Inside the Ropes
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will play three courses this week:
Pebble Beach Golf Links (Host Course)
Par 72 (36-36)
Rough: 2 inches
3,500 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 10 feet
The Pacific Ocean borders nine holes so we consider that a “water hazard”
Course Architect: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant (1919); Ed Conner and Jack Nicklaus (1991)
Notes: Final round will be held here. Poa annua greens. Ranked 17th hardest course of 51 played on Tour in 2011.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Par 72 (36-36)
5,000 square foot (on average) greens, except this one.
Stimpmeter rolling 10 feet
Four water hazards
Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1966)
Notes: Ranked 15th hardest course of 51 played on Tour in 2011. Poa annua greens
Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course)
Par 70 (34-36)
7,000 square foot greens (on average)
Stimpmeter rolling 11 feet
One water hazard
Course Architect: Robert Baldock and Jack Neville (1960); Mike Stranz (2003)
Notes: Ranked 25th hardest of 51 courses played on Tour in 2011. Poa annua greens. The Shore Course replaced Poppy Hills in 2010.
FedExCup Points: 500 (winner’s share)
Winner’s Share: $1,152,000
Defending Champion: D.A. Points defeated Hunter Mahan by two shots for his first PGA Tour victory.
Notes: Professional cut after round three. All four rounds will be played as a Pro-Am.
Date: Feb. 9-12, 2012
In the Bag
The three courses in play on the coast of California all rank within the top 25 hardest on Tour from 2011. The average winning score in the last 10 years has been close to 16-under-par. The U.S. Open has had Pebble Beach in the rotation, on average, about every 10 years since 1972. This goes to show a great course doesn’t have to play 7,600 yards to be considered difficult. The USGA will be back in 2019 for the sixth time to celebrate the centennial of Pebble Beach.
The Winning Formula
Experience Matters: D.A. Points (2011), Aaron Oberholser (2006) and Matt Gogle (2002) are the only players since 1983 to win their first Tour event at Pebble Beach. The other “off the radar” –type players who have won Pebble Beach include Steve Lowery (2008), who has three career Tour wins, Brett Ogle (1993) who had two career wins and Peter Jacobson (1995) who has seven career wins. The other 23 players (of the 28) who have won here ALL have won major championships. I’ll be looking for guys with pedigree and experience when ranking players this week.
Distance and Power: Pebble Beach and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are the two shortest courses played on Tour. Dustin Johnson (twice), Davis Love III (twice), Phil Mickelson (twice) and Vijay Singh (once) have won seven of the last 11 events here.
Short and Accurate: Last year, the top five finishers all ranked 17th or better in GIR. The winner was 17th; the other four guys were in the top four. I’ll also be looking for guys who can get it up and down this week to save pars and have experience putting on Poa annua greens.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The AT&T National Pro-Am is another chance for the pros, celebrities, luminaries and captains of industry to get together and play some golf. A tournament with fantastic history and list of winners to match, The AT&T poses some different factors than most tournaments. Located on the coast or near the coast, the three courses are susceptible to the elements: Wind, rain, fog, sunshine, all can happen at any time. Weather will have to be in the back of your mind, but as of Monday, the forecast looks cool, but neither windy nor rainy. That will help scores stay low.
Is Mark O’Meara playing this week? In a stretch from 1985 to 1997, “The Prince of Pebble” has won this event FIVE times.
Dustin Johnson is looking for his third victory in four years after winning in 2009 and 2010.
Pebble Beach and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are the two shortest courses played on Tour.
After winning the FedExCup Playoffs in their respective seasons, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas have not since won a Tour event. How’s that for weird?
In honor of the great Bing Crosby, whose name used to be on this tournament, here’s my top five who I believe will be on song this week, in order:
Tiger Woods: Not exactly going out on a limb here, but he’s been playing well enough to make us think back to the old days. He won the Chevron Challenge by making birdies on the final two holes to beat Zach Johnson for his first win since the Australian Masters in November of 2009. He followed that up with the 54-hole lead in Dubai before firing an even-par 72 to finish T3. He has not played this event since 2002 but did win here in 2000. Here’s my take on Woods: When healthy, I believe him to be the best golfer on the planet. According to his interview at Pebble Beach Tuesday, he is healthy. A bad week for him is a top five. I can’t turn that down.
Dustin Johnson: He has gone from my “stay away” list to my top five in a matter of weeks. I attribute his slow start to his recovery from his knee and back injuries. Now that he’s had nine rounds under his belt, I’m ready to jump back on. He can hit balls and work out, but now I believe he’s back in “golf shape” and ready to go. There is no better place for good vibes than at Pebble Beach. His record here is nothing short of spectacular, finishing T55, WIN, WIN, and T7 in four career starts in the last four years. Horse for the course and ready to break out in 2012.
Hunter Mahan: Flew a looooooooooong way to play only six holes at the Qatar Masters before WD so he could get back in time to play Pebble Beach. He has made the cut in 6 of 8 showings here and his best finish was second last year to D.A. Points. Mahan was T6 in his first start of the year at Torrey Pines. Ranked fourth in the All-Around in 2011 and is a fantastic iron player.
