AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am
It was a great week for us at Torrey Pines as after a frustrating start to 2023 our picks came good with Max Homa bagging the trophy for us and two of our other selections Sungjae Im and Jason Day also getting full place returns.
Homa who is a winning machine in his home state od California produced a great final round comeback to overturn a five shot deficit and real in Sam Ryder who was looking for a wire to wire win and his first tour title.
With five wins in his home state now Homa is one for the shortlist every time the tour heads to the West Coast and he must already have one eye on June’s US Open, which takes place at the LA Country Club.
So with spirits high 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 Huey Lewis wowing the fans year in year out….
In 2021 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. Last year though normal service resumed with all three courses in the rotation and the amateurs back involved.
In an event, which has in all honesty suffered field wise through the combination of its position in the schedule prior to two elevated…sorry, ‘designated events’ and a clash with the big bucks on offer in Saudi Arabia, the field is as weak as we have seen here in a few years with the three big names who are teeing it up, Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland vying for favouritism at single figure odds. This trio are then followed by defending champion Tom Hoge and local boy Maverick McNealy.
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 2021 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
2022 T Hoge
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
In six of the last ten years this has been an event for the ‘big guns’ with Mickelson, Snedeker [twice], Spieth, Walker and Berger all winning, however in three years of the other four 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.
Last year meanwhile although not one of the games biggest names a well fancied Tom Hoge triumphed with us onboard.
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. Finally to bring us bang up to date last years champion Hoge had finished 12th the year before and triumphed on his seventh start here.
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! Finally Hoge had finished second at the Amex pro-am event just a fortnight before so despite missing the cut at the Farmers the previous week he was clearly in good nick.
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].
As I’m sure most readers will know there has been an awful lot of rain in the area over the last month or so however the good news is while we could see overcast conditions for a large chunk of this week and a few showers, there is nothing too horrendous in the forecast.
Temperatures look to sit around the mid- 60s throughout much of the week.
The wind, which is obviously the key factor here does not look a huge factor over the first three days however Sunday does show the potential for 15-20mph gusts at the time of writing. All in all though with softish conditions anticipated along with the easier pin placements you associate with the pro-am set up over the first three days, I would expect good scoring conditions.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
ANDREW PUTNAM – 22/1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8. - FINISHED MC
First cab off the rank this week is Andrew Putnam.
While I admit the layers are not giving much away with Putnam’s odds this week there is so much to like about him that I feel I just can’t leave him out.
A one time winner on Tour Putnam has been knocking on the door for a while now of that second PGA Tour win and he is currently on a run of 14 straight weekends played since his last missed cut at the Barracuda in July.
Furthermore in that run he has posted three top five finishes including a fourth place at the Sony Open a couple of starts ago.
The key to Andrew’s success over that run has been a solid accurate tee to green game and a hot putter, something, which to be fair he has been known for, for the majority of his time on tour. Basically Andrew has been playing really, really good golf for a while now.
So we’ve established that Putnam arrives here in strong form but what of his suitability for the event? Well, again he seems to have the perfect credentials.
Firstly if we take a look at his form here and after struggling in his initial outings in the event things clicked for him last year when he finished sixth, a result, which it should be noted could have been much better as he was one of the co leaders heading in to Sunday before he limped home with a 73. Ultimately though what we have is the bank of course experience with five previous visits here plus the previous high finish, both of, which appear a must based on past winners profile.
Spreading the net wider then and we have two top four finishes by the coast at Waialae, a venue, which we know fits really well here through Hoge, Snedeker and Walker, a runner up and his fourth a few weeks back, some really strong showings at Colonial, which link well here with Spieth and Berger and some similarly big finishes at the Fedex St Jude again linking well here with Berger. Basically as one of the shorter hitters on tour Andrew is at his best when neat and tidy trumps distance, which is very much the case this week.
With softer and reasonably calm conditions anticipated Putnam’s hot putter could well be key this week and having attended college in California we certainly know he is comfortable on the poa greens.
Ultimately then with all roads leading to 34yr old Putnam this week I find him impossible to ignore and am happy to lead off our team with him.
BEAU HOSSLER – 80/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 11th
Next up for me this week is Beau Hossler.
Hossler is a player who after coming close to landing his maiden tour title in Houston in 2018 lost his way for a few years, however over the last 12 months or so there have been clear signs that he is very much on the up again as he has been regularly spotted on the business end of leaderboards without quite being able to string four rounds together.
One of the most notable of those occasions in 2022 came in this event when Beau found himself right on the hunt come Sunday with a share of the lead heading in to the final round before a closing 71 saw him ultimately finish third. Meanwhile a further chance to bag that maiden win came in Texas a couple of months later before he closed with 72 to finish fourth.
