The PGA Tour returns to California this week for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Read our man's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday start here...
"Reavie has a habit of holding his form, he’s currently inside the top-25 ranked players on poa annua and he ranks third for Par 4 performance on the PGA Tour and 12th for GIR, so he looks like a great statistical fit."
Originally named the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur and first staged in 1937, this will be the 77th edition of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The Crosby name was dropped from the title in 1985, a year before long-time sponsors, AT&T began their association.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National is a pro-am staged over the three courses detailed below. They're played in rotation over the first three days before a cut is made and the top-60 and ties fight out the finish at Pebble Beach on Sunday.
Pebble Beach (host course), par 72, 6816 yards, stroke average in 2017 - 71.9
Spyglass Hill par 72, 6953 yards, stroke average in 2017 - 72.2
Monterey Peninsula, par 71, 6867 yards, stroke average in 2017 - 71.26
The host course, Pebble Beach, needs no introduction to most keen golf fans. This iconic seaside links has hosted the US Open five times and the PGA Championship once. It isn't a long course. In fact, it's usually the shortest course used on the PGA Tour rota and it's not a tough driving test - the fairways are largely generous and the course's defence is it's small greens, and of course, the weather. Pebble celebrates its centenary next year when it will again host the US Open.
Spyglass differs from the other two venues in that it's largely tree-lined and although it's usually the toughest of the three, if you get drawn to play there on a windy day you've had a result.
Monterey is the usually the most generous of the three (although that wasn't the case last year) and that's usually where the best scores are made. The greens are slightly bigger than those at Spyglass and twice the size of the ones at Pebble and the greens are usually set up slightly faster than at the other two courses.
The greens at all three venues are poa annua, as they were at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago.
Live on Sky Sports all four days with Featured Groups coverage scheduled for 16:00 on Thursday and Friday and that may well be the best time to watch. The main coverage for the first three days often focusses on 'celebrities' and wealthy businessmen hacking their way around and at times it's almost unwatchable.
Last Five Winners
2017 - Jordan Spieth -19
2016 - Vaughn Taylor -17
2015 - Brandt Snedeker -22
2014 - Jimmy Walker -11
2013 - Brandt Snedeker -19
What Will it Take to Win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am?
Last year's winner, Jordan Spieth, drove the ball quite well - ranking 25th for Driving Distance and 14th for Driving Accuracy - but what you do off the tee in this event is largely irrelevant. The average ranking for distance off the tee over the last 12 years is 39.25 and the average DA ranking is 40.5.
Spieth ranked third for Greens In Regulation, the runner-up, Kelly Kraft, ranked first and the average GIR ranking of the last 12 winners is 13.08 so it's a key stat but that figure changes significantly if you take out the 2006 winner, Aaron Oberholser, whose victory came courtesy of some brilliant putting and scrambling. He ranked just 76 for GIR but nine of the last 12 winners have ranked inside the top-six for greens hit.
Spieth ranked second on the dancefloors last year and the worst Putting Average ranking of any winner in the last 12 years is just 16th (Brandt Snedeker in 2016 and Dustin Johnson in 2009) so performing on the greens is essential but the best stat to peruse is Par 4 performance. The last two winners have played the par fours better than anyone else and the worst any winner has ranked on them is 25th (Johnson in '09 again) but the other 11 winners all ranked seventh or better.
Is There an Angle In?
When Spieth followed his victory here with success at Royal Birkdale in July he became the third AT&T winner to also win the Open Championship this century and a number of recent winners have a cracking record in the world's oldest Major Championship. That makes sense given Pebble Beach is a links track so look to fine links exponents and it also makes sense that great wind players prosper also - although at this very early stage, it doesn't look like we'll be getting much wind this week, apart from on Saturday, so the best angle-in could be to concentrate on those that putt well on the unique poa annua.
The PGA Tour website has a myriad of stats available, covering all sorts of weird and wonderful things, but none of them highlight how players perform on different grass types but thankfully Josh Culp's excellent website, futureoffantasy.com, covers it.
The two-time AT&T Pebble-Beech winner, Dustin Johnson, currently ranks number one, Jason Day, who won on Poa two weeks ago and who has form figures here reading 6-14-46-6-MC-4-11-5, sits second, and last year's champ, Spieth, ranks third so it's a list that looks well worth paying attention to.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Without a victory in 11 years, the 2016 winner, Vaughn Taylor, was undoubtedly the biggest shock winner in the tournament's history. He was a [1000.0] shot before the off and he was still trading at [200.0] with a round to go but that result looks a like an anomaly.
It was business as usual when second favourite, Spieth, won easily last year and the winners here are usually fairly well-fancied. And they're more often the not, American.
Spieth was the 13th US winner in-a-row and there's only ever been three overseas winners in the event's entire 76 year history.
Just about the only clue to Taylor's victory was his top-10 finish in 2015 because course form stands up really well. A total of 13 men have won the tournament more than once and Brett Ogle is the only debutant winner.
With the event staged over three different courses we don't really get a clear picture until the end of round three but a fast start is certainly not essential.
Spieth sat tied for fourth and just one off the lead after round one last year and he was never headed after that but it's perfectly possible to win from off the pace. Taylor was seven adrift after the opening round in 2016 and Mickelson managed to win having been nine off the lead after day one in 2012! And it's not unusual to see winners still off the pace with a round to go either.