Nick Watney: The Sacramento native has gotten off to a slow start in 2012 but he returns to a course where he’s made seven consecutive cuts out of eight total starts. His best finish was T6 last year. A fantastic short game can help him get out of trouble this week. Watney withdrew last week due to illness and since it’s not injury, I’m not concerned. Yet.
D.A. Points: He’s only been over-par once in 12 rounds this year and is the defending champion at Pebble Beach. He finished T6 at Sony and T8 at FIO before finishing T45 last week at WMPO. He’s back with Bill Murray and that chemistry can’t be a deterrent this week. He showed last year he could handle the biggest stage at Pebble with the biggest star in the tournament. Remember, when in doubt always take da’ points (just like in the Super Bowl, which I sadly did not)!
Supporting Cast Members:
Players who I believe should land in the top 25:
Phil Mickelson: Like most of us, I’ve struggled to get a handle on Phil’s game early in 2012. He kept his career streak of never missing consecutive cuts alive last week but he finished just T26. He flew Butch Harmon in on Saturday morning for a quick tune-up and it worked, rounding in 67. He should have had Butch stick around until Sunday morning as Phil made four bogeys and a double to offset his four birdies in round four. He made more bogeys on Sunday than he did in the first three rounds so I am taking this a progress. Course history, just like with Tiger, is pretty pointless as he only signs up to play at the places he plays extremely well. He’s a threat most every time he tees it up. I’m back on this week.
D.J. Trahan: Another Clemson Tiger (Kyle Stanley) trying to get into the winner’s circle in 2012. Trahan’s huge weekend last week at Scottsdale (T4; 64-66) shows he’s ready to keep it moving this week at Pebble Beach. Known for his solid iron play and scrambling, Trahan likes these tracks making the cut in five of seven starts with T10 (2010) and T6 (2009) being his best finishes. I’m going with the hot hand here.
Spencer Levin: Speaking of hot, Levin was plenty hot through 54 holes last week in the desert. He bogeyed his first hole and didn’t have another bogey until hole 51 on Saturday. Sure, plenty was made about Levin blowing a six-shot lead on Sunday at WMPO but nothing to the effect of what Kyle Stanley had to deal with the week before. I believe this “lack of coverage” will help Levin this week after finishing T3. Levin, also a Sacramento native, was T4 here last year and was T4 GIR, second in putts per GIR and led the field in birdies. He also is three-for-three in cuts made in his career at Pebble Beach, including T14 in 2009. This should make for a soft landing after last week.
Zach Johnson: Solid T8 in his last time out at Humana has my attention as he tees it up for only the second time in his career at Pebble Beach (T59; 2004). His short game and putting this week will be to his advantage as he’s one of the best in the business on and around the greens. Class player looking to keep his momentum going in 2012.
Bryce Molder: I screwed up and left him off the list last week and I vowed that wouldn’t happen again. Here’s why: T7 at Hyundai; CUT Humana; T13 FIO; T15 WMPO. Molder was T6 here last year after T10 in 2010. PAY ATTENTION GLASS!
Rickie Fowler: The question that all of us are waiting to have answered is when is this kid, with bags and bags of talent, finally going to win? I look at Fowler’s numbers and I can’t throw him out. It could be any week with how good his game is. He’s taken well to the new equipment he’s playing and has finished T26 and T13 with no big rounds and no low rounds. I would have him ranked higher, but I tend to side with history and only three players in 28 years have won their first career title at Pebble Beach. Played well on the West Coast swing last year and I would expect this trend to continue this week. Only appearance here in 2010 he was T27.
Rory Sabbatini: Everywhere he goes, he seems to have played well at that course at one time or another. This week is no different. He’ll be worth a punt because of his track record at Pebble Beach. He’s played 10 events and has made the cut in five of them. Of the five cuts he’s made, he’s never finished worse than T15, including second alone in 2006 and T15 last year. Sabbatini has finished T9, T29 and T14 in his three events this year. He hasn’t played since Humana so he should be refreshed and ready to go.
Jim Furyk: He matches up the “traditional winner” pedigree here at Pebble Beach. Major Champion. Multiple Tour wins. In 15 tries he’s made the cut 13 times and has hit the top 25 seven times. He hasn’t won since he won the FedExCup two years ago and he’s never won here. He’s making his first appearance of 2012 but finished 2011 with four out of his last five starts inside the top 25. Class pick.
Rod Pampling: I’m going with another hot hand here. Pampling, after being cut to open his season at the Humana, has finished T8 at FIO and T15 last week at WMPO. Pampling is looking to put the struggles of recent years behind him and he’s off to a solid start. An excellent ball striker and scrambler, Pampling’s game fits well at Pebble Beach. In four career starts he’s made three cuts. In his last start in 2010, he was T27.
Brendan Steele: He finished the last three rounds last week 11-under and only made two bogeys. That’s hot enough for me to take notice. The California native won on Tour last year in his rookie season at Valero so he’s not unaware of what it takes to win on Tour. He missed the cut in his only appearance here last year so he knows what to expect to get it going in the right direction on these courses.