There is no doubt then that since his early opportunities Hossler has struggled when its really mattered most on tour, on pay day, to close the deal, however if we put the positive spin on it each occasion he has missed out has to be seen as a learning curve and you have to think a player of his talent will come good eventually.
So back to this week then and having now tee’d it up in this event on six occasions with his best of third last year Beau has the experience here and the high finish we are looking for to fit the profile of past winners.
Looking at Hossler’s 22-23 season so far and he has been solid if unspectacular making six of eight cuts with a best of 16th at the ZOZO, while a 21st at the RSM reminds us that he is more than comfortable on short coastal layouts.
One of those two missed cuts came last week at Torrey Pines however Beau’s numbers for the measured round on the South Course were solid from tee to green, particularly off the tee for, which he ranked seventh, however unusually for him he really struggled on the greens ranking 133rd on the day. As we know though Beau is usually really strong with the flat stick ranking fifth on the greens last season and 41st so far this, so I’ll put that down to just a bad day at the office. In addition as a native of California we certainly no Beau can handle the poa.
Touching on that last point and Beau plays a lot of his best golf in his home state, along with his adopted home state of Texas, so whenever he tee’s it up in ether the Golden State or the Lone Star State he is one for the shortlist and at the odds on offer this week I am happy to side with him to make that big breakthrough.
NATE LASHLEY – 80/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED WD
Next up I am drawn to the credentials of Nate Lashley.
In an event where experience counts Lashley arrives this week for his sixth consecutive start here with a best of fifth place to his name a couple of years ago giving us the requisite high finish we are looking for. In addition while very different challenge he also played nicely at the US Open here in 2019 to finish 28th.
A player who is at his best in lower scoring events Nate posted his lone PGA Tour win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic with a 25- under total in 2019, however it is his overall form through the years on correlating coastal tracks, which makes him particularly of interest to me this week as well as of course his experience here.
To expand on this further and firstly Nate bagged the trophy at the Corales Puntacana event when it was still a Korn Ferry event back in 2017 and he has gone on to post a further fourth place finish there since and this is an event, which ties here courtesy of Graeme McDowell. Furthermore Nate has performed nicely by the coast in Puerto Rico over the years as well with two top tens to his name. Meanwhile Nate started his 2023 with a really strong performance at the Sony Open finishing seventh and this is of course again an event, which sits really well here with the likes of Hoge, Snedeker and Walker all having strong records there.
Looking at that performance at Waialae CC in more detail and Lashley ranked fourth for the week from tee to green but struggled on the dance floor, ranking a lowly 53rd, however we know from over the years that he is a solid enough performer on the greens on his day, hence his ability to compete in a low scoring event.
Move on a week to the American Express and Lashley never recovered from a horrible opening day at the Stadium Course, however while the next two days were also littered with a lot of mistakes he also made his share of birdies, ten across Friday and Saturday, so really it is a case of cutting out the silly mistakes.
To be honest that performance of Lashley’s at the Amex reminded us how inconsistent he can be as his career is littered with runs of poor results followed by the odd big performance. Now having turned 40 and in event that has seen plenty of success for more experienced older player I believe Nate has what it takes to win on tour for a second time and on a test that suits his shorter hitting game perfectly this more relaxed pro-am format seems a perfect opportunity for him to strike again.
TROY MERRITT – 90/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up this week I will return to a player who performed well for us here last year Troy Merritt.
Rather like our previous pick Lashley, Merritt has a reputation of being one of those inconsistent players impossible to call right 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.
After having missed the cut here though on his first four visits, in his last four appearances Troy has been the model of consistency posting finishes of 8 25 16 and then fourth last year, his best ever return in the event when we were on board.
Furthermore and having said that Merritt had a reputation for inconsistency over the years Troy matched that fourth place return in Texas a couple of months later in what was actually a pretty consistent campaign as he missed only five solo cuts all season on his way to 62nd in the Fedex Cup.
Moving on to 22/23 then and Troy popped up with a third place finish before Christmas at the Mayakoba, another event, which we know links really well here however there has not been too much else in all honesty to get excited about so far in the season. Again though, and as shown by that Mayakoba finish, we know when the conditions suit him Troy can ‘pop up’ at any time.
Looking more closely at his two starts so far this year and while Troy was down the pack in 65th all four rounds were par or better and really interestingly he ranked third for the week in approach play.
Meanwhile I am not going to get too hung up about a MC at the Amex, an event he also missed the cut in last year prior to his big finish here.
To sum up then there are some good signs in Troy’s game and if you add that to his affinity to this event and of course his profile, which is a perfect fit for it, I am happy to chance him here again this year.
