AT&T Pebble Beach National
Originally named the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur and first staged in 1937, this will be the 75th edition of the AT&T Pebble Beach National.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National is a pro-am staged over the three courses detailed below. They’re played in rotation over the first three days before a cut is made and the top-60 and ties fight out the finish at Pebble Beach on Sunday.
Pebble Beach (host course), par 72, 6816 yards, stroke average in 2015 – 70.24
Spyglass Hill par 72, 6858 yards, stroke average in 2015 – 71.2
Monterey Peninsula, par 71, 6867 yards, stroke average in 2015 – 68.94
The host course, Pebble Beach, needs no introduction to most keen golf fans. This iconic seaside links has hosted the US Open five times and the PGA Championship once. It isn’t long, in fact, it’s usually the shortest course used on the PGA Tour rota and it’s not a tough driving test – the fairways are largely generous and the course’s defence is its small greens, and of course, the weather.
Spyglass differs from the other two venues in that it’s largely tree-lined and although it’s usually the toughest of the three, if you get drawn to play there on a windy day you’ve had a result.
Monterey is the most generous of the three and that’s usually where the best scores are made. The greens are slightly bigger than those at Spyglass and twice the size of the ones at Pebble and the greens are usually set up slightly faster than at the other two courses.
The greens at all three venues are Poa Annua, as they were at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago.
Last Five Winners
2015 – Brandt Snedeker -22
2014 – Jimmy Walker -11
2013 – Brandt Snedeker -19
2012 – Phil Mickelson – 17
2011 – D.A Points -15
What Will it Take to Win The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am?
What you do off the tee in this event is largely irrelevant. Last year’s winner, Brandt Snedeker, ranked 48th for Driving Distance and 38th for Driving Accuracy and that was fairly typical. The average ranking for distance off the tee over the last ten years is 39.8 and the average accuracy ranking is just 43.4. Snedeker ranked third for Greens In Regulation and the average GIR ranking is 15.1 but that figure changes significantly if you take out the 2006 winner, Aaron Oberholser, whose victory came courtesy of some brilliant putting and scrambling. He ranked just 76 for GIR but seven of the last ten winners have ranked inside the top-six for greens hit.
The worst putting average ranking in the last ten renewals is just 16th (Sneds last year and Dustin Johnson in 2009) so performing on the greens is essential but the best stats to peruse is par 4 performance. Snedeker played the par fours better than anyone else last year and the worst any winner has ranked on them is 25th (Johnson in ’09 again) but the other nine winners all ranked seventh or better.
Is There an Angle In?
Snedeker bounced back to win after a disappointing 19th at Torrey Pines last year and Jimmy Walker’s victory in 2014 followed a missed cut there but strong current form is a big plus. Snedeker had finished 10th at the Phoenix Open the week before his 19th in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and before he’d missed the cut there, Walker had won the Sony Open.
Given the key attributes are accurate iron-play and hot-putting, it stands to reason that the majority of winners had already shown some form earlier on in the new year. The enigmatic Phil Mickelsonwas seemingly out of form when he won here in both 2007 and 2012 but he’s won when cold a number of times, especially during the West Coast Swing, so he’s not the inexplicable anomaly he first appears. Reading backwards, here’s a look at the form of the last 12 winners from the start of the year.
2015 Brandt Snedeker MC-10-19
2014 Jimmy Walker 21-1-MC
2013 Brandt Snedeker 3-23-2-2
2012 Phil Mickelson 49-MC-26
2011 D.A Points 42-5-18
2010 Dustin Johnson 16-16-MC-3
2009 Dustin Johnson 11-66-MC-19
2008 Steve Lowery 20
2007 Phil Mickelson 45-51-MC
2006 Arron Oberholser 24-15-10
2005 Phil Mickelson 56-12-1
2004 Vijay Singh 2-10-3
One could argue that Dustin Johnson wasn’t exactly setting the world alight before his win in 2009 but his 19th place finish at Torrey Pines the week before represents his second best effort at that venue in nine starts so he wasn’t woefully out of form.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
There has been the odd unexpected winner here but more often than not the champ is a well-fancied, top-class player. And he’s usually American with lots of event experience.
A total of 13 men have won the tournament more than once and Brett Ogle is the only debutant winner. Americans have won the last 11 renewals and Vijay Singh, the aforementioned Ogle and Bruce Crampton are the only overseas players to win the tournament in 74 years.
