We’re back on the coast this week as the PGA Tour touches down at the classic Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. This is the course where G-Mac triumphed at the US Open last year and this beautiful stretch of golf links is the home course for this Pro-Am which also features rounds at Spyglass Hill (6,800 yard Par 72) and Monterey Peninsula (6,800 yard Par 70). The Pro-Am format will illicit low scoring on the 2 satellite courses and the pro-am round at Pebble Beach, with the final round seeing tougher pin positions on the famous links with those classic vista views. Previous winners include Dustin Johnson (10 & 09), Steve Lowery, Phil Mickelson (2007 & 2005), Aaron Oberholser (only ever PGA win), Vijay Singh, Davis Love III (2003 & 2001), Matt Gogel and Tiger Woods in 2000 prior to his US Open victory the same year.
Many players especially from the traditional golf heartlands of Florida, Georgia and Texas find the Poa Annua greens over here on the west side tricky to play. You either love them or hate them! So expect decent performances from the home state of California players. Those from the northern states will also feature as Michigan/Wisconsin/Illinois feature hundreds of bent/poa green surfaces. But as you’d expect players who have had their golfing education by the coast (wherever in the world) percolate to the top of the leaderboards year on year. Those that are comfortable with wind, sea-spray and intimidating fairway and green positions on the edge of the Pacific have a natural advantage.
50 – 100 – 200 – 66 – 80. What’s he talking about? These are the starting prices of the winners of the opening 5 PGA Tour tournaments. Who’d have ever thought that Mark Wilson would have won 2 tournaments and crashed into the Worlds Top 50! However Pebble Beach has a habit of producing relatively short priced winners so let’s see what happens this week.
I always say that picking the right bookmaker as well as the right player is the key to profitable golf punting. We don’t highlight them often but this week BetFred dominate the Pebble Beach market. If you haven’t got an account I have to say this week would be a great reason to deposit and get their £50 account opening offer....
You wouldn’t class Durban-born Clark as seaside specialist but neither was Bubba Watson prior to his victory at Torrey Pines. However his form right now is top-notch with a form line of 2-17-9-2. The most recent winners here have Top 10 finishes to their credit at Waialee so Clark’s 2nd place to Mark Wilson in January stands out. I’m also attracted to his sterling Bob Hope “Lottery” record that includes 2nd in 2005, 5th in 2008 and 2nd in 2010. Slow paced Pro-Ams across multiple courses with accessible pin positions seem to suit the North Carolina educated South African. The reigning Players champion also has an impressively understated Major record which highlights his versatility to play on major tracks. 3rd place finishes at the PGA Championship (03) and US Open (05) and 2nd at The Masters (06) ain’t bad! But has he won on the coast? Well the answer is a resounding yes as he won the 2008 Australian Open at Royal Sydney beating seaside specialists Allenby, Daly, Goggin + Appleby, Goydos, Ogilvy and Sim into the bargain. 3 Top 10 finishes at Pebble from 7 appearances. RESULT: W/D
Kentucky’s finest stiffed me royally at Phoenix last week in terms of my Spread Tip so if you can’t beat then join them! Where Tim Clark plots and ball strikes his way around a course, Holmes bludgeons his way around, but you have to say that J.B. is underrated as a player and can play technical/classical courses not just typical US inland/resort courses. He’s also a creature of habit. His 2 wins have both been at Phoenix (2006 and 2008). Poa Annua is a surface he welcomes as 3 consecutive Top 10 finishes at Riviera highlight (08 to 10 – Bent / Poa mix). Then you look at last year and see that 3rd at Riviera (on Bent/Poa) was followed up the next week by 2nd on the Poa greens of Pebble. To prove that he can play on links courses he also finished a creditable 14th at St Andrews last year and back in 2006 he finished 10th on a course that would never suit him….that right Waialee at the Sony Open. His 5th last week in Phoenix has generated the momentum so expect another creditable performance in Monterey this week. Another motivator this week will be his need for a Top 5 finish to book a spot in the World Golf Matchplay in Arizona later this month. Top 64 players in the World come Sunday qualify with a prize fund of $8,500,000. RESULT: T13
Has he finally found a hot putter?! Regulars know I’ve been tipping Singh for a while on the basis that he is class and would eventually find form with the flat stick from 5ft to 10ft (his nemesis). Well 3rd at Phoenix has seen 80/1 cut to a best price of 35/1 for the Pebble Beach. Do you reckon the bookies follow my logic that Singh will win again on the PGA Tour? Of course they do, especially at Pebble Beach where Singh’s record is first class. The Ex World Number 1 ticks an awful lot of boxes this week. His resume includes victory here in 2004 plus victories on form-linked tracks like Waialee, TPC Four Seasons, TPC Boston and Ridgwood. Indeed his victory at The Barclays in 2008 at Ridgwood CC (his second last PGA Tour victory) is important as it’s played on Bent/Poa Annua greens. So who was the winner their last year? Star mark for you if you got defending Pebble Champion Dustin Johnson. Oh and one final reason to get on Singh this week. He needs to win to get into the World Match Play where he has been an ever present since its current guise inception in 1999. RESULT: T26
It really is the tale of two cities with my picks this week. Holmes and Singh bring the power and ability to hit Par 5s in 2 shots whereas Clark and Brian Gay dissect a course with classy ball striking from the centre of fairways and can putt beautifully. I tipped Gay as recently as January at 66/1 for the Sony Open as he is undoubtedly a talent on the rise and one that likes the smell of salty sea air. He may have disappointed followers but his 13th was worthy of mental note. 5th at the Bob Hope showed a continuation of form and that extended to a Top 20 finish in Phoenix last week. He’s ready to contend so 40/1 with BetFred is mighty attractive. His record of 3 MCs from 4 appearances at Pebble hardly inspires confidence but let’s instead review his 16th here last year. A triple bogey at Spyglass in Round 2 cost him a T5. -10 across the 3 rounds of Pebble Beach and Monterrey Peninsula is highly impressive stuff and I believe the Florida student who was champion at Mayakoba (2008) and Hilton Head (2009) can contend this week. RESULT: M/C
For me this is a crazy price for the 5 time PGA Tour winner who is finding a little drive in his game and loves California + Poa Annua. It’s a recurring theme but I tipped up Sabbatini in the Fall Series last year for the Frys.Com Open tournament at CordeValle on the basis of his great California history and the fact that he was beginning to find that desire that made him a Top 15 player as recently as 2007. Naturally he delivered a MC! My reasoning though and recent form holds water as 12th followed at Disney with 13th at Waialee, 44th at Torrey Pines and 22nd last week in Phoenix. The placid conditions will play into Sabba's hands and the boy from Durban can play well on the coast. Key results that stand out for me are 5th as recently as the BMW last year at Ridgwood on Bent /Poa. His last win was in 2009 at TPC Four Seasons a track where Johnson, Singh and Mickelson have all excelled. Top 5 finishes at Waialee, Torrey Pines, Riviera and here in 2006 where he finished 2nd to Oberholser add fuel to the fire. As short as 66/1 across multiple bookmakers so Totesport are totally on a limb here. RESULT: T15
Pebble has a habit of throwing up rookies who finish in the top 10 or better. Kentuckian Josh Teater delivered an EW return at 500/1 last year on his way to an impressive debut season. Fresno local Kevin Chappell finished 6th in 2009 and Jason Day and Dustin Johnson finished in the Top 7 on debut in 2008. 2007 saw local boy Mallinger finish an incredible 3rd on debut! So who will it be this year? Chris Kirk (tipped elsewhere) and Kyle Stanley (from Woodstock Vermont – playing great) all have real shouts but I’m going for Brendan Steele. California born, raised and educated, Steele ended 2010 on the Nationwide Tour on a tare which eventually resulted in a Top 25 Tour graduate position. His last 2 visits to California have gleaned a 4th (Chattanooga Classic 2010) and 17th (Torrey Pines 2 weeks ago). Even more impressively for me he sealed his PGA Tour card last year by winning the Nationwide Tour Championship event at Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina….that's right by the sea-side. A no brainer – no risk punt with 888 Sports No Risk £20 No Lose Bet is the order of the day here. RESULT: M/C