Steve runs the rule over this week's US PGA Tour event at spectacular Pebble Beach. Can Phil Mickelson go back-to-back?
This will be the 72nd staging of the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-am
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
Pebble Beach (host course), par 72, 6816 yards, stroke average in 2012 - 71.86
Spyglass Hill par 72, 6858 yards, stroke average in 2012 - 72.58
Monterey Peninsula, par 70, 6838 yards, stroke average in 2012 - 69.88
The field will play all three courses over the first three days before the cut is made and the top-60 and ties play the final round at Pebble. Monterey played the easiest of the three again last year and that's the place to bag your low score.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, 8.00pm on Thursday and Friday and 6.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2012 - Phil Mickelson - 17
2011 - D.A Points -15
2010 - Dustin Johnson -16
2009 - Dustin Johnson -15 (54 holes)
2008 - Steve Lowery -10 (playoff)
What will it take to win the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-am?
Although big hitters Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have owned the event of late, length isn't a prerequisite. When Lefty took the title twelve months ago he ranked just 58th for Driving Distance. It's all about hitting the small Poa Annua greens with regularity and scrambling brilliantly when you don't.
Course form holds up really well and course experience is essential. Brett Ogle, in 1993, is the only debutant to win since 1950!
The first thing to do is either avoid the TV coverage over the first few days or record it and zip through it the next day. It's painful, very painful. There's far too much coverage of the amateurs and we only get to see play at Pebble.
The draw can prove pivotal and you need a bit of luck with the weather - Spyglass is tree-lined and largely protected from the wind so anyone drawn there on a day that the wind howls at the two coastal tracks will have a considerable advantage.
One quirky stat of note - four of the last six winners were leading after day one and had Lefty not finished with a stunning 64 twelve months ago, Charlie Wi may well have made it five out of six.
Normal in-running rules don't apply with the par 5 14th. It's NOT a birdie hole. In the 2010 renewal, three players recorded a nine there during round four, including Paul Goydos, who was bang in-contention at the time. A par five is very acceptable there but the market will view it as a birdie hole at a pivotal stage of the event on Sunday.
Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are vying for favouritism and rightly so - the pair have won five of the last eight renewals!
Lefty detractors will point to the fact that he's attempting to both defend the title AND go back-to-back but that wouldn't put me off in the slightest. He followed up his win at Phoenix in 2005 with victory here and he defended next week's event, the Northern Trust Open successfully in 2009. And for the record, he very nearly went back-to-back last year at that event, getting beat in a playoff after winning here.
I think he's more likely to contend as not and getting his driving sorted could be the key. Here's what he had to say after last week's win.
"I think that sets up the tone for the rest of the year, because I really started to play well, but for me, the rest of the year took a turn on Tuesday when I got my new driver. It just changed my whole deal. The fact that this club is so easy to hit now, I think it's going to change the rest of the year for me. I really do. My iron play has always been the strength of my game, and it was certainly good this week, but to drive it as easily as I did in-play and to have the misses be so much less is going to set up for a very good year, I believe."
Dustin Johnson won this event in both 2009 and 2010 and he absolutely loves Pebble, you just need to look at a few of his tweets this week to see that, "Pebble Beach. #nuffsaid" and "Pebble is gonna be a blast...I already know it!!! #LetsGo" but I just wonder whether the deep, deep scars created by his spectacular collapse at the 2010 US Open, when he shot 82 on day four to blow a three-shot lead, have yet healed. His results here since suggest maybe not. He failed to break 70 and finished down in 55th in 2011 and then last year, after a brilliant 63 to start the tournament, he shot three more rounds in the 70's and finished tied 5th.
Brandt Snedeker has to be respected too, the FedEx Cup holder is in brilliant form having finished runner-up the last two weeks but his event record is ordinary and at the risk of repeating myself, I still think he's hard to get across the line.
I was absolutely distraught at missing Lefty's win last week but I have to look at his chance this week objectively and I think I have. Win or lose, I fancy he's a fraction bigger than he should be and I've backed him at 8.88/1.
Second up is Aaron Baddeley, who I nearly backed last week. Much has already been written about his course and current form this week and he's understandably been tipped up by a number of very good judges but I have another reason for backing him, besides his obviously liking of the tournament (top-six finish last two years). He had a very long spell off at the end of last year to look after his two young daughters while his wife endured a difficult pregnancy.
First son, Jeremiah, arrived safely in December and he could well be the reason for the upturn in Badds form. I've mentioned Keith Elliott's 'Nappy Factor' theory before and this could be another example.
Paul Krishnamurty tips up Jason Kokrak in his Find Me A 100 Winner column and I've given my reasons for backing him here in our each way piece. Betfair now offers fixed odds with each way terms and they're going six places! That's enough to tempt a win-only merchant like me even!
My final pick is Scott Langley who was the 'other one' at the Sony Open. He missed the cut here last year but finished tied 16th in the US Open at Pebble in 2010 to share low amateur honours with guess who? His mate Russell Henley, the man who finished two places ahead of him when winning the Sony in Hawaii last month.
I'll be back on Thursday or Friday with the In-Play Blog.