AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Preview

            The PGA Tour returns to California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. However, this year there will be no amateurs due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is not the only change to the event. Normally, there is a three-course rotation and a cut after 54 holes. This year will only feature two courses, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course and will have a cut after 36 holes. The third course, Monterey Peninsula which has traditionally played the easiest will not be played this year. Pebble Beach has been extended slightly from 6800 yards to 7,051 yards. Spyglass also measures just above 7,000 yards. Both courses play as a Par 72 and features four Par 5s, ten Par 4s, and four Par 3s. Both courses feature Poa Annua greens, and putting will be a factor this week. Weather will come into play this week with wind and rain in the forecast.

Recent winners of this event are Nick Taylor, Phil Mickelson, Ted Potter Jr, Jordan Spieth, and Vaughn Taylor. One takeaway from this group is that the winner has either had relatively short odds, or extremely long odds. Course history will be very important this week. In an article posted earlier this week I highlight a trend that shows how important course history has been at this event. You can find that article here.

By reviewing the scorecards of previous winners, I was able to determine key stats to focus on this week. Over the last five years, the winners have average 23.7 birdies. Scoring will be important this week, especially on the Par 5s. The last five winners have scored on 55% of the Par 5s throughout the tournament. Par 4 Scoring will also be important. Out of the 195 total Par 4s that the previous five winners have played, there has been a birdie on 61 of them (31.28%). Pebble Beach is very well-designed and it is not a course that gives an edge to long drivers. The key to success here is being in the fairway, and hitting greens. Scrambling to save Par will also be critical this week. This leads to a larger emphasis on short game, and accurate players. Pebble Beach has some of the smallest greens on Tour, which means Iron-play and approach will be extremely important.

Correlated courses I looked at this week were Harbour Town, Colonial Country Club, and the Stadium Course at PGA West. These courses host RBC Heritage, Charles Schwab Challenge, and American Express respectively. RBC Heritage is a good comparison to the Pebble because it is coastal, features small greens, and requires a solid short game to win. Colonial is another good comparison because the winners of this event have battled the wind, and needed to be sharp with their irons. PGA West is the last comparison I used, because the American Express is a very similar setup. It’s usually a Pro-Am, and this year there was a two-course rotation. PGA West is the harder of the two courses, is a California course, and also has small greens.

Key Stats: Approach, Tee-to-Green, Putting, Putting Average, Scrambling, Greens-in-Regulation, Driving Accuracy, Good Drives Percentage, and 3 Putt Avoidance

Scoring: Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage

Pebble Beach Tips

Daniel Berger 18-1 (DraftKings)

          Following Dustin Johnson’s WD, Berger’s number moved to 14-1. I tweeted out the play on Berger immediately after DJ withdrew, so hopefully people were able to get on this number. Daniel Berger let a lot of people down last week when he missed the cut on the number. The last two winners on the PGA Tour (Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka) won their event, a week after they missed a cut. Berger won at Colonial in 2020, and finished T3rd at RBC Heritage. He’s played well at the American Express in the past finishing, T29th and T12th in 2020 and 2019. Berger has only played at Pebble Beach twice, finishing 10th in 2015, and 5th last year.

Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Berger ranks: 16th in Approach, 3rd Tee-to-Green, 6th in Putting, 10th in Putting Average, 1st in Scrambling, 1st in Birdie or Better Percentage, 4th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 1st in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage. Berger could realistically be the favorite here without DJ, and 18-1 is looking like a steal.

Brian Harman 70-1 (DraftKings)

            I tweeted out the play on Brian Harman about two hours before Dustin Johnson withdrew. When I woke up this morning and checked, DraftKings had moved him all the way down to 45-1. If you got in early, this is an amazing number for an extremely consistent player. Harman was a guy I wrote up two weeks ago at the American Express. In such a weak field, I couldn’t get myself off of him. Harman finished T8th two weeks ago finishing -14. Over his three rounds on the Stadium Course at PGA West, Harman was -10. Harman has played well at the other correlated courses in the past, with two Top 30 finishes in his last three tries at the RBC Heritage. At the Charles Schwab Challenge the last three years, Harman has finished: T23rd, T31st, and T14th.

In this field, Harman ranks: 15th Tee-to-Green, 18th in Putting, 1st in Putting Average, 4th in Scrambling, 7th in 3 Putt Avoidance, 17th in Birdie-or-Better Percentage, and 15th in Par 4 Birdie-or-Better Percentage. In a weak field, Harman is one of the better players and getting a big number on a guy who has real win equity without Dustin Johnson in the field.

Matt Jones 66-1 (DraftKings)

            Matt Jones has been playing good golf recently, and has had success at this course before. Two weeks ago, Jones finished T21st at the American Express which is an encouraging sign. Over the last 8 tournaments, in this field Jones ranks: 25th in Greens-in-Regulation, 8th in Putting, 9th in Putting Average, 11th in Approach, 21st Tee-to-Green, and 3rd in Par 5 Birdie-or-Better Percentage. If Jones continues playing at this level, he can find himself with a high finish in this field. Jones will look to find the course form he had last year when he finished T5th. In 2017, Jones finished T23rd and in 2016 he finished T11th. Three Top 25s in his last three appearances at this course is enough for me to buy into the Australian this week.

Russell Knox 90-1 (Fanduel)

            Knox is a very volatile golfer and certainly has missed cut potential. However, based on the betting board, Knox is the 36th most likely to win. That’s probably the lowest he’s been in a field in a long time. Knox has played well at the American Express where he’s finished T16th, T37th, and T18th. His T16th finish two weeks ago, saw Knox shoot -9 on the Stadium Course at PGA West, where he gained almost 5 strokes on approach. If he can bring similar Approach-play this week he should have success. In 2019 and 2018, Knox finished T8th and T20th at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Knox has played Pebble Beach three times. Knox missed the cut last year, but the two years prior he recorded a T14th and T15th finish. In this field, Knox ranks: 11th in Approach, 14th in Greens-in-Regulation, 22nd Tee-to-Green, and 9th in Scrambling. There are some positive signs that Knox will have a good week, and if he can dial up the irons and live on the greens, he can be hunting for his first win since 2016.

Chesson Hadley 250-1 (DraftKings)

            We’ve seen winners here come at huge odds. Nick Taylor won last year at 160-1, Ted Potter won at 500-1, and Vaughn Taylor won at 300-1. In such a weak field, I was hunting for at least one big number this week. Hadley had success at Pebble Beach a few years ago. Hadley has scoring upside, and with such a wide-open event I think it makes sense to shoot my shot with a guy who can make birdies. In 2018, Hadley finished 7th at the RBC Heritage. The last three years at Charles Schwab Challenge, Hadley has finished: T23rd, T31st, and T20th. The last three years at Pebble Beach, Hadley has finished T18th, Missed Cut, and T35th. However, in 2014/2015 Hadley recorded back-to-back Top 10 finishes at Pebble.

In this field, Hadley ranks: 14th in Approach, 17th in Accuracy, 19th in Putting Average, 10th in Good Drive Percentage, 11th Greens-in-Regulation, 1st in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 2nd in Birdie or Better Percentage. When looking at such long odds, missed cuts will always be a potential outcome. However, there is more than enough of scoring upside for Hadley that I believe he can find a high finish, or possibly win it all.

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