PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM: Celebrities, titans of business, and 156 pro golfers have gathered at one of the most magical spots in North America, California’s stunning Monterey Peninsula, for the world’s most famous pro-am. This tournament has been a fixture on the PGA Tour schedule for over 80 years and the pros are only part of the attraction, as the galleries will be more excited to get a glimpse of Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood, or Canelo Alvarez than they will be to see Daniel Berger or Brian Harman.
This event returns to its natural state this year after the pandemic kept away both the amateurs and the spectators last year and reduced the number of courses used from three to two. It will now once again be a three-day pro-am over three courses– Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula– before the cut is made and the action returns to Pebble for a pros-only final round.
One of the most revered courses in the world, Pebble Beach is a shortish track that features generous fairways and small, knobby poa annua greens. It’s a fairly straightforward layout, but if the wind starts whipping, as it often does, it can be quite treacherous. That said, the setup is generally pretty friendly this week due to the amateur participation, so we’re sure to see plenty of birdies and low numbers. Red numbers will also be the name of the game at the other two courses, Spyglass and Monterey Peninsula, as both are relatively short and yield lots of birdies. Monterey is the easiest of the three– at least Spyglass has some tight areas off the tee that will give some players problems.
The Hollywood stars may have returned this year but the PGA Tour stars mostly have not, as only 10 of the top 50 in the latest World Golf Rankings will be teeing it up this week. This is in large part due to the appearance fees paid by the Saudi International, which is also being held this week and has attracted big names like Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, and Bryson Dechambeau. It should still be a great week of golf, however, and the lack of top-end talent in the field could make for some interesting betting opportunities in the mid/long odds range. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Maverick McNealy (25.0)- While he’s yet to pick up his first PGA Tour victory, the young McNealy has been knocking on the door with increasing frequency, with his most recent close call being a runner-up in his first event of this new season, the Fortinet Championship. He’s kept it rolling with five straight top-30 finishes, including a T30 last week that would’ve been a lot better had it not been for a final round 75, and now he returns to his childhood stomping grounds looking for that elusive W. (and if you’re wondering what kind of kid grows up on the Monterey Peninsula, search “Maverick McNealy father” and you’ll find out) McNealy nearly got the job done here last year, finishing 2nd after a final round 66, and he finished 5th in 2020, so there are no doubts about his ability to thrive in this format or on these courses. With the way he’s been playing lately and the absence of top-10 players in the field, McNealy is one of the clear favorites this week and is worth a bet at better than 20/1.
Kevin Streelman (42.0)- Streelman is one of those players who seems to make all his money on the West Coast and then fades away every year, not to be seen on leaderboards again until the next time the Tour shows up in California. Well, it’s that time of year again, and Streelman has knocked off the rust with three made cuts in his last four starts, including a T39 at the Farmers last week. He’ll look to improve on that significantly at a tournament where he always plays well– Streelman has the best scoring average of anyone in the field over his last 12 rounds at Pebble Beach (h/t Caddie Network), and he’s found the top-15 in each of his past five starts in this event, including three top-10s. In a week like this, when the format is unusual and the big names are sparse, there’s a lot to be said for someone who is a fixture on leaderboards here year after year. Is it finally Streelman’s time?
Scott Stallings (100.0)- A mercurial player who might miss the cut one week and contend the next, Stallings is off to a great start this season, with highlights that include a 6th-place showing at the Fortinet Championship and a T5 in Bermuda. He’s coming off a tremendous final round 66 at the Farmers last week and has a long history of success in this tournament that includes top-10 finishes in both 2018 and 2019. Stallings is a three-time PGA Tour winner, so he has shown the ability to keep the pedal on the floor when things are going well and to close the deal when given the opportunity. He’s a great value at a triple-digit price this week.