In addition to Taylor, who still trailed by six through 54 holes, we've also seen Tiger Woods win from five strokes adrift, Phil Mickelson six, and in 2001, Davis Love III won from seven back.
If you're betting in-running on Sunday, be very wary of the par five 14th hole, as it's far from a certain birdie hole.
It averaged below par (4.98) 12 months ago but it had a big say in the outcome yet again two years ago with Mickelson, Johan Blixt and Freddie Jacobson, who finished second, third and fourth, all making bogey there. There were 13 birdies and an eagle there in round four last year but only seven birdies in 2016 when it ranked as the fourth hardest hole on the course and in the 2010 renewal it caused absolute carnage. Three players recorded a nine there during round four, including Paul Goydos, who was bang in-contention at the time.
A par five is a very acceptable score on the hole but as the long holes are usually a chance to score, the market often assumes otherwise.
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast as when you play certain courses makes a very big difference.
In the 2014 renewal, Jordan Spieth was tied for the lead at halfway but he was the only one of the leaders playing a windy Pebble in round three and it completely scuppered his chances. Pebble is very exposed and when the wind blows hard, scoring is really tough there and by Sunday Spieth's chance had gone after a disastrous 78 around the host course.
The very early forecast suggests Saturday could be far and away the breeziest day of the four so playing Pebble in round three may be disadvantageous and tree-lined Spyglass might be the best place to play in round three.
World number one, Dustin Johnson, is something of a standing dish around Pebble. He's already won the tournament twice and he has event form figures that read an impressive 7-1-1-55-5-MC-2-4-41-3 but it might be noteworthy that he hasn't won here since his infamous US Open collapse in 2010. DJ strikes me as the type to brush off any negativity but he was four clear and odds-on before firing 82 in round four in 2010 and it must be impossible to forget such a disaster.
A slow start severely hampered his chances is Abu Dhabi three weeks ago but he was mightily impressive at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks before that when winning with ease and he's very much the worthy favourite.
World number two, Jon Rahm, was fifth on debut 12 months ago and only last month he won a Californian Pro-Am - the CareerBuilder Challenge. He's also a winner of the Irish Open on a links track and he's clearly a strong contender but I wasn't entirely impressed with his performance in Phoenix last week on a track he knows intimately and I'm happy to swerve him here.
I like to see a player attack the course and go for everything - especially when in with a chance - and Rahm most certainly did that last weekend but I'm not convinced he played especially well given his incredible talent and it didn't take long for him to become incredibly frustrated. I wouldn't be surprised if he rocked up and won in a canter but this will be his fifth start in six weeks and he may just be ready for a break.
Rory McIlroy is playing in the event for the first time and he didn't exactly impress in the US Open of 2010 - missing the cut with rounds of 75 and 77 - so on those considerations alone I'm happy to leave him out. He played well in Abu Dhabi (as he invariably does) on his first start of the year without winning and he contended strongly at the Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago, where he traded at around [1.5] before losing. He's a winner of the Open Championship but he doesn't appear in the list of top-25 poa annua putters at present and he's the easiest of the market leaders to dismiss.
Jason Day is harder to dismiss given he finished fourth here after winning the Farmers Insurance Open for the first time in 2015 and he's since finished 11th and fifth here after two missed cuts at Torrey Pines. He's been known to hold his form nicely and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him double-up after his playoff win against Alex Noren in the Farmers two weeks ago.
Defending champ, Jordan Spieth, hasn't putted well in some time but he reached a new low in Phoenix last week when averaging 1.89 putts per green when missing out on weekend employment. A return to Poa may well see him improve dramatically in that department and nobody hit more greens than him in either of the two events in Hawaii last month. Last week's missed cut will have stung the Open champ and defending champ and he's going to be fired up to get going again but the cold putter is most definitely a concern.
A star name often takes the title but caution is advised before the draw is published. If the weather forecast doesn't change or the outlook for Saturday worsens, then playing one of the fancied players might be risky. The organisers tend to shape the draw so that the top players play consecutive rounds around Pebble on the weekend and if they do so again and Saturday ends up being really blustery, the current market leaders could get the worst of the draw.
Wary of the draw and weather forecast, I'm not prepared to invest much at this stage but I'm happy to play two for small stakes - Chez Reavie and Shane Lowry.
Reavie played well on Sunday and he was arguably unlucky to bump in to a red-hot Gary Woodland but he can contend again here and maybe gain some immediate compensation for his playoff defeat, despite not having fabulous course form to boast. Reavie has a habit of holding his form, he's currently inside the top-25 ranked players on poa annua and he ranks third for Par 4 performance on the PGA Tour and 12th for GIR, so he looks like a great statistical fit.
Lowry hasn't set the world alight on the PGA Tour this year, with a missed cut at Torrey Pines and a 65th placed-finish in the Phoenix Open on Sunday, but he's a great links exponent and poa annua putter and he was in-form before Christmas. His tournament form figures read 21-41-14 and I thought he was just worth chancing at [95.0]
Chez Reavie @ [75.0]
Shane Lowry @ [95.0]
I'll be back tomorrow with my ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth preview.
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