AARON BADDELEY – 175/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 37th
Moving on and I am going to return to a player who has been a fairly familiar feature in these previews over the last couple of months, Aaron Baddeley.
Having written a decent amount of column inches about Badds of late regular readers will probably know where this write up is heading but I’ll go there anyway.
Firstly and most strikingly we have the Aussie’s propensity these days to be at his best on shorter coastal tracks, a past champion at Hilton Head, which ties nicely here with McDowell, Badds has also finished second in Puerto Rico and seventh at the Corales over more recent years, meanwhile this season he rewarded us by the coast in Bermuda with a full place when finishing sixth and then started 2023 with a really strong showing at the Sony to finish seventh when frustratingly we weren’t onboard.
Furthermore a look at Aaron’s week at Waialae shows that all departments of his game were working really strongly, something shown that he only made three bogeys all week and none over the final 36 holes.
Since that year opening effort Aaron produced a solid but unspectacular effort at the Amex where he finished 50th while he missed the cut on the number last week at the Farmers, however I am certainly not overly concerned that he found it hard going on the South, posting 74 on Thursday considering he ranks 193rd on tour in Driving Distance. In fact allowing for the fact that this is his fourth week on the spin I am quite happy he got few extra days off from last Thursday before heading out to Pebble.
Instead then I’ll return to Badds’ suitability to shorter coastal tracks and this event in particular and focus on the fact that while hasn’t shown his best stuff here in recent years he has all the experience we are looking for here and in years gone by posted a run of three straight top 12 finishes including a fourth and sixth.
Always known as one of the best putters on tour Badds has really rediscovered his touch with the flat stick so far this season following some adjustments he made on this front late last summer and if we do see a low scoring ‘putting contest’ this week on softer greens he is someone I would very much like in my camp.
To sum up then playing to regain his card this year there is a lot to like about Baddeley’s game at the moment and in an event, which surely plays to his strengths he is very much for me this week.
FABIEN GOMEZ – 300/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 65th
I am going to wrap things up this week by taking a flyer on Fabien Gomez.
A two time winner on tour Gomez has lost his way and indeed his card over recent years and now finds himself trying to claw his way back to the big league at the age of 44.
The Argentine lost his card at the end of the 20/21 season and indeed would have done so after a poor 19/20 had it not been for the ‘moratorium’ implemented following the covid hiatus.
With the first part of 2022 back on the Korn Ferry Tout producing very little of note then it is fair to say there was lot of poor golf from Fabien for the best part of three years, however during the second half of 2022 things started to pick up again as he posted a third place finish in the Live and Work in Maine Open before making four of his final five cuts.
Something for Gomez to build on then and he duly caught the eye by the coast when finishing 17th in Bermuda, posting a 63 along the way, when getting a lone start on the PGA Tour before Christmas. In to 2023 then and after an opening day 76 Fabien really caught fire by the coast in the Bahamas last week closing with rounds of 66 66 and 68 to get his Korn Ferry season of to a bang with a third place finish.
Arriving at Pebble Beach then in surely a really strong frame of mind, while he does not have the history here I would like as a former Sony Open winner this really should be an event that plays to Fabien’s strengths, particulary as he arrives straight from a strong finish by the coast last week. In addition his win at TPC Southwind links nicely here courtesy of another former champion here and at Southwind Daniel Berger.
In an event then that has thrown up some real shocks over the years I will take a chance that Gomez can make the most of his opportunity to tee it up this week and take the momentum from last weeks effort and produce another strong performance this time out.
UPDATED 31st JANUARY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - HENRIK NORLANDER - DK VALUE $6800. - FINISHED MC -- DK POINTS 39.5
First up this week in this segment I'll play Henrik Norlander.
Norlander started his 2023 with a MC at the Farmers last week however I am happy to put that to one side as he returns to an event that he has delivered solid results at over the years with four cuts made in his last four visits.
Shorter than average off the tee the Swede can be relied on in general on this short coastal tracks as proven by his 39th and 15th at the RSM and Mayakoba respectively before Christmas and I am happy to side with him to produce another solid effort this week.
PICK 2 - ERIC COLE - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED 15th - DK POINTS - 73.5
For my second pick I'll run with another player who sits on the $6800 mark Eric Cole.
Another short hitter Cole made a repuration for himself as one of the stronger putters on the Korn Ferry Tour last season when winning his card and he has kept the mojo going on the greens as he transitions in to the big league.
From that point of view then the Californian is ideally suited to take advantage in a low scoring birdie contest and he performed strongly in the pro-am format a couple of weeks ago.
Let's take Eric then to put the missed cut at Torrey Pines to one side and to make hay again in far more suitable conditions this week.