AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM: The PGA Tour heads to the lovely Monterey Peninsula this week for the crown jewel of the West Coast Swing: the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, an event that combines the world’s best golfers, celebrity star power, and some of the most iconic courses in the game.
It’s a pro-am, of course, so players will join their amateur partners for three rounds before the field is cut down to 60 and ties prior to Sunday’s final round. As usual, the tournament will utilize a three-course rotation, with the groups alternating between Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course for the first three rounds before all the action moves to Pebble Beach on Sunday. Monterey Peninsula is generally the easiest of the three while Spyglass is the toughest– something to keep in mind when betting this event in-play– but the showcase course, as always, will be Pebble Beach, the oceanside links that has hosted this event since its inception back in 1947, when it was known as the Bing Crosby Clam Bake. Pebble has also played host to five U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship, and the U.S. Open is scheduled to return twice more in the next decade– in 2019 and again in 2027.
Scoring is always fairly low in this tournament, which is partly due to the amateur-friendly setup over the first three rounds. But the pins will be tucked on Sunday, and if the wind picks up Pebble can be an absolute bear. That being said, all three courses measure fewer than 7,000 yards– quite short by Tour standards– so the players will spend a lot of time with short irons and wedges in their hands, and we won’t have to limit our selections to the bombers this week.
Jordan Spieth is back to defend his title and is currently trading at 13.5 at BETDAQ– short, but not quite as short as Dustin Johnson (7.2), Jon Rahm (12.0), or Jason Day (13.0). Rory McIlroy (14.5) joins those four atop the market, so to call this field “top-heavy” might be a bit of an understatement. That said, players like Vaughn Taylor, D.A. Points, and Steve Lowery have managed to win here over the past decade, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a long-odds type.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Phil Mickelson (35.0)- I know, I know: Mickelson is well past his prime and hasn’t won on Tour since 2013 (can that be right?!?! Indeed it is). But by most people’s standards he had a good year in 2017, logging four top-10s and twelve top-25s, and he played extremely well last week, closing with rounds of 65-66-69 to tie for fifth in Phoenix, so it’s not like the game has passed him by. He’s still longer than most, he still turns heads with his iron play, and his putter– always a question– was hot last week. If he’s ever going to win again, it may come here– Mickelson’s record in this event is unparalleled, with four victories and a host of top-10s. He traditionally plays his best golf out West, but there’s just something about this tournament that suits him, whether it’s the ample room off the tee at Pebble Beach or the poa annua greens that he always seems to handle better than most. He’s surely filled with confidence after last week’s performance, and if it weren’t for his long victory drought you have to think he’d be priced much shorter here. I’m happy to take a chance on him at 35.0.
Pat Perez (41.0)- Perez is coming off a career-best year in 2017, and he certainly started this season on the right foot with a victory at the CIMB Classic back in October. He made his 2018 debut at Kapalua, where he finished 4th, and he went over to Dubai last week and snuck into the top-30 despite a disappointing final-round 70. So it’s quite clear that Perez, at age 41, is at the peak of his golfing powers. The longtime journeyman now contends with regularity, logging two victories and eight top-10 finishes in his past 23 starts. Now he returns home to the West Coast, where he always plays his best golf, to a tournament that has treated him quite well over the years– Perez has made the cut 13 times in 15 career appearances here and has found the top-15 five times, with three of those top-15 finishes coming in the past four years. He’s a genuine threat to win this week and an excellent value at a price like 40/1.
James Hahn (104.0)- Hahn is another West Coast guy who has made lots of money over the years on the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, and California, where he grew up and attended college, has been especially good to him– his win at Riviera in 2015 was the biggest moment of his career thus far, and he’s had several other memorable performances in the Golden State. His best showing in this tournament came back in 2013, when he tied for 3rd, and though that remains his only top-10 here, he’s made this event a fixture on his schedule and generally performs well, making the cut in two of the past three years. He’s coming off a good week in Phoenix, where he broke par in all four rounds and finished 11th, and he’s only four weeks removed from losing the Sony Open in a playoff, so he’s obviously been in fine form here early in 2018. Hahn has a better chance this week than his price would indicate– he’s certainly worth a bet at better than 100/1.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Jon Rahm (1.9) vs. Jordan Spieth (1.9)
Spieth is the defending champ here and is obviously a threat to win anytime he tees it up, but he’s coming off a missed cut in Phoenix and simply hasn’t looked like an elite player thus far in 2018. Rahm, meanwhile, has been playing brilliantly, with three top-11 finishes in the month of January, a stretch highlighted by his victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Rahm is simply playing better than Spieth at the moment, and though he can’t match Spieth’s experience at this tournament, he did finish 5th on debut last year, so I think the courses and format suit him just fine. Recommendation: Rahm at 1.9
Rory McIlroy (2.18) vs. Dustin Johnson (1.72)
There seems to be a lot of excitement swirling around McIlroy as he makes his 2018 PGA Tour debut, with many expecting him to rebound in a big way from a disappointing 2017. His performances over the past two weeks, a 3rd-place showing at Abu Dhabi and a runner-up in Dubai, have only stoked the fire. But he’s making his debut at this event, and debutants generally do not fare well here– the last player to win in their first appearance was Bret Ogle way back in 1993. Plus, he’s playing with his dad this week, and that could go either way– I’m not sure it’s an unquestioned positive, which is how many are framing it. Johnson is the best player in the world, is only a month removed from his last victory, and has a long record of success in this event that includes two wins and a runner-up. Recommendation: Johnson at 1.72