Snedeker lead after rounds one and two 12 months ago and he sat second after round three. Five of the last six winners have been inside the top-six after round one but a fast start isn’t absolutely essential. With the event staged over three different courses we shouldn’t really get a clear picture until the end of round three. Mickelson managed to win in 2012 having been nine off the lead after day one!
It’s perfectly possible to win from off the pace with a round to go and we’ve seen winners come from as far as five, six and seven back already this century. You probably need to be quite classy to do so though as the three to achieve it were Tiger Woods (five strokes), Phil Mickelson (6) and Davis Love III (7).
If you’re betting in-running on Sunday, be a bit wary of the par 5 14th, as it’s far from a certain birdie hole. There were only nine there in round four last year and it ranked as the third hardest hole on the course and in the 2010 renewal, three players recorded a nine there during round four, including Paul Goydos, who was bang in-contention at the time. A par five is a very acceptable score on the hole (averaged 5.11 last year) but as the long holes are usually a chance to score, the market often assumes otherwise
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast as when you play certain courses makes a very big difference. In the 2014 renewal, Jordan Spieth was tied for the lead at halfway but he was the only one of the leaders playing a windy Pebble in round three and it completely scuppered his chances. Pebble is very exposed and when the wind blows hard scoring is really tough and by Sunday Spieth’s chance had gone after a disastrous 78 around the host course.
Given he’s lining up at Pebble for the fourth year in-a-row, it’s safe to assume that world number one, Jordan Spieth, has targeted this title as one he really wants. He finished a never-in-contention seventh last year on the back of a missed cut at Torrey Pines and he was really unlucky in 2014 when blown away in round three around Pebble, when he went on to shoot 78 in awful conditions. That was at least ten shots worse than any of his other seven rounds over the last two years and you’d have to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic to discount him.
A slow start hampered Jason Day last year but his fast-finishing fourth still represented his best performance to date. With form figures reading 6-14-46-6-MC-4 he too has to command the utmost respect but anyone who backed him at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago (myself included) may be cautious of going in again. It is worth highlighting that he was quite poorly before the off there though and with the benefit of hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have played. I know I wish he hadn’t!
Of the three two-time winners towards the head of the market – Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker – I just prefer the first named.
DJ absolutely hated the filthy conditions at Torrey Pines (a venue he’s never taken to anyway) and it was no surprise at all to see him disappear when the going got tough but he’d shown promise before the weather turned and in his previous outing, at the Tournament of Champions he’d done ok after an opening round of 73 had given far too much to do.
With course form figures reading 7-1-1-8-55-5-MC-2-4 he clearly plays Pebble well and he could just be ready to finally put the US Open horror show of 2010 behind him. He went from four clear and odds-on to win before round four to 8th after a final round 82 and the scars will perhaps never completely heal.
Last year’s winner, Brandt Snedeker, is bidding to win the event for the second time in three years but after finishing third at the TOC, second at the Sony Open and first at Torrey Pines, his form took a nosedive last week and you have to wonder if the run has ended. He also missed the cut when defending two years ago so that’s a small concern too.
With three top-ten finishes in his last four starts and five top-tens here in the last five years, it would be daft to write off the 2014 winner, Jimmy Walker, but he might make for a better top-five or top-ten bet given the opposition this year.
Bubba Watson will be looking to put behind him a frustrating week in Phoenix where he got roundly criticised for his thoughts on the changes to TPC Scottsdale. The in-form world number six ran on well to finish 14th and he’ll be glad to get the hell out of there and start again but he’s never broken 70 here in two visits (MC and T44) so is probably best left.
Justin Rose is a fine links exponent so can’t be discounted but he’s never played the event before and he didn’t qualify for the 2010 US Open, despite having won the Memorial Tournament so we’re guessing what he’ll make of it all. He missed the cut at Torrey Pines last time out but he never plays well there so that wouldn’t worry me at all.
This is a ridiculously competitive renewal and I’m going to take it really easy from the off. I may dig out a top-ten bet or two once those markets are priced up and I’ll have another look when the draw’s made. At this really early stage, the wind looks marginally worse on Saturday so Spyglass Hill will be the place to play in round three – especially if that forecast worsens further – but for now I’ve had just one tiny bet to get the ball rolling…
K.J Choi is very much in the twilight of his career but he played really well last time out at Torrey Pines and odds of 130.00 were insulting so I’ve taken a tiny chance on him but for now that’s it.
BACK – K.J Choi @ 130.00
I’ll update again if I add any other bets before the off.
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