AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 2021 Tips


Tournament History

Originally called the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur and first staged in 1937 the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been in existence for 84 years. The Crosby name was dropped from the title in 1985, eight years after Bing’s death, and a year before long-time sponsors, AT&T, began their association.

Ordinarily staged over three courses with amateurs playing alongside the pros, this year’s renewal features just two courses – the host course, Pebble Beach, and Spyglass Hill – and there will be no amateurs participating.

The field of 156 will play the two courses on Thursday and Friday before the post-cut contenders battle it out over the famous Pebble Beach Links over the weekend.

This is the 75th edition of the event so it should be a special occasion but what was already a disappointingly weak field has been lessened further by the withdrawal of the world number one, Dustin Johnson.

Venue

Pebble Beach (host course) par 72, 6816 yards, stroke average in 2020 – 72.52
Spyglass Hill par 72, 7035 yards, stroke average in 2020 – 72.88

The host course, Pebble Beach, needs no introduction to most keen golf fans. This iconic seaside links has hosted the US Open six times and the PGA Championship once. It isn’t a long course, although it will be lengthened fractionally this year with the absence of the amateurs. 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.

PEBBLE BEACH 2021 2.jpg

Spyglass differs to the host course as it’s largely tree-lined and although it’s often the toughest of the three courses ordinarily used, if you get drawn to play there on a windy day you’ve had a result because it’s so much more sheltered.

The greens at both venues are poa annua, as they were at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago.

The easiest of the three courses ordinarily used, Monterey Peninsula, is the one that misses out this time around.

Weather Forecast

Wind, waves & weather forecast Pebble Beach/Lone Cypress – Windfinder

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days starting with Featured Group coverage at 16:30 UK time on Thursday. Full coverage begins at 20:00 and the absence of the guffawing Bill Murray, who’s about as funny as toothache, and the numerous CEOs that get far too much coverage, this year’s renewal should be far more enjoyable to watch.

Last Five Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2020 – Nick Taylor -19 210.0209/1
2019 – Phil Mickelson -19 36.035/1
2018 – Ted Potter Jr -17 850.0849/1
2017 – Jordan Spieth -19 10.09/1
2016 – Vaughn Taylor -17 960.0959/1

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, Nick Taylor, averaged seventh for Driving Accuracy but the average DA ranking of the last 14 winners is only 39th and giving it a whack isn’t imperative either. Taylor ranked 39th for Driving Distance and the average DD ranking for the last 14 victors is 37.7.

It doesn’t make an awful lot of difference where your drive finishes up but where your second shot finishes tends to be key. The average GIR ranking for the last 15 winners is 7.33 and 12 of the last 14 winners have ranked inside the top-nine for greens hit. Taylor ranked third for Greens In Regulation 12 months ago and the runner-up, Kevin Streelman, ranked second.

Only Phil Mickelson, who traded at 1.84/5 before going on to finish third, had a better Putting Average ranking than Taylor last year and the worst Putting Average ranking of any winner in the last 15 years is just 16th (Brandt Snedeker in 2016 and Dustin Johnson in 2009), so performing on the greens is essential but the best stat to peruse is probably Par 4 Scoring.

Taylor only ranked eighth last year but the first three home in 2019 ranked second, fourth and first on the par fours. The 2018 winner, Ted Potter Jnr, ranked second and the two winners before him played them better than anyone else. The worst any winner has ranked on them this century is 25th (Johnson in ’09) and all the other winners have ranked eighth or better.

Is There an Angle In?

It stands to reason that given Pebble Beach is a links-style course and that’s perched alongside the ocean that Open Championship form stands up well here. When Spieth followed his victory here with success at Royal Birkdale in 2017 he became the third different AT&T winner to also win the Open Championship this century. The five-time winner, Phil Mickelson, is also an Open champion and something of a links specialist and a number of recent winners have a cracking record in the world’s oldest Major Championship.

Wind is nearly always a factor here so players that play well in blustery conditions prosper. At this early stage, Friday looks a little blowy so playing Spyglass on day two may be slightly advantageous and the wind is forecast to pick up nicely on Sunday.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

This is a funny event to assess as the winners seem to be either straight out of the top drawer or virtually impossible to spot! Following Potter’s success three years ago, and Vaughn Taylor’s victory in 2016, two of the last five winners have been matched at 1000.0 before the off and last year’s winner, Nick Taylor, was also a huge long-shot so taking a chance on a wild outsider or two may well play handsomely but it might still be worth sticking to a few rules…

Nick Taylor, a Canadian, was only the fourth overseas winners in the event’s entire history, so Americans have an incredibly strong record and course form stands up really well.

As unfathomable as they were to find, those last three outsiders to win all had a bit of event form. Nick Taylor had finished 10th back in 2017 and Vaughn had finished inside the top-ten 12 months before he won. Potter had finished 16th in 2013.

A total of 13 men have won the tournament more than once and Brett Ogle is the only debutant winner. Course form and course experience counts for plenty.

Winner’s Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2020 – Nick Taylor led by a stroke 2.915/8
2019 – Phil Mickelson solo 2nd – trailing by three 6.611/2
2018 – Ted Potter Jr – tied for the lead 14.013/1
2017 – Jordan Spieth led by six strokes 1.141/7
2016 – Vaughn Taylor – T9 – trailing by six 200.0199/1

In-Play Tactics

Like many a tournament played on a links course, if the weather is kind, being up with the pace is very often the place to be.

