AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am
It was a poor week for us at Torrey Pines as three of our players missed the cut while the other two were never at the races, failing to crack the top fifty.
Of course you will get weeks like that from time to time and all you can do is shrug your shoulders, look at the long term picture and move on.
The event itself was won by Luke List who after many years as the bridesmaid on tour finally became the bride. Huge congratulations to him and we know wait to see if he will push on in the way Jason Kokrak did when he finally won.
Anyway onwards we go and the tour heads up the I1 in California on the coast to Pebble Beach for the AT & T Pro Am.
Those familiar with the event will be aware that like the American Express event a fortnight ago it is a pro-am played over a three course rotation, with Pebble Beach acting as host course. The event is known for its laid back pro-am atmosphere with the likes of Bill Murray and Larry The Cable Guy to name but two, wowing the fans year in year out….
Last year, similarly to the Amex event due to the Covid 19 pandemic the tournament did not have any amateurs involved. In addition the tournament was played over two courses not three, with players getting one round on Spyglass Hills over the first two days alongside Pebble Beach with Monterey Peninsula missing out. This year though normal service resumes with all three courses in the rotation and the amateurs back involved.
Patrick Cantlay heads up the market this week followed by defending champion Daniel Berger. This pair are then followed by Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris and course specialist Jason Day.
As noted above the event will be played across two courses this year. The courses used will be as follows;
Monterey Peninsula Shore Course
With the exception of last year 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 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
2021 D Berger
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
In 7 of the last 10yrs this has been an event for the ‘big guns’ with Mickelson [twice], Sneds [twice], Spieth, Walker and Berger all winning, however in the other three years there have been absolute ‘skinners’ getting over the line in the form of Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor and of course Ted Potter Jnr who took down DJ and Day in 2018. In addition just outside the ten year window in 2011 DA Points memorably triumphed playing alongside Bill Murray.
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.
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 while Spieth had posted two. Vaughn Taylor had finished 10th the year before, Nick Taylor had finished tenth here in 2017 and last years winner Daniel Berger had finished tenth and fifth on his two previous visits.
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 had all telegraphed there win with good form over the first few weeks of the new year as had Spieth and Berger last year. Equally though 2020 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.
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].
We look set for a great week of sunny weather with temperatures look to sit around the mid- 60s throughout much of the week.
The wind, which is obviously the key factor here could gust at 15mph at time with Thursday at the moment just showing the potential to be the strongest day.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
MAVERICK McNEALY – 28/1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8. - FINISHED 33rd
First up this week and whilst a fairly predictable selection I can’t get away from Maverick McNealy.
Backing maidens at shortish odds is of course a risky business however as we know McNealy is no ordinary maiden and his first win of several will surely come soon.
Looking at Maverick’s sophomore season and from the end of May onwards he was a model of consistency playing eight weekends running and posting seven finishes between 16th and 30th. After a brief break he then began the 21/22 season with a runner up finish at the Fortinet Championship before posting a 25th place finish when we were on board at The ZOZO and an 11th place by the coast in Mexico, which correlates well here.
2022 has started equally solidly for McNealy with a decent showing at Waialae for the Sony and a 30th place last weekend at the Farmers, which could have been much better but for a lacklustre Sunday.
Moving on to this week then and Maverick has clearly shown us in his time to date on tour that he is comfortable on shortish coastal tracks, having played well at the aforementioned Mayakoba as well as at Hilton Head where he finished fourth last season. In addition and most importantly of course he has finished fifth and second here on his last two visits giving us the previous high finish we are looking for here.
The fact that McNealy is comfortable at Pebble Beach is hardly surprising as he was brought up not far away in Stanford and his family have held a home here over the years meaning he has gotten to know the courses pretty well!
With some players a ‘home game’ like this can carry extra burden, however to McNealy this does not appear to be the case and when in the hunt last year he said “I tend to play well closer to home,” McNealy said, “and I’m just really excited to be on a golf course I’m comfortable at, with conditions I’m familiar with. It would be really, really fun to win here.”
