AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am
It was unfortunately another disappointing Sunday for us as a week that had promised so much with three players in with win/place chances going in to Sunday, in the form of Kuchar, An & Laird, ended with only one of them, Kuchar, making the frame.
With Fowler struggling through the round any kind of solid performance from Kuch could well have been enough to lift the trophy, unfortunately though it wasn’t to be and in the end I was grateful he was able to par the last and at least salvage something for us from the week.
Moving 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, as was the case at the Desert Classic three weeks ago, there are 3 courses in play on rotation, with Pebble Beach acting as host course.
All players get one round on each of the three courses over the first three days, with those making the 54 hole cut playing the final round at Pebble on Sunday.
Long term viewers of the tournament will also be aware that this can be a ‘double edged sword’ of an event to watch on TV over the first three days.
On one hand you have the spectacular scenery offered by the California Coast line, which I would argue is as beautiful as anywhere offered in the golfing world. On the other hand we have the 5 ½ - 6hr rounds that we have come to expect in these Pro-Am’s.
In addition a large chunk of the coverage over the first three days is given up to interviews with, and swing analysis of, a combination of has been rock stars [step forward Huey Lewis] actors from various US Cop shows and Sitcoms, American Football team coaches [the vast majority of whom with no disrespect to my US readers us guys across the pond have never heard of]…and of course Bill Murray….
Dustin Johnson fresh of his win in Saudi Arabia and course specialist Jason Day head up the market by some distance. They are then followed by Tommy Fleetwood, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau and the in form Matt Kuchar.
As noted above the event is played across three courses. The courses used at present are as follows;
Monterey Peninsula Shore Course
This has been the rotation in play since Monterey Peninsula was added in 2010.
All three courses are short at under 7000 yards, so length of the tee is not an issue here at all.
Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hills play to a par 72, whilst Monterey Peninsula plays to a par 71 with all three par fives coming on the back 9.
The greens are Poa Annua on all three courses.
Historically Spyglass Hills has played as the toughest course of the three 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 across the courses 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 courses are there for the taking.
In 7 of the last 11 yrs this been an event for the ‘big guns’ with DJ [twice], Spieth, Mickelson, Sneds [twice] & Walker all winning, however in the other 4yrs there have been absolute ‘skinners’ getting over the line in the form of Vaughn Taylor, DA Points [who memorably played with Bill Murray], Steve Lowery and of course Ted Potter Jnr last year who took down DJ and Day.
One area 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.
Coming in to the event last year I noted that 9 of the last 10 winners had a previous top 15 finish and in most cases they had made several starts in here.
Well as mentioned above last years winner Ted Potter Jnr was a complete outsider, however he all but kept this stat going, as he won the event on his 4th start in it and, although he did not have a top 15 finish here to his name, he had actually finished 16th here in one of his previous starts!
On this basis I am still keen to focus on players with past course experience and at least one good finish.
The only exceptions to the above were DJ who won on his second visit, having been 7th the year before on debut and Lowery who had made many starts in the event but only had a best place finish of 21st to his name.
Either way whether it is due to the unique skill sets required to play the pro am format or just a case of getting used to the courses and not being distracted by the wonderful views, this doesn’t appear to be a week for the rookies.
Indeed the motto appears to be either go with one of the favourites, or a seasoned pro whose out with the washing in the betting, but who may just have one of those weeks where everything clicks in the relaxed company of their amateur partner.
The winning score is very much dictated by the weather. Over the last 6yrs we have seen winning scores ranging from -22 [Snedeker in 2015] to – 11, [Jimmy Walker in 2014].
As noted below this week’s weather forecast as I write is favourable so I would suspect a hot putter and low scoring will be required this week.
There are some rain and storms in the forecast for the early part of the week but this should all have cleared away come Thursday.
Cool sunny conditions will then greet the players on Thursday with temperatures forecast to be in the mid 50s. Similar conditions then look to remain for the rest of the week.
Wind does not look to be an issue for the first couple of days but Saturday could see gusts of 15mph+, with Sunday forecasting them to drop under 10mph again.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 6 players this week as follows;
JASON DAY – 10-1 – 3pts Win. FINISHED 4th
As I mentioned above this event seems to veer from one year to the next from either being the domain of a big name player or a complete rank outsider.
Last year it was the turn of the rank outsider in the form of Potter Jnr however I feel that this year normal service may well be resumed and Aussie Jason Day may well finally get his hands on this trophy.
Day has made nine previous appearances in this event and he has posted five top 10 finishes the latest of, which came with his 2nd place finish last year.
This result came on the back of Jason winning the Farmers Insurance Open in his previous start, which once again rubber stamped him as a specialist on the West Coast.