The last two US Open winners at Pebble, Gary Woodland and Graeme McDowell, were both in front at halfway and no more than three off the lead after round one, and Tiger Woods famously powered to a wire-to-wire 15-stroke victory here in the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach.

Phil Mickelson (twice), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and last year’s winner, Nick Taylor, have all won this event wire-to-wire in the last 15 years and 15 of the last 17 winners have all been within three strokes of the lead after the first round.

Nick Taylor wins AT&T.jpg

Having jumped onboard Taylor at 22.021/1 after round one last year, I’ll have another good look at the early frontrunners this time around but with the wind set to blow on Sunday, there’s definitely scope for a closer in round four and there have been a few off the pace winners of late…

Although only three adrift after round one three years ago, Potter trailed by eight at halfway before a 62 around Monterey, which included bogeys at his last two holes, saw him tied for the lead with a round to go. Vaughn Taylor was seven adrift after the opening round in 2016 and Mickelson managed to win this having been nine off the lead after day one in 2012! And it’s not unusual to see winners still off the pace with a round to go either…

In addition to Vaughn Taylor, who still trailed by six through 54 holes, we’ve also seen Tiger Woods win from five strokes adrift, Phil Mickelson six, and in 2001, Davis Love III won from seven back.

If you’re betting in-running on Sunday, be very wary of the par five 14th hole, as it’s far from a certain birdie hole. In fact, it was the hardest hole on the course on Sunday two years ago and it cost Chez Reavie his chance of glory when he recorded a bogey six there. Phil Mickelson, who played an exquisite chip shot from the rough for his third stroke, was the only man in-contention to birdie the hole.

Time and time again the market assumes that this is a birdie hole when in reality, a bogey is a more likely outcome and year after year it averages over-par in round four.

It had a big say in the outcome five years ago with Mickelson, Johan Blixt and Freddie Jacobson, who finished second, third and fourth, all making bogey there and in the 2010 renewal it caused absolute carnage. 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 but as the long holes are usually a chance to score, the market often assumes otherwise and it’s a great opportunity trading-wise.

Market Leaders

Patrick Cantlay was in impressive form last time out, shooting 65-61 over the weekend at The American Express three weeks to finish second behind Si Woo Kim. That too was a Pro-Am without Ams staged over two rounds instead of the usual three so it may be a useful form guid this year but I’m in no rush to side with the new favourite, following DJ’s withdrawal.

Cantly isn’t the most straightforward in-contention so coming from off the pace in The American Express suited him and his course form is nothing to write home about. The world number 11 has event form figures reading 8-48-35-11 and he finished tied for 21st at the US Open here in 2019.

Although only 49th in the 2019 US Open here, Daniel Berger finished fifth in this event last year, five years after his only previous tournament appearance, when he finished 10th, so he has the course form in the book but after a steady start to 2021, which saw him finish 10th in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and seventh in the Sony Open, his missed cut last week was a bit of a strange effort and I’m happy to swerve him.

Paul Casey should arrive in confident mood after his win in Dubai and his 12th place at the Saudi International on Sunday. Prior to those two European Tour outings, he’d finished eighth in The American Express so he’s playing really nicely and the venue suits.

Paul Casey in Dubai.jpg

As talented as he is, and as well as he’s playing (seventh in the Farmers and 17th in Phoenix over the last two weeks), Will Zalatoris, who finished 68th last year on his only previous appearance, looks a very short price and others are preferred.

Year after year, the Dubai Desert Classic is won by a fine links exponent and Casey certainly fits that mould, as he showed here in 2019 when, having led by three with a round to go, he really should have won. He finished only 64th last year but he completely switched off when not in-contention and he shot 81 on day four. Also eighth back in 2018, Casey’s chance is a strong one.

Those that snapped up the 50.049/1 about course specialist, Jason Day, before DJ ducked out have themselves a nice wager but he makes little appeal at less than half that price. I chanced him two weeks ago at another venue he loves – Torrey Pines – and he was poor to say the least.

Selections

Phil Mickelson isn’t in great form but he’s won this event five times previously and several times when seemingly in the wilderness so 70.069/1 is just too big to ignore. He traded at odds-on in the event last year and his event form figures over the last three years read 2-1-3. I’ve had a tiny wager on him and I’ve backed a plethora of outsiders too…

Andrew Putnam has no form here but he was a huge eye-catcher at the Phoenix Open last week when finishing seventh. With a new set of irons in the bag, Putnam ranked number one for Greens In Regulation as well as first for Scrambling and he didn’t record a single bogey all week. That could well be a flash in the pan but if it wasn’t, 120.0119/1 looks big.

I wanted bigger on Branden Grace than the 130.0129/1 taken but he’s such a fine links and wind exponent that I couldn’t leave him out on his first start since the death of his father from COVID. He missed the cut here last year but was 20th on debut in 2018 and 28th in 2019 so it looks like a tournament he’s targeted.

Former winner, Brandt Snedeker, and streaky putter, Patton Kizzire, were thankfully backed before the withdrawal of DJ so I’ve got nice prices on those two and I’ll be back later with three more outsiders I like with the Find Me a 100 Winner column later.

Selections:
Phil Mickelson @ 70.069/1
Andrew Putnam @ 120.0119/1
Branden Grace @ 130.0129/1
Brandt Snedeker @ 160.0159/1
Patton Kizzire @ 180.0179/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter