Defending champion Phil Mickelson returns to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where last year he won for a record-tying fifth time on the Monterey Peninsula.
This year’s pro-am field also includes notable names from Hollywood, and the worlds of music and sports such as Peyton and Eli Manning, Wayne Gretzky, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers.
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Tony Finau looked a lock to secure his first non-opposite field PGA Tour victory when he stepped on the 17th tee with a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson, but a water ball and two quick Simpson birdies later we were heading to a playoff.
Most people would have wanted to see the always smiling tall man from Utah finally get a win after so many close calls, but everyone knew where this was heading when they played the 18th a second time and Webb had ice in his veins and delivered the final blow with his third birdie in a row to secure his 6th PGA Tour win.
We couldn’t find a back to back winner for our picks, but not for a lack of effort on Justin Thomas` part. JT didn’t have his best stuff the first three days but, battled hard and when he finally found it on Sunday he shot the best round (65) of the day; unfortunately, it was just a little too late to get him the win.
Course: Pebble Beach
Length: 7040 yards (Par 72)
Greens: Poa Annua
Architect: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant
The Tour is back at Pebble Beach for a tournament that has gone to one of two extremes in the last decade, with either one of the absolute favourites winning (DJ x2, Snedeker x2, Spieth and Mickelson) or a triple-digit complete out of nothing winner as Ted Potter Jr and Vaughn Taylor or D.A Points.
Besides having to deal with three courses (Pebble x2, Spyglass Hill and Monetrey Shore Course x1) this is, of course, a pro am, so expect six-hour rounds.
All the courses are on the shorter side and since it’s a pro-am the set up is more friendly than most PGA Tour events with close to non-existing rough and easier pin placements.
This leads to the off the tee stats becoming less valuable. The greens are small poa annua and with a lot of par 4 holes in the 350-450 range, the golfers will face a bunch off approaches in the 100-150-yard range. While this is a birdie fest (winning score usually in the -20 range if it doesn’t get windy) the small greens will test the short game of everyone.
In short, I see the winning formula being good with wedges/short irons, have a hot putting week on the poa annua, score on the par 5s all while not getting rattled by the slow pace.
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
- Opportunities gained
- Proximity 100-125 and 125-150 yards
- Poa Annua putting
- Par 5 Scoring
- Par 4 scoring 400-450 yards
- Strokes gained around the green
2019/20 Season overview:
Wagered: 82 units
Won: 149.66 units
Result: + 67.66 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1, Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1
The veteran Englishman long looked incapable of winning again on the PGA Tour but he finally broke the 9-year drought when he won The Valspar in 2018 and added another one when he defended his title successfully last year.
He was also close here in 2019 when he finished runner up to Mickelson and bettering his 8th place finish at Pebble from 2018. His only full-field event this year was at the (also a pro-am) AmEx where he delivered a solid performance with a T21.
His stats unsurprisingly suit these courses ranking 3rd in strokes gained approach, 6th in opportunities gained, 11th in par 5 scoring, 11th in proximity from 100-125 yards and 26th from 125-150 yards over the last 36 rounds.
The Canadian made his 2020 debut last week after becoming a father earlier in the month with a T40, in his second start of the year over the last four years he has these finishes: 2nd, 3rd, 49th and 6th.
Hadwin loves the other multi-course pro-am (The AmEx) where he has four top 6 performances in a row and though he often opted-out of playing this tournament; a T-39 in 2017 and a T-18 last year is promising if not conclusive progression.
Since we are going down narrative street let me ad that he played the Presidents Cup in December and four out of the five tournaments since then have been won by players that were playing in it (JT, Smith, Leishman and Simpson) and the fact that he ranks 5th in par-4 scoring 400-450 yards, 8th in approach and is a premier poa annua putter doesn’t hurt ether.
I continue the veteran narrative this week with old Jimmy, the 2016 PGA champion had his worst season in over a decade last year who has started 2020 with 3 of 4 made cuts gaining shots on approach in all four.
Pebble is the perfect track for mitigating his off the tee weakness and he is, of course, back on his favourite putting surface here.
When we look at just the last 12 rounds he really seems to be close to getting back to his old self ranking in the top 25 in approach, birdies or better gained, opportunities gained, par 4 scoring 400-450 yards and proximity from 125-150 yards and what better place to get back to the first page of the leader board than a tournament he has a win and four other top 10s at in the last decade?
*Odds subject to change