It is notable from the winners and high finishers here over the recent years that putting is a key ingredient this week [Potter Jnr, Spieth, Sneds, Gay, V Taylor, Blixt & Jacobsen have all won or finished top 10 over past three years] and the Aussie is no slouch in this department having ranked 2nd in SGP last season and currently sitting 10th in it this.
We have seen over recent weeks with the wins for DJ and Bryson in Europe and Rose and Rickie in the States that it doesn’t always pay to think too far out of the box and following on from his 5th place at Torrey Pines two weeks ago I see Day as primed and ready to win again and I’m keen to have him onside.
SHANE LOWRY – 45-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
After his win in the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational Shane chose to have a crack at the PGA Tour full time, however life across the pond doesn’t appear to have hugely agreed with him and this has resulted in some fairly hit and miss performances from him over the last three seasons.
Back on the European Tour however at the end of 2018 things started to click in to place for Lowry and he posted two top 10 finishes in the last couple of months of the year including a 2nd place at Valderrama.
Picking up where he left off at the start of 2019 Shane then posted his victory in Abu Dhabi, his first since the win at the Bridgestone.
As we know Lowry is an excellent exponent of links golf, with, when at his best, a magical short game on an around the greens, basically the perfect fit for this event.
In four previous visits to this event he has made the cut on every occasion, with a best placed finish of 14th a couple of years ago, so he has now built up a solid bank of experience here.
Shane has been a regular visitor to the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland over the years, which is played in the same manner across three courses in a pro-am format, and he has posted several strong finishes in this including two top 5s, so he clearly has the personality to handle this type of pro-am event.
The 31yr old Irishman has always struck me as a good fit for this event and with his confidence surely soaring from his recent win in Abu Dhabi I am keen to have him on side this week.
BRANDEN GRACE – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 28th
If Branden Grace won a links style event on short coastal tracks without my money on him after he’d finished 2nd the week before I’d be kicking myself from here to the end of the season!
On that basis alone Branden makes our team this week even though he doesn’t quite fit the criteria of having made several starts in the event or having notched a top 16 finish.
Grace has shown us numerous times over the years whether on his home links in South Africa, winning the Dunhill Links, nearly winning the US Open at Chambers Bay, or when winning at Hilton Head, that this type of golf is right up his ally.
In my ‘six to follow’ piece for 2019 I have made no secret of the fact that Branden is my long term pick for the US Open this year and he showed us on debut in this event last year, when finishing 20th, that like the other events mentioned above, Pebble Beach suits his game.
Not unsurprisingly for a player who finished 2nd all of the South African’s numbers last week we’re really strong and he ranked second on the week in Strokes Gained Total.
Grace was a late entrant to the field in Scottsdale, as he felt he had done some good work after missing the cut at the Farmers and wanted to build on that.
This decision was obviously vindicated and he should head to Pebble Beach in good spirits.
2018 was Branden’s first winless year worldwide since 2013 and this is something that I am sure he will want to put right ASAP.
I see 2019 as being a really big year for the 30yr old and I can see him making a big step towards that this week.
JIMMY WALKER – 125-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
Next up for us this week is West Coast specialist Jimmy Walker.
If someone had said to you a couple of years ago that come 2019 Walker would be 125-1 for this event you’d have been asking them what they were drinking, however after a couple of years in the wilderness for Jimmy that’s exactly where we are at.
As we probably all know by now the main reason for Walker’s fall from golfing grace is an unfortunate battle with Lyme Disease that both he and more lately his wife have had to face.
Understandably as a result of this Jimmy’s golf game suffered throughout 2017.
The 40yr old appeared to have turned the corner in the first half of 2018 with four top 10s to his name by the end of May ,including an 8th place here, however he then went off the boil again in the latter part of the year.
2018/19 has seen steady but unspectacular performances from Walker so far with only one missed cut to his name.
Last week saw another similar type performance in Scottsdale with two decent rounds, including a bogey free 66 in round 3, sandwiched in between two over par efforts.
This tells me that Jimmy is close to stringing it all together and the hope is he can now do this at what must be one of his favourite weeks on tour.
Last year the Texas resident pitched up in Pebble Beach without a top 10 finish on tour to his name in over twelve months and yet still managed to finish 8th for his sixth finish of 11th or better in his last eight starts in the event.
Roll the clock forward twelve months and whilst Jimmy’s game still isn’t firing on all cylinders it is certainly in better shape now and he must surely be chomping at the bit to tee it up here again.