John Huh: “Johnny Question Mark” as labeled by CBS’s Gary McCord. The rookie has made the cut in all three of the events he’s entered this season. He started T53 at Sony, followed by T6 at FIO and just missed out on another top 10 last week after making two doubles coming home on Sunday to T12. I just hope I’m not a week too late to this coming out party.
Harris Bud English Cauley: I can’t separate the two right now so I decided to couple them as one entry. They both have made four cuts in four events each. English’s two best finishes are T19 and T15. Cauley’s two best finishes are T13 and T29. English has three rounds of 16 over par. Cauley has four. Coin flip.
“I’m (paired with) a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!”
Based on recent play or history at this course, some players to steer clear of this week:
Mike Weir: I’m always scared to jump on a guy the first tournament back after an injury that’s kept him out. Weir’s record here is fantastic, but I would like to see how his surgically-repaired right elbow holds up in action before I make him part of my rotation.
Kevin Na: He finished T5 last week at WMPO but his track record here puts me off. He’s made two cuts in four career starts. The California native has finished CUT, T56, CUT and T43 in the last four years. This would be the opposite of “horse for course”.
Vijay Singh: Unbelievable history at Pebble but he’s a bit too inconsistent early in 2012 for me. Four of his “almost” nine rounds this year are over par. Plus, I had him when he lost to Steve Lowery in 2009 so I’m holding a grudge over that.
Davis Love III: Another great player over time at these tracks who hasn’t fired yet in 2012. In two events, DL3 hasn’t broken par and has been cut both times. I’ll wait for the Ryder Cup Captain to find some form before taking a look.
Not yet, but you might not recognize these guys if they hit the top 10 this week.
Tom Gillis: Classic case of Horse for Course. Gillis, who has not made a cut this year in three tries and has only one round in the 60’s, finished third alone last year and T8 in 2010. I think he likes it here.
J.B. Holmes: The only reason he’s in this section is because of his offseason brain surgery. He’s had a quiet start as he rounds his game into playing shape. Pebble Beach just might be the place where he gets back on track based on his history. Holmes had made the cut in all five appearances finishing T13, T2, T55, T61 and T16 in the last five tournaments.
Matt Jones: After T40 last week in his first start, the Aussie heads to Pebble where his history has been solid including T15 last year at T10 in 2010. He’s on conditional status after finishing in the 126-150 category so he needs to take advantage of his starts.
Josh Teater: Made his 14th consecutive cut last week. He missed the cut last year but was T5 in 2010. A little bit of form is sprinkled in with a bit of history here.
Alex Cejka: Another player looking to cash with limited starts early in 2012. His record at Pebble could be an indicator of why he’s playing this week. He’s made the cut in four of seven starts and his last two outings were his best, T21 in 2011 and T10 in 2010. Worth a punt.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: AT&T National Pro-Am
After an awful finish last week, I’m looking to rebound. Or just show up.
Team Name: Mike Glasscott
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: D.A. Points
Group 3: D.J. Trahan
Group 4: John Huh
Ned Said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He's had documented success in Yahoo!'s game for years. Even if you're confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.
Nick Watney: He withdrew from the WMPO because of an illness, so I'm assuming he is now well. He plays well on the West Coast Swing and was T8 here last year.
Phil Mickelson-- He played well last week, but a poor final round sank him at T26. He is three-time champion of the AT&T Pebble Beach and has top 10s in his last two starts.
SUPER SUBS: Spencer Levin, Sean O'Hair, Jim Furyk
Tiger Woods: It's hard to believe Tiger has fallen into Group B, but that's how bad 2011 treated him. In his last three starts worldwide he has a T3 at the Australian Open, a championship at the Chevron and a T3 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC. He looks like a no-brainier at Pebble Beach.
Dustin Johnson: Johnson has been on the comeback trail in the early season after having knee surgery. His mastery of the AT&T Pebble Beach has earned him T7 in '08 and championships in '09 and '10.
Hunter Mahan: It used to be you could fade Mahan early in the season but he broke out of that pattern last year. He picked up T6 at the Farmers and last year at the AT&T he finished second.
D.A. Points: He has had a very good start to the season with T12 at the TOC, T6 at the Sony and T8 at the Farmers. His only top 10 at the AT&T came last year, when he won.
SUPER SUBS: Rickie Fowler, Bryce Molder, Ian Poulter, Brendan Steele, Geoff Ogilvy
Vijay Singh: He looked good at the Farmers, where he was T13. His history at the AT&T is very strong with seven top 10s in 17 starts including a championship in '04.
D.J. Trahan: You could put at least a half a dozen players in this spot. Trahan seemed to break out of his slump last week with a fourth place at the WMPO. He has seven career starts at the AT&T with two top 10 finishes.
Trevor Immelman, John Mallinger, Tom Gillis, Bud Cauley, Harris English, Rod Pampling
“And Another Thing”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET. They will be breaking down the field at the AT&T and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.