The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: High wind will prompt fun or delays at Pebble Beach

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Wyndham Clark won the US Open at LA CC and was back on fire in California on Saturday

We've reached the 54-hole of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - Matt Cooper stands in for Steve with his latest in-play thoughts for the final round...

  • Sunday weather forecast is for high wind

  • Clark hits the front after superb 60

  • Aberg chasing biggest career win

11.15 - February 4, 2024

Matt Cooper here, stepping in for the final instalment of this week's In-Play Blog, and first role is that of weatherman for the fourth and concluding round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

"The wind is our biggest concern right now for safety," the Tour's chief referee Gary Young said yesterday. "I think we've made pretty good adjustments to green speeds that we could probably keep balls at rest up until about 40 mph. Once we get north of that it's going to be pretty difficult. If we get those rain amounts I'm talking about, that will probably play into the decision as well."

The trouble is that 60 mph is predicted and so is up to three inches of rain. Play could be completed on Monday but with a rider. Young added: "We would have to start play on Monday by 10:15 a.m. at the latest in order to complete play."

He's the 54-hole leaderboard and prices to back at 11.00.

Wyndham Clark -17 3.39/4
Ludvig Åberg -16 3.711/4
Matthieu Pavon -15 10.09/1
Mark Hubbard -14 24.023/1
Thomas Detry -14 22.021/1
Jason Day -13 23.022/1
Scottie Scheffler -13 13.012/1
Justin Thomas -13 16.015/1
Tom Hoge -13 44.043/1
Sam Burns -12 55.054/1

-11 and 110.0109/1 bar

History tells us that being first or second at this stage matters. 10 of the last 11 tournament winners were in that position and so, too, was the 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland at Pebble Beach.

Clark and Aberg had superb 2023s so ought to be full of confidence. Clark nearly won at a blustery Bermuda Championship and he also won last year's US Open in California. Aberg is just very good. But those prices and that weather forecast will make many twitchy (unless you think no further play will take place ... ).

Davis Love III won this event from seven shots back in 2001 and Vaughn Taylor was six back when he won eight years ago. So final round fight backs can be completed here and these might be just the conditions which prompt another one.

Clark was impressive with a sniff last year, converting two leads into wins. It was all the more impressive because he'd been top five with 18 holes to play 10 times on the PGA Tour ahead of the first win and only improved his position on the leaderboard once (when losing a play-off in Bermuda).

His individual record with a 54-hole lead is 2-for-3 (he and his partner slipped backwards in last year's New Orleans pairs event). Can he ride the wave of his sensational third round 60 or will that be difficult to back up?

In his brief career Aberg won the European Masters when one back and second at this stage then he converted a one shot advantage in the RSM Classic. His best opportunity in a big event - remember this week is an elite field signature event - was when two clear after three rounds of the BMW PGA Championship. He carded a Sunday 76 and fell back.

Thoughts on a few others: Pavon is on fire right now and aiming to back-to-back on the Californian cliff tops, Hubbard has done little in high wind, Detry is still yet to win on any first tier tour, Day has long term back problems which the weather might affect, Hoge was the 2022 champion of this event and Scheffler has struggled off the tee and around the greens this week.

Justin Thomas said at the start of this week that the guaranteed four rounds (there is no cut) was a win in itself after missing the cut in his only previous event start and also at the 2019 US Open. He appears to have his head in a good place regards contending with the bumpy greens this week and he did post one of the great wind rounds back in May 2022.

It was the second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and his 67 gained six strokes on his half of the draw. He's talked this week of how getting into contention in The American Express was valuable because he hadn't done much of it recently.

His last three starts have come in five months so he's lightly-raced but the first was in California on Poa at Silverado, then at Gary Player CC in South Africa, and finally last month back in California at The Amex.

I'm adding Thomas at 16.015/1.

09:50 - February 2, 2024

The third round of the Bahrain Championship is underway and live on Sky Sports and it's been quite a grind so far. The wind is up again, everyone's struggling, and it's a fascinating but wide-open event.

Over on the PGA Tour, the 80-strong field has reached the halfway stage of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am so here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:45.

Scottie Scheffler -11 3.613/5
Ludvig Aberg -11 6.05/1
Thomas Detry -11 16.015/1
Patrick Cantlay -10 8.07/1
Justin Thomas -9 12.011/1
Matthieu Pavon -9 27.026/1
Emiliano Grillo -9 32.031/1
Beau Hossler -8 36.035/1
Keegan Bradley -8 38.037/1
Collin Morikawa -7 32.031/1
Matt Fitzpatrick -7 44.043/1
-7 and 55.054/1 bar

The Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been elevated to Signature Event status this year so we've gone from three courses to just two with Monterey Peninsula being dropped from the rota.

