Pebble Beach guide
A preview and best bets for this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.
By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf
Last Updated: 06/02/14 3:12pm
If you want unrivalled beauty on your screens this week, tune into Sky Sports for coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links in California hugs the rugged coastline of the Monterey Peninsula and its ocean holes are simply breathtaking.
Pebble Beach has staged five US Opens, including Tiger Woods' amazing 15-shot romp in 2000, but this week's format is different.
Instead of four rounds at Pebble, the 156 professionals play Monterey Peninsula CC, Spyglass Hill GC and Pebble Beach Golf Links in rotation.
After three days the cut is made and the top 60 players and ties return to Pebble Beach for the final round.
Each professional plays with one amateur partner and one third of the amateurs in the field are 'celebrities' made up of famous names from the movie, music and sports industries. The top 25 pro-am pairings also return to Pebble Beach for the last round.
As usual, Sky Sports have live coverage of all four days.
Pebble Beach, a 6,816-yard par 72, is certainly short by modern standards but the wind can obviously play a huge factor - especially on the holes along the coastline (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17 & 18). The famous downhill par three seventh is just a flick with a wedge on calm days but provides a real challenge when it gusts. Spyglass Hill (par 72) is also short at just 6,953 yards but is considered the hardest of the three. The first five holes at Spyglass are exposed to the ocean but the rest of the course is inland, tree-lined and features huge changes in elevation. The Monterey Peninsula Shore course is a links style track. The first four holes and last two holes have some protection from the Cyprus trees but the rest of the course runs along the sea front and is very exposed to wind. Again, it's under 7,000 yards (6,838) but par is 70. It's worth remembering that Pebble won't play like it does in the US Open. It, and the other courses, are set up with the amateurs in mind so there is little rough, pin positions are accessible and low scoring is the norm. The winning totals for the last 10 runnings are -19, 17, -15, -16, -15, -10, -20, -17, -19, -16. By contrast, Graeme McDowell won the 2010 US Open at Pebble with even par.
Brandt Snedeker came to Pebble Beach on the back of successive runners-up finishes at Phoenix and Torrey Pines and continued his red-hot form to shoot 19-under and win by two from Chris Kirk. Prior to that he'd missed two of his three previous cuts at Pebble. It was his fifth PGA Tour win on his 171st career start and second on the West Coast. He ranked sixth in Greens In Regulation for the week and eighth in Strokes Gained - Putting.
Since the tournament started in 1937 (then known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Golf Championship) there have been just three non-American winners. The last two were Vijay Singh in 2004 and Aussie Brett Ogle in 1993.
The leading contenders (with Sky Bet odds)
Jason Day (10/1): The Aussie, who seems to come alive on the iconic venues, will be making his fifth start at Pebble, the previous four producing sixth places in 2008 and 2013 and a 14th in 2009. His form either side of Christmas has been excellent. At November's World Cup he won the individual title and also the team event alongside Adam Scott, he was sixth in the Aussie Open in December and two weeks ago he was runner-up at Torrey Pines. "I had good prep work coming into the week and the game feels like it is in a good spot right now," said Day after round one and he was true to his word.
Phil Mickelson (14/1): Lefty has a fantastic record in this piece of golfing paradise with 14 years separating his first win in 1998 and his most recent in 2012 (his others came in 2005 and 2007 while he's also been third three times). Second in Abu Dhabi on his seasonal debut, a bad back caused him to withdraw at Torrey Pines although he seemed fine fitness-wise when 42nd in Phoenix last week, even taking the chance to please the raucous crowds at 16 by chucking American footballs at them. He's won at Pebble on the back of a win, a missed cut and a 26th in Phoenix so last week's result is pretty irrelevant!
Dustin Johnson (14/1): DJ is a back-to-back winner of this tournament, the first coming in 2009 when bad weather reduced the event to 54 holes and the second 12 months later when he snuck home by a single shot. That same year the US Open was played at Pebble and Johnson showed his love for this venue by taking a three-shot lead after three rounds before he imploded on Sunday. Also tied fifth in 2012 and seventh on debut in 2008, the big-hitting American has made just one start so far in 2014, finishing tied sixth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. His last Tour start of 2013 produced a victory in the HSBC Champions in China.
Hunter Mahan (16/1): The Californian has five top 16s in his home-state tournament, his last three appearances producing a second place in 2011, 15th in 2012 and 16th last year. After shaking off the rust when 47th at Torrey Pines he made a late run for glory in last week's Phoenix Open (an event he'd won in 2010) before having to settle for fourth place. His weekend rounds of 65-68 were certainly impressive though. There were plenty of good signs in his game at TPC Scottsdale - both ball-striking and putting - so Mahan is definitely one for the shortlist this week.
Jordan Spieth (20/1): After his brilliant rookie season in 2013 which yielded a win and two second places, Spieth has kept the momentum going this year. He kicked off with a second place in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and held the halfway lead at Torrey Pines last time out before slipping from second after 54 holes to 19th after a second successive 75. However, Spieth later admitted he had ankle trouble all weekend, saying it was "pretty messed up". This is his second start at Pebble and he played nicely on debut last year, shooting 70-70-68-70 to finish tied 22nd.Brandt Snedeker (30/1): Snedeker's form in this event was patchy (two missed cuts and no top 20s in five starts) before he produced a brilliant performance to win here last year. An eighth place in the 2010 US Open here hinted that he might do well at some point but it was his sensational current form that was the overriding factor as he came to Monterey on the back of two second places. His form this season is something of a curate's egg. Twice he's shot second round 64s (Humana and Phoenix) but his finishes in those two events were 58th and 61st so something isn't quite right. Perhaps there is still some fallout from his mishap late last year when he hurt his knee hopping off a Segway in China.
With so many repeat and multiple winners at Pebble Beach down the years, who would you rather back - a player who has lifted trophies here or one who hasn't?
So when it comes to the four players at the front of the betting, history says four-time winner Phil Mickelson and double champ Dustin Johnson are better bets than 10/1 Jason Day and 16/1 Hunter Mahan.
Day has won just once in 137 PGA Tour starts so backing him at 10/1 in these conditions (courses are set up for amateurs so will play easy) doesn't seem the best ploy given that his best results come on hard tracks when he's much bigger prices.
Anyone who has followed Mickelson's career knows he can suddenly turn it on when seemingly not at his best so ignore last week's mixed performance in Phoenix.
As for his bad back, the left-hander says it feels "great" while he had this to say of his performance at TPC Scottsdale: "My game is not far off, even though the score says that is. It was just a fraction off. My irons were what I struggled with this week, but I drove the ball well, short game wasn't bad, putting wasn't bad. I have to go back to work on my iron play."
Back at a venue which brings the best out of his mercurial talent, Mickelson could well be the one again.
Put you money (at 14/1) on him joining 'Prince of Pebble' Mark O'Meara as a five-time winner of the event.
Sky Bet have a 'Price Boost' in place for Dustin Johnson and that takes him to an industry high 14/1. Snap it up.
DJ says of this event: "I love the courses. They all set up very well to me. I feel comfortable on them, especially off the tees. All these greens out here I'm really comfortable with reading them. I think I see the putts very well."
Johnson is just 29 and has eight PGA Tour wins to his name already so get on board this prolific winner at one of his favourite tour stops.
Charlie Wi looks a fair shout at 100/1 given his second place here to Mickelson in 2012.
Wi has other strong connections with this event, as he explained a couple of years ago.
"Pebble is probably my favourite course. It's the number one course in my mind. Winning the state amateur (at Pebble in 1990) means a lot. Since I went to school at Berkeley (California University), I have a lot of friends that come down to cheer for me."
Wi has played these tracks a lot and that comes through in his record which shows six straight cuts made here, with that second in 2012, a tied 16th last year and a tied 14th in 2009.
As for current form, he's made three cuts out of four this year with a best of 23rd at the Humana so, although fairly modest, it's enough of a springboard from which to launch a title bid this week.
One final point is that he's fourth in Scrambling this year which has to bode well given that plenty of shots will miss these very small greens so getting up and down is a key skill.
Finally, I'll take the 50s about Jason Kokrak.
The 28-year-old claimed two victories on the Web.com Tour in 2011 with winning totals (-18 and -20) in the same ball-park as what's likely to be the magic number this week.
Kokrak, who is 14th in Scrambling, has a 10th, a 15th (in Phoenix last week) and a 20th in his last four PGA Tour starts and and rewinding further that becomes five top 20s in his last nine tournaments.
After keeping his card in 2012 and threatening to win a couple of times in 2013, this year we should expect Kokrak to take the next step and bag a win.
Having finished ninth here on debut in 2012, this could be the week for the big-hitter.
3pts win Phil Mickelson at 14/1
3pts win Dustin Johnson at 14/1 (Price Boost)
1pt e.w. Charlie Wi at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Jason Kokrak at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)