where the putter warmed up and one would hope that he would bring the confidence that should have given him with the flatstick on to this week.
Molinari has no history in this event, which is a slight concern, bearing in mind course form is usually key here, however he did finish 16th here in the US Open in 2019 so he does have some positive experience of Pebble Beach to call on.
As one of the shorter hitters on tour Francesco’s performance on the South Course at Torrey was all the more impressive as clearly his lack of length was a disadvantage there.
This week though with his iron play dialled in this season and on shorter tracks he should be right in his wheelhouse and as long as his putter half behaves it is hard to see the former Open Champion not being in the mix come Sunday.
PETER MALNATI – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next cab off the rank for us this week is a player who has been in a strong run of form of late Peter Malnati.
Malnati whose lone PGA Tour title to date came at the 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship currently sits 22nd in this seasons Fedex Cup standings courtesy of a second place at the Sanderson’s a fifth at the Shriners a 14th at the Sony and a tenth last time out at the Farmers.
Looking at Peter’s stats at the Farmers and what caught my eye was that everything was working solidly, with the putter for which he ranked 13th for the week and approach play for which he was 14th for the week, the best two components marginally. Similarly to our last pick Molinari, Malnati is also one of the shorter hitters on tour so for him to compete at Torrey Pines was hugely impressive.
Away from Malnati’s current form and the other thing I really like about him this week is that he sits perfectly from a style of play and historical course form point of view to some of the other more leftfield winners we have seen here over recent years such as the two Taylor’s and Ted Potter Jnr.
To expand this further Peter will be making his seventh start here this week and last year he posted his best finish here to date, 11th, so he has the experience and event form. He also like Potter Jnr and Vaughn Taylor is at his best when on the greens and this season in keeping with this he currently ranks fourth with the flat stick.
He has also performed solidly at the Sony Open and the Heritage over recent years to show he is more than comfortable on a shorter coastal track.
The 33yr old from Tennessee is known as one, if not the, most positive minded player on tour and having won once on the PGA Tour and twice on the Korn Ferry we know he is not afraid to win and arriving here you would have to think in a great frame of mind this week I think he has an excellent chance of bagging his second PGA Tour title.
CHRIS KIRK – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 16th
Another player who should be arriving at Pebble Beach in great spirits is Chris Kirk.
Kirk as most readers will know has battled personal demons over recent years with alcohol and depression having taken a leave of absence from the tour in 2019 to focus on these issues he deserves huge credit for coming back to the game in the manner he has.
Following that absence Kirk received a Major Medical Extension and despite a win on the Korn Ferry Tour in June last year he continued to struggle on the PGA Tour meaning he needed something special when he arrived in Hawaii at the Sony in January on his last exempt start.
Kirk though was not to be daunted and he built on a solid run of form just before the Christmas break, which had seen him make four straight cuts to post four straight rounds of 65 at Waialae to finish in second place doing just enough to lock up his full playing privileges.
With his full card now secured Chris can play with the pressure off and with his focus in his own words far more these days on living a happy life rather than on how many Fedex Cup points he has he can hopefully continue to enjoy his golf again.
So with his spirits surely good despite a missed cut in Phoenix last week Chris arrives at a venue, which really should be to his liking. Granted his form has been patch here over the years however he did finish second in this event back in 2013 so he has the requisite high finish and having made many starts here over the years the course experience.
As well as performing strongly at the Sony in January Chris has other strong finishes in the bank at that event, furthermore he has a win and several other strong finishes to his name at the RSM Classic, which obviously sits well here and he this obviously shows us he his more than comfortable on short coastal tracks.
To sum up Kirk is A four time winner on the PGA Tour who clearly knows how to get the job done and with the experience of winning again in his recent memory banks on the Korn Ferry last year and of course having produced the goods when needed at Waialae I think he has a great shout of bagging win number five this week.
ANDREW PUTNAM – 100-1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 55th
I’m going to wrap things up this week with a player who although not having the event form I would like really caught my eye last week and I therefore can’t get away from. The man in question is Andrew Putnam.
After finishing tenth in the American Express early in 2020 Putnam really went off the boil and to put it bluntly the second half of the 19/20 season after the tour returned was a write off for him on the course, as he missed six of seven cuts with only a 58th to show at the Workday.
Despite a few made cuts here and there the early part of 20/21 hasn’t been much better to be honest for Andrew however after catching the eye with a 21st at the American Express he really built on this with a seventh place finish last week at the WMPO.
At TPC Scottsdale Putnam was really dialled in with his irons and he finished first for the week in good old fashioned GIR hitting all 18 greens on Sunday, something which has to be a positive coming in to this week allowing for the fact that Pebble Beach has some of the smallest greens on tour. Further more Andrew’s putter historically his strength was also working well as he finished ninth for the week in strokes-gained-putting.
Andrew has only tee’d it up in this event on three occasions missing the cut twice and finishing 38th once and this is slight concern however he did also finish 43rd here in the US Open in 2019 and therefore with the tweak to the format this year, alongside his strong play last week I am happy to overlook that.
In addition he has finished fifth by the coast at the Corales Puntacana and second at the Sony so he can clearly handle this type of track.
To sum up when on song there is no doubt that Putnam has the type of game needed for this weeks test and he looks great value at three figure odds to me to continue on from where he left off last week.
UPDATED 9th FEBRUARY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - TED POTTER JNR - DK VALUE - $6800- FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 33
Ted Potter Jnr is one of those rare breed of players who seems to play better when he has a chance to win rather than fading when 'under the gun', something, which he showed when memorably taking down Dustin Johnson in this very event in 2018.
Potter has shown that he can pop up and produce these ocassional big finishes when arriving at an event horribly out of form, as was the case in 2018. This week however the Floridian arrives at Pebble Beach having shown some glimmers of form over the past couple of weeks, firstly when posting an 18th place at the Farmers and then when opening up with a 66 at the WMPO before gradually fading as the week progressed.
In summary you never quite know what you are going to get from Ted and a MC is of course a possibility. Ultimately though he knows how to win and how to win here so arriving here in solid form he is worth risking at $6800.
PICK 2 - JOSEPH BRAMLETT - DK VALUE -- $6700 - FINISHED 63rd - DK POINTS TOTAL 52.5
The second player to catch my eye for this section this week is Joseph Bramlett.
The Stanford man arrived on the PGA Tour with quite a college pedigree some ten years ago now however a combination of injuries and poor form have meant that he is yet to live up to expectations.
In the last season or so Bramlett has shown signs that he is starting to finally find his feet and the 2019/2020 season saw him post four top twenty finishes.
In relation to this week Joseph catches the eye as a lot of his better finishes on tour have come on shorter coastal tracks including an 18th place here last year.
Arriving at Pebble on the back of a 17th place at the Farmers should see him teeing it up this week in confident mood and he looks good value to me at $6700.