While Saturday at the Farmers was undoubtedly disappointing for Maverick he was once again solid across the week off the tee and his putter cooperated nicely with him finishing ranked 13th for the week on the greens.
Back on greens then he knows back to front the hope is the 26yr old can build on last weeks strong putting display and if he can combine this with another solid effort from tee to green it is hard to see him being far away come Sunday.
TOM HOGE – 60/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 1st!!!
The next player I can’t get away from this week is Tom Hoge.
Hoge is another player who has produced some of his best stuff over the years on shorter coastal tracks. Third and 12th over the years at the Sony Open along with a third at the Mayakoba and two top tens at the RSM including a fourth just before Christmas are testament to this and once again like McNealy Hoge has backed up this affinity with coastal tracks with the requisite high finish we are looking for here having finished 12th in this event last year.
So we have established Tom is comfortable on this type of layout but what of his recent form?, well encouragement can certainly be found in that as the 32yr old currently sits 12th in the Fedex Cup standings having posted two top twenties and two top fives in the season to date.
Alongside his fourth at the RSM Hoge’s other top five this season came just a fortnight ago at the American Express where he found himself in the final group heading in to Sunday.
While Tom came up short that week beaten by Hudson Swafford’s sterling effort his final round 68, which saw him make only one bogey was nothing to be ashamed of and he showed when birdieing the 16th & 17th holes that he can produce the goods down the stretch under pressure.
Hoge’s forte is undoubtedly his tee to green game, which sees him currently ranked sixth for the season in approach play and based on the kind of consistent iron play he has been producing it is not hard to make a case for why he can thrive on Pebble Beach’s smallish greens. As is often the case with strong ball strikers though his putter often lets him down, however as we have seen of late with Matsuyama, Swafford and List an improvement on the greens for a normally poor putter can lead to a huge result.
To sum up Hoge has been knocking on the door for a while now of that first win and having shown just two weeks ago that he is more than comfortable in the relaxed pro-am format I expect him to bounce back from the missed cut at Torrey Pines and produce another great week.
TROY MERRITT – 100/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 4th
Next cab off the rank this week is Troy Merritt.
Merritt has a reputation of one of those players impossible to call right [think James Hahn, Ted Potter Jnr etc] with one of his two PGA Tour wins coming on the back of five missed cuts, while the other came when he hadn’t posted a solo top ten in the previous five months.
Early last season Troy’s results were fairly true to form on this front however in May he suddenly found a groove, posting three top tens in four starts with a runner up finish at the Rocket Mortgage following in July. After a slight dip in form at the end of his 20/21 campaign Troy then started his new season strongly with four solid top 30s in five starts.
Rested up then and Merritt began his 2022 with a missed cut at the Amex, a result I am not going to get too hung up about, which brings us on to this week.
Looking then at Troy’s record here and after missing the cut with regularity early on in his career he seems to have got to grips with the event over the recent years posting three top 25 finishes in his last three visits including an eighth place in 2018, which gives us the top ten we are looking for. It is also worth noting that eighth place in 2018 could have been much better as he headed in to Sunday that week in third before fading on the final day.
It is also worth noting, while acknowledging Troy’s inconsistency, that all of those three decent efforts here of late have come when he was in far worse form over the recent months than he has been leading in to this visit.
The final really encouraging point is that Merritt seems to have found a level of consistency with his iron play more recently, or at least he certainly had done before Christmas, and he ranks 22nd in approach play and 38th from tee to green so far this season. A massive improvement in his rankings in these areas to last season, which saw him languishing in the 100s.
If we trust then that Troy has brushed off the year opening cobwebs at the Amex the hope is he can pick up where he left off with his long game in the fall and if so he could be a big threat this week at juicy each way odds.
SCOTT STALLINGS – 125/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Another player who can certainly be slotted in to the inconsistent category, but I feel is worth rolling the dice on this week is Scott Stallings.
A three time winner on tour it is now just on eight years since Stallings added the third of those trophies to his cabinet at last weeks venue Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open.
A long time between drinks then no doubt but at only 36yrs of age you would think Scott can certainly still add to that number and if he is to do so you would think it would come on the West Coast and quite possibly here.