There's no cut now and after the field has played one round around Pebble Beach and one around Spyglass Hill, the remainder of the tournament will be played out around the host course, Pebble, but when that will be is anyone's guess looking at the forecast.

With only light winds predicted, today is going to be the day to make hay and with placing on the fairways in operation we can expect another day of low scoring but tomorrow looks absolutely horrendous.

With wind gusts of up to 70 mph accompanied by constant rain in the forecast, I'll be surprised if they even attempt to play round four before Monday.

If that's the case, the leaders are going to be advantaged as the forecast for Monday doesn't look too bad now and it's always hard to make up ground in benign conditions but we're just going to have to wait and see how the weather pans out.

After a brilliant eight-under-par 64 around Pebble yesterday, the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, is most definitely the one they all have to beat - if his putter continues to behave.

After two rounds, Scheffler ranks 13th for Putting Average and sixth for Strokes Gained: Putting and that's a big improvement on recent efforts but can we trust him to keep it going over the next two rounds?

Although extremely disappointed by his very sloppy double-bogey at his final hole around Spyglass yesterday, at four off the lead, pre-event pick, Matt Fitzpatrick, is very much still in the argument and I'm happy to stick with him for now.

I was very tempted by Justin Thomas, who appears to be getting back to somewhere close to his best, but he's never really played well in this event and he might be one to side with over the next couple of weeks.

I'm not around to update the Blog this afternoon or this evening but Matt Cooper will be back tomorrow with a look at the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after three rounds.

18:10 - February 2, 2024

Play was suspended due to fading light at the Bahrain Championship today with the final group yet to finish their second rounds, but it doesn't affect the leaderboard so here's the current state of play with prices to back at 18:00.

Jesper Svensson -9 8.07/1
Dylan Frittelli -9 10.519/2
Joel Girrbach -9 13.012/1
Alejandro Del Rey -8 9.417/2
Harrison Endycott -7 18.017/1
Julien Guerrier -7 18.017/1
Tom Vaillant -7 44.043/1
Jamie Donaldon -7 48.047/1
Ockie Strydom -7 50.049/1
Zander Lombard -6 14.013/1
Niklas Norgaard -6 30.029/1
Scott Jamieson -6 46.045/1
Sebastian Soderberg -5 24.023/1
Bernd Wiesberger -5 40.039/1
Rasmus Hojgaard -4 18.017/1
-5 and 50.049/1 bar

I wrote yesterday that the wind was due to drop after a windy day today, but the forecast has changed and although it's not predicted to be as blustery over the weekend as it was today, it's still going to blow a lot harder than originally predicted so it's a really tough tournament to call.

Today's second round was a perfect example of why predicting results in the wind is so tricky. It doesn't seem to matter how hard it blows, one or two pros always seem to go against the head and manage a decent score.

As many as 13 players managed to break 70 today, Frenchman, Julien Guerrier, posted a five-under-par 67 to move up 36 places into a tie for fifth and Sweden's Jesper Svensson shot an incredible 65 to climb 40 places up into a tie for first. We now have two more days of volatility to look forward to.

Jesper Svensson in Behrain.jpg

As highlighted in the preview, what little evidence we have at this venue suggested that up with the pace is the place to be here, but how much credence we can give that given the weather is debatable.

Svensson heads what is now a wide-open market, but he needs to back up today's brilliance and perform considerably better than he did at the South African Open back in December.

The 30-year-old shot 74-71 over the weekend to be beaten by three, having fired rounds of 68 and 67 over the first two days to lead by a stroke.

It's generally an inexperienced looking leaderboard but one name sticks out like a sore thumb - the PGA Tour winner - Dylan Frittelli.

In addition to winning the John Deere Classic back in 2019, the 33-year-old has won twice on the DP World Tour and the first of his two victories was at the Mauritius Open at the exposed Heritage Golf Club in 2017. He won't mind how windy it gets over the weekend and he's the one to beat for me.

In addition to backing Frittelli, I've also thrown a couple of darts on players just off the pace at halfway - Austria's Bernd Wiesberger and the 39-year-old South African, Ockie Strydom.

Like Frittelli, Wiesberger is a multiple DP World Tour winner seeking to rekindle his career after a fruitless spell on the LIV Tour and Strydom is a very strange character.

