The Punter

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Course form key on the Californian coast

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach is the host venue for this week's PGA Tour event

The PGA Tour visits the iconic Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and our man's back with his detailed preview here...

  • Greens In Reg the key stat

  • Course form king at Pebble

  • Outsiders often worth chancing


Tournament History

Originally named the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur and first staged in 1937 the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been in existence for 86 years. The Crosby name was dropped from the title in 1985, eight years after Bing's death and a year before long-time sponsors, AT&T, began their association.

Format

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.

Venue

Pebble Beach (host course), par 72, 6972 yards, stroke average in 2022 - 70.76
Spyglass Hill par 72, 7041 yards, stroke average in 2022 - 72.18
Monterey Peninsula, par 71, 6957 yards, stroke average in 2022 - 70.1

The host course, Pebble Beach, needs no introduction to most keen golf fans. This iconic seaside links has hosted the US Open six times and the PGA Championship once. It isn't a long course and it's not a tough driving test either. The fairways are largely generous, and the course's defence is its small greens, and of course, the weather.

18th at Pebble Beach.jpg

Spyglass differs from the other two venues in that it's largely tree-lined and although it's often the toughest of the three, as it's more sheltered than the other two courses, it can be a good place to play on a windy day.

Monterey is the most generous of the three courses used 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.

The greens at all three venues are Poa annua, as they were at Torrey Pines last week, and all three were set to run at 12 feet on the Stimpmeter 12 months ago.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days starting at 16:30 UK time on Thursday.

Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2022 - Tom Hoge -19 75.074/1
2021 - Daniel Berger -18 17.016/1
2020 - Nick Taylor -19 210.0209/1
2019 - Phil Mickelson -19 36.035/1
2018 - Ted Potter Jr -17 850.0849/1
2017 - Jordan Spieth -19 10.09/1
2016 - Vaughn Taylor -17 960.0959/1

What Will it Take to Win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am?

What you do off the tee in this event is largely irrelevant.

The average Driving Accuracy ranking of the last 16 winners is only 38.31 and the average Driving Distance ranking for the last 16 victors is 35.16.

It doesn't make an awful lot of difference where your drives finish up but where your second shot lands tends to be key.

Last year's winner, Tom Hoge, ranked seventh for Greens In Regulation and the average GIR ranking for the last 16 winners is 5.31.

As many as 14 of the last 16 winners have ranked inside the top-nine for greens hit.

The 2021 winner, Daniel Berger, ranked only 18th for Strokes Gained Putting and 29th for Putting Average which is as poor as it gets here. In the previous 15 editions, the worst Putting Average ranking of any winner had been 16th (Brandt Snedeker in 2016 and Dustin Johnson in 2009), and Hoge's numbers were much more typical last year. He ranked second for PA and third for SGP.

Is There an Angle In?

It stands to reason that given Pebble Beach is a links-style course and that it's perched alongside the ocean, that Open Championship form stands up well here. When Jordan Spieth followed his victory here with success at Royal Birkdale in 2017 he became the third different AT&T winner to also win the Open Championship this century. The five-time winner, Phil Mickelson, is also an Open champion and something of a links specialist and a number of recent winners have a cracking record in the world's oldest Major Championship.

Wind is nearly always a factor here so players that play well in blustery conditions prosper but at this early stage, we look set for a benign week before the wind picks up on Sunday.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Hoge was a popular 75.074/1 shot last year but it's unusual to see someone win at that sort of price. Most years, the winners seem to be either straight out of the top drawer or virtually impossible to spot!

Hoge wins AT&T.jpg

Daniel Berger was a well-fancied 16/1 shot in 2021 but two of the last seven winners have been matched at 1000.0999/1 before the off and the 2020 winner, Nick Taylor, was also a huge long-shot so taking a chance on a wild outsider or two may well play handsomely but it might still be worth sticking to a few rules...

Nick Taylor, a Canadian, was only the fourth overseas winner in the event's entire history, Americans have an incredibly strong record and course form stands up really well.

Course form and course experience counts for plenty.

Having finished 12th in 2021, when woefully out of form, Hoge had course form in the bag and as unfathomable as they were to find, those last three huge outsiders to win the event all had a bit of event form.

Nick Taylor had finished 10th back in 2017 and the 2016 winner, Vaughn Taylor, had finished inside the top-ten 12 months earlier. The other 999/1 winner, Ted Potter Jr, had finished 16th in 2013, before winning five years later.

Course form can be overplayed some weeks but not at this event.

