The Tour makes their 87th trip to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am:
This event will feature rounds at Spyglass Hill GC, Monterey Peninsula CC and Pebble Beach Golf Links. The cut comes after Saturday with each player getting 1 round at each course. After the cut is made, the final round will feature each player playing at Pebble Beach GL for a second time. This is also a Pro-Am and each player will be paired with an Amateur.
While it’s a historic tournament with a great tradition and I generally really like Pebble Beach and Spyglass, this is not one of my personal favorite events of the year. As a statistician, I’m not a fan of events that play more than one course because the Tour only keeps ShotLink data on one course. As a competitive golfer, my dislike is that weather can influence performance and players that get on a certain course at a certain time could greatly benefit due to sheer luck.
The rounds are very long since it’s a Pro-Am each day. You’re looking a 6+ hour rounds and with the players between 3 courses, it’s hard to get to see the players you want. Television loves to stick to the name players anyway, but it’s not uncommon at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the leader thru 3 rounds almost get zero coverage because of how the event is formatted.
Typically when I go to Tour events I go on Tuesday because your regular Tour event has a pro-am on Monday and Wednesday (Wednesday is the bigger pro-am event). That way I can talk with my clients without them having to focus on the pro-am event and the obligations they have to give time to their amateur partners. I know at Bay Hill, the amateur pays $8k to play in the Wednesday pro-am.
But watching these Wednesday pro-ams are painful. Lots of amateurs that have no shot of breaking 100 on a course with thick rough, super slick green, lots of water and forced carries. As a spectator, you have to watch out because the ball may just go anywhere when the amateur is playing. The PB Pro-Am used to generate my interest because the celebrities were interesting and likeable people such as Jack Lemmon and Clint Eastwood. Now the event revolves around Bill Murray, who is brilliant, but not always the most likeable celebrity.
So for the Tour players, this is either an event you look forward to because of the courses and the tradition or it’s an event that you begrudgingly play in because you need to get into any event you can or the courses fit your game to a tee.
One major thing is that Pebble Beach is vastly different than when they set it up for the US Open. For instance, the tee on the 17th is moved about 40 yards forward for the Tour pros in this event compared to the US Open. The main complaint I’ve heard from golfers about Pebble Beach is that it has the great holes and everything else is rather pedestrian. I’ve never played Pebble Beach, but from looking at it on Google Earth, I like the design because as long as it avoids poorly designed holes, I see that as the natural ebb and flow of a course. Not every hole on a course is going to be spectacular and when you throw some ordinary looking designed holes it helps emphasize the great holes even more.
Anyway, Pebble features some of the smallest greens on Tour. There’s not a lot of reason to fire at flags because the green complexes are only about 3,000 square feet compared to modern courses that are closer to 6,000+ square feet. The greens at Pebble also are the slowest with the most severe contours and that brings the make percentages way down. It’s one of the few courses where good putters tend to have an advantage. The reason for Dustin Johnson’s success here despite not being a great putter is that he putts more effectively on slower greens, even if they have severe contours.
As great as the 18th hole is, it’s not a ‘critical hole’ at Pebble. The last critical hole comes on the tricky par-5 14th hole.
Projected Winning Score: -19
Dustin Johnson +550
Jason Day +1,000
Jordan Spieth +1,100
Gary Woodland +2,500
Paul Casey +2,800
Phil Mickelson +2,800
3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS
Matt Kuchar +3,300
Patrick Reed +3,500
Kevin Kisner +5,000
Aaron Wise +15,000
Chris Stroud +25,000