Expanding further and while the last couple of seasons haven’t been too lucrative for Scott on this run of events the previous three seasons saw him post four top ten finishes in this stretch of West Coast events including two here at Pebble Beach, which when added to a 14th and 30th here over recent years means he has four top 30 finishes in his past five visits.
This year Scott arrives back at Pebble Beach having already posted two top six finishes in the season, one of, which came not far from here in California at the Fortinet, thus showing again how much he enjoys playing the Golden State, while the other came on a short coastal track in Bermuda when he posted a remarkable final round in tough windy conditions.
He also opened up his final event of 2021 with a 63 by the coast at the RSM.
In reasonably confident mood already no doubt then Stallings can also take great encouragement from how he rounded out his week at Torrey Pines, finding as he put it himself in his twitter feed “a little magic out there” on his way to a closing 66 and I am hoping he can bring that momentum on to this week.
It seems Scott is close to producing something big again with big finishes and low rounds dotted fairly prevalently in to his season already and while acknowledging the risk of his inconsistency I am happy to risk him this week at one of his favourite haunts at three figure odds.
KEVIN CHAPPELL – 175/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED MC
I’m going to wrap things up this week by taking a flyer on Kevin Chappell.
A one time winner on the Tour at the 2017 Valero Texas Open Chappell looked set to push on to big things, unfortunately though since then his career has been blighted by a serious back problem.
Having had to take lengthy absences from the tour over recent years including most significantly for surgery for the aforementioned back issue in late 2018 last weeks 46th place at the Farmers Insurance Open saw Chappell make his third straight cut on the tour in short succession for the first time in over three years.
Small acorns perhaps however with time running out on his Major Medical Extension they are welcome positive signs.
On that front and Chappell now finds himself with two starts left to make 110 Fedex Cup points, basically a top five finish, to keep his status. After his opening round 63 at the Sony Open in his first start this year, which gave us another really positive sign of course, Kevin talked about the fact that he was not getting too hung up on his situation and was even contemplating retirement, he also encouragingly talked about how he had “seen some really good stuff at home in the work he’d done” so the round wasn’t a huge surprise.
Whilst Kevin failed to really build on that opening salvo he has continued to show some solid stuff over the past couple of weeks with the biggest eye opener being that his approach play at Torrey Pines saw him ranked 17th for the week.
Delving in to Kevin’s record both here and by the coast in general gives us further encouragement. Importantly he has the top ten here we are looking for, while he also has top tens at the Open Championship, Hilton Head and a runner up finish at the RSM to his name.
Hailing from Fresno just a couple of hours or so away from Pebble Beach you would think that Kevin will have plenty of support this week, particularly allowing for the fact that if his threat to retire is genuine, this could be one of his last starts on tour in his home state. The hope is then that with some momentum gradually returning he can produce the big performance he needs and while doing so make the frame for us at huge odds.
UPDATED 1st FEBRUARY
FANTASY DRAFTKINGS PICKS -
PICK 1 - DOC REDMAN - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED 33rd - DK POINTS 81.5
My first pick this week is Doc Redman. It's been a grim six months or so for the much touted Redman since he posted a runner up finish at the Palmetto Championship last June. Last week though at the Farmers Doc showed some positive signs on his way to 25th place and it may just be he's turned a corner.
If Redman can build on last week then Pebble Beach and the accompanying short coastal tracks should be an ideal place for him to do so. Short but accurate tee to green when at his best Doc has always thrived on shorter latyouts and his fourth place at Bermuda and third at the Wyndham tell us what we need to know. His only visit to date to this event saw him finish 50th and I am optimistic he can build on that this time around.
PICK 2 - BILL HAAS - DK VALUE $6500. - FINISHED MDF - DK POINTS 51.
Another player who caught the eye last week was Bill Haas. The former Fedex Cup champion has really struggled on tour over recent years. Last week at the Farmers however Haas was on track for his highest finish for well over two years before a Sunday 76 saw him fall back to 35th.
Still, it was a great first three days for Bill and as a player who has shown his liking for this event before when finishing eighth here he should be looking forward to getting back here this week.