It's sometimes hard to convince yourself to take a shorter price than players usually trade at because of a bit of previous event form but it's worth it here. Year after year the same faces contend, the leaderboard always has a familiar look to it and multiple event winners are common.

A total of 13 men have won the tournament more than once and Spieth arguably should have made it 14 last year when he was matched at a low of 1.331/3 on the back nine on Sunday.

Jordan Spieth AT&T WIN.JPG

Brett Ogle is the only debutant winner.

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2022 - Tom Hoge - tied for the lead 6.611/2
2021 - Daniel Berger - T2nd - trailing by two 7.413/2
2020 - Nick Taylor led by a stroke 2.915/8
2019 - Phil Mickelson solo 2nd - trailing by three 6.611/2
2018 - Ted Potter Jr - tied for the lead 14.013/1
2017 - Jordan Spieth led by six strokes 1.141/7
2016 - Vaughn Taylor - T9th - trailing by six 200.0199/1

In-Play Tactics

In addition to Vaughn Taylor, who 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 but like many a tournament played on a links course, if the weather is kind, being up with the pace is very often the place to be.

The last two US Open winners at Pebble, Gary Woodland and Graeme McDowell, were both in front at halfway and no more than three off the lead after round one, and Tiger Woods famously powered to a wire-to-wire 15-stroke victory here in the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach.

Phil Mickelson (twice), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and the 2020 winner, Nick Taylor, have all won this event wire-to-wire in the last 17 years, last year's winner, Hoge, led by a stroke after round one and 16 of the last 19 winners have all been within three strokes of the lead after the first round.

If you're betting in-running on Sunday, things get tough after the first seven holes. The par four eighth was the hardest hole on the course last year (averaging 4.56 in round four) and it kicks off a tough stretch until the par four 15th.

Be very wary of the par five 14th hole, as it's far from a certain birdie hole. The market tends to assume players will pick up a shot there, but it always averages over-par and only eight players birdied it in round four last year. There were 16 bogeys and two doubles there.

Market Leaders

Having signed off 2022 with a fifth in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and having kicked off 2023 with a seventh placed finish in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, it's not entirely surprising to see the world number ten, Matthew Fitzpatrick, the highest ranked player in the field, at the head of the market.

Last year's US Open winner finished 12th at Pebble Beach in the 2019 US Open and he has improving event for figures reading MC-60-6.

Fitzpatrick is a fantastic links player but he needs to overcome the appalling record of overseas players (only four non-Americans in the event's 86 year history) and become the first Englishman to take the title.

The same applied for the world number 11, Norway's Victor Hovland, who's appearing in the tournament for only the second time.

Hovland finished 38th back in 2020, seven months after he'd finished 12th in the US Open at Pebble.

This the first time we've seen Victor since his lacklustre 18th in the Sentry TOC at the start of the year and I'm happy to swerve him.

The original favourite when the market first opened, Jordan Spieth, has drifted over the last day or so and I can see why.

Punters will be put off by his missed cut last time out in the Sony Open after he'd led the way after round one but he's drifted to a reasonable price given his great record in the event and that there's a distinct lack of field depth below him.

Next up in the betting is Maverick McNealy, who should perhaps be more aptly named McNearly given he's finished inside the top-five eight times without winning on any Tour.

He has event form figures reading MC-5-2-33, and he was seventh in the Sony Open before finishing 31st in the Farmers Insurance Open last week, which will go someway to explaining the 22.021/1 he currently trades at but that looks woefully short to me.

The defending champ, Tom Hoge, was third in the Sentry TOC but he was 41st in the Sony and 32nd in The American Express, so he looks short and so too does Seamus Power, who was only ninth last year after leading by five at halfway.

Selection

I'll have a look at the outsiders in the Find Me a 100 Winner column later today but for now I'm going with just one selection - the 2017 winner, Jordan Spieth.

I'm not going to pretend that his missed cut at the Sony was anything but worrying for the former world number one but he has event form figures that read an impressive 22-4-7-21-1-20-45-9-3-2.

Spieth traded at odds-on 12 months ago having come into the event with 2022 form figures reading 21-MC and he's even contended at Pebble when deep in the midst of his major slump.

Spieth has won twice since the major drop off in form following his Open Championship win in 2017 - at the Texas Open in 2021 and at the RBC Heritage last year - and as he demonstrated last year. he's nothing but brave.

I fancy Spieth to bounce back after his weekend off in Hawaii and I'm happy to play him at 14.5.

Selection:
Jordan Spieth @ 14.5

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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