After years of underachievement, he won twice on the DP World Tour in the space of two months, and this is the first time he's contended seriously since he won the Singapore Classic from off the pace almost exactly a year ago.

He finished fourth in the Johnson Workwear Open in his homeland in March, but he's missed 18 of 22 cuts since!

11:00 - February 2, 2024

The afternoon starters have begun their second rounds at the Bahrain Championship, and I'll be back late today with a look at that one at the halfway stage.

The plan was to take a hard look at the state of play after the morning wave had finished their second rounds and I did do that but I didn't really like any of those in the house so I'm still sitting on my hands for now.

Over on the PGA Tour, the market struggled to split the world's best two players - Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy - before the off at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am but it looked for a long time yesterday as though the number two, Rory, was going to be the one they all had to beat.

Having started on the 10th at Spyglass, McIlroy raced to six-under-par through 14 holes, and he was matched at a low of 5.59/2 but having received a two-stroke penalty for an incorrect drop on the par five seventh, he played his last four holes in five-over-par and he now trades at 36.035/1!

Soft conditions helped the scoring yesterday, provided fairways were found. As the tournament is now a Signature Event, the rough is higher and tougher than it's been in previous years so with lift, clean and place in operation, finding the short grass off the tee will be key as the week wears on.

Looking at how the two courses played yesterday, Pebble averaged 71 (exactly a stroke under-par) and Spyglass averaged 70.33 (1.67 under-par) so there wasn't much in it.

Thomas Detry and Patrick Cantlay sit first and second after shooting 63 and 64 respectively around Spyglass and last week's surprise winner, Matthieu Pavon, sits alone in third on -7 following a brilliant 65 around the host course - Pebble.

Patrick Cantlay at the AT&T.jpg

Today's weather looks similar to yesterday's so I'd be surprised if there was any sort of draw bias and Saturday is predicted to be an extremely calm day, with the wind predicted to gust at no more than nine MPH, but Sunday looks horrendous, and a Monday finish can't be ruled out.

With all that in mind, this doesn't feel like a tournament to get too involved in at this stage but I have backed two this morning.

Denny McCarthy usually putts better than he did yesterday so his four-under-par 68 around Pebble is a decent start and Kurt Kitayama looks a big price after his opening three-under par around the host course.

Kitayama won't care how blowy it gets and even if the tournament ends on Monday, it's still going to be windy.

17:40 - February 1, 2024

The opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has just started and although it's a bit too early to make any assumptions, Scottie Scheffler's putting woes maybe continuing. He's just three-putted at the opening hole to make a bogey five at Spyglass Hill.

The very early leader is the young Swedish sensation, Ludvig Aberg, who's birdied the first two holes at Spyglass, and I'll be back in the morning with a look at that event once the first round is complete.

Over on the DP World Tour, at the inaugural edition of the Bahrain Championship, the pre-event favourite, Rasmus Hojgaard, has shortened up after a birdie at his penultimate hole and an eagle at his final hole (the ninth) tidied up what was arguably a disappointing day.

In his defence, the young Dane has been feeling unwell for a couple of days but after four birdies in-a-row from the 13th hole this morning to get to -4 after just seven holes, and having been matched at just 3.39/4, he lost his way quite badly, playing his next nine holes in a birdie-free two-over-par.

His great finish saw him post a five-under-par 67 and he trails by three after round one.

No doubt inspired by Matthieu Pavon's sensational victory at Torrey Pines last week, afternoon starter, Tom Vaillant, leads after round one following an immaculate eight-under-par 64 in the afternoon today and it will be interesting to see where the Frenchman stands at halfway.

The wind is predicted to pick up tomorrow, before dropping again over the weekend, so round two is going to be pivotal and anyone that posts a decent score from the morning wave may well be worth getting onside.

The market will favour Hojgaard before he goes out in the afternoon tomorrow but if a few players post a good score in the morning, he may have his work cut out to catch them.

I'm going to look to see if I like the look of anyone that's posted a good score early on tomorrow, before the afternoon wave go out, and I'll update the blog if I do.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Pre-Event Pick:
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 46.045/1

In-Play Picks:
Denny McCarthy @ 65.064/1
Kurt Kitayama @ 160.0159/1

(Matt) Justin Thomas @ 16.015/1

Bahrain Championship Pre-Event Picks:
Rasmus Hojgaard @ 11.010/1
Pablo Larrazabal @ 70.069/1

In-Play Picks:
Dylan Frittelli @ 11.521/2
Bernd Wiesberger @ 40.039/1
Ockie Strydom @ 50.049/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Brandon Stone @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Kevin Yu @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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