Obviously the 2019 version of Walker is not yet anywhere near the level of the version which lifted the PGA title back in 2016, however this is reflected in the price and I am happy to take a chance the that the return to the Monterey coast will inspire Jimmy once again.
PATRICK RODGERS – 175-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
I mentioned earlier that course experience appears to be key here to finding the winner however at the prices on offer I am keen to include another player who has only made one start in the event and that is Patrick Rodgers.
Rodgers as we know is a hugely talented player who after a standout college career was/is expected to go right to the top of the game.
Unfortunately in his three full seasons on the tour things haven’t quite yet clicked all together in one week for Patrick enough for him to get a win under his belt, but it is no doubt only a matter of time until it does.
Regular readers will know that I have enough faith in the fact that this will be the year that it does, to the extent that I included Patrick in my six to follow for 2019.
My reasoning for siding with the 26yr old this week is pretty straightforward in that Patrick finished 8th here on his debut last year and has also in his time on tour to date posted top 10 finishes on the coast at the Mayakoba, the Farmers and twice at the RSM, including his memorable 61 62 weekend last November. Clearly therefore this is the type of test that suits his game.
The reason that a player of Rodgers’ calibre is the price he is this week is due to his recent form, however looking at his three seasons on tour It is quite clear that current form is basically not a precursor to him playing well the following week. In fact all of Patrick’s top 5 finishes have come following some pretty uninspiring results the previous week or weeks.
The chances are therefore that when [not if] Patrick does post a victory it will come fairly out of nowhere and at the prices on offer this week I am happy to take a chance that this may just be that week.
FREDDIE JACOBSON – 550-1 – 1/2pt E/W 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
In the spirit of some of the absolute shock winners that have popped up in this event over the years I am going to finish this week with a very speculative bet on the Swede Freddie Jocobson.
In his day Freddie reached the heights of the top 20 of the OWGR and landed three European Tour titles and one on the PGA Tour, the 2011 Travelers Championship.
Over the last few years however both family health issues and his own health have seen Freddie’s career on the links be put on hold.
Firstly Freddie’s son Max was diagnosed with a heart condition, which required surgery in 2015, which happily was successful.
This saw the Swede step away from the tour for five months from May 2015 through to October.
As a result of this Freddie was given a special medical exemption, which he made full use of to secure his card, posting three top 5 finishes in four events in the wraparound part of the 15/16 season.
Following on from this Jacobson has required surgery for thumb and hand problems, which have again seen him side lined from the game for a lengthy period of time.
As a result of this Freddie was granted a Major Medical Extension upon his return to the tour last fall with 18 starts to secure his card.
Freddie made three starts through the late summer/autumn on the European Tour before beginning his 18/19 season and his attempt to retain his PG Tour card at the Shriners in November.
His first three starts in the fall saw him miss the cut in all three events however, last weekend in Scottsdale he opened with a 68 & posted three further rounds of 72, 72 & 74.
Whilst this is hardly spectacular stuff this does give the Swede something to build on as he now arrives at an event that is perfect for his game, and that he has finished in the top 10 of twice in his last three starts.
At 44yrs old Freddie still has plenty of good golfing years left ahead of him and at the prices on offer I am happy to roll the dice that he can find a spark in an event that has seen its share of shock results over the recent years.
UPDATED 6th FEBRUARY
TRADER - MATT JONES - FINISHED 53rd - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 130
For this weeks trader pick I have chosen to go with 38yr old Aussie Matt Jones.
It's been a lean couple of years for Matt and for the second year running he had to rely on the Web.com finals to retain his tour card.
The start of the 18/19 season had not started too spectacularly for Matt either as he missed four of his first seven cuts with nothing better than a 29th place to his name.
Last time out however there were signs of encouragement as Jones finished 13th at Torrey Pines courtesy of a closing round of 67 on the tough South Course.
This finish certainly caught my eye coming in to this week, as Matt has made the cut in this weeks event six times in the past eight years.
Furthermore on three of these ocassions Matt has finished in the top 15 with a best placed finish of 7th.
The fact that Matt has played well in this event over the years is no great surprise as his undoubted strength to his game is the flat stick and he is very much in the mold of players like Potter Jnr, V Taylor, Blixt and Jacobson who have all excelled here.
I mentioned in my blog at the end of last year profiling the Web.com grads that Matt and his wife had welcomed the arrival of their third daughter last summer, and that based on the fact that Matt's two biggest career titles had arrived in the 18 months following the birth of their second child, another 'Nappy Factor' win was not out of the question.
Well if this is to happen based on Matt's history in this weeks event, and his good showing last time out, this is as likely a venue as anywhere and I am keen to have the Aussie on side as our trader this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 280+