This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM
Winner's Share: $1.404M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Pebble Beach, Calif.
Courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill GC
Yardage: 7,051 (Pebble), 7,041 (Spyglass)
Par: Both 72
2020 champion: Nick Taylor
"Pebble Beach." Those two words, that name – it is golf royalty. Of all the courses in the world, perhaps only Augusta National and St. Andrews have more name recognition. If there were a Mount Rushmore of golf courses, those three would be on it, and good luck finding agreement on a fourth.
With that said, it is terribly sad what is happening to this tournament. It will have its weakest field going back to at least 1986 – when the OWGR era began – and that was before world No. 1 Dustin Johnson stunningly pulled out late Monday evening. DJ's WD leaves no one among the top 10 in the world rankings, and just five of the top 50. The one saving grace for tournament organizers is the star power in the form of Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.
The tournament is one of the most venerable on Tour and surely deserves better.
It has been around since Bing Crosby got the ol' Clambake going at Rancho Santa Fe outside San Diego in 1937 and Sam Snead came away with the $500 first-place check. It moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947, so this will be the 75th edition at Pebble. It's impossible to overstate the tournament's bedrock of stability, and that's without considering AT&T is the second-longest-tenured title sponsor on Tour, since 1986.
But as we see, that doesn't attract the golfers. Many can't stand the three or even four days of pro-am play. On top of that, the weather is usually dicey, as it will be this year. And that often leaves the field weak. But never like this, even with the pro-am portion of the tournament being axed this year because of the pandemic.
For the record, the five top-50 players are No. 11 Patrick Cantlay, No. 15 Daniel Berger, No. 17 Paul Casey, No. 48 Jason Day and No. 49 Will Zalatoris. None of them will – how can we say this gently? – improve CBS' ratings this weekend.
Still, without those eternal six-hour pro-am rounds – there will now be a traditional one-day pro-am on Wednesday – you'd have thought more big names might show up. After 2021 began with five straight weeks of PGA Tour fields being better than last year, and in some cases the strongest in years, the streak will end. Certainly, having an invitational tournament at Riviera next week followed by a WGC event does not help. Coincidentally or not, the tournament with the longest-standing sponsor – The Honda Open (1982) – has also gotten squeezed by the calendar, as we'll next month during the Florida Swing.
Anyway, let's get on with the task at hand here. Without the pro-am, only two courses will be in play instead of the usual three – Monterey Peninsula should be back next year – and therefore the golfers will play Pebble three of the four rounds – finally some good news! Despite being so short, Pebble played especially difficult last year as the eighth-hardest course on Tour. Incredibly, four holes were among the 50 toughest on Tour. In order: the 202-yard 12th, the 504-yard 9th, the 428-yard 8th and 195-yard 5th. That doesn't include two of the harder par-5s on Tour. We're talking about the 580-yard 14th and the picturesque 543-yard 18th. What makes such a short course so hard? For one, the greens are the smallest the golfers will see all year, averaging 3,500 square feet – almost half the size of the Tour average. That calls for highly accurate iron play and, barring that, great scrambling. Those tiny Pebble greens with the confounding poa annua are also well protected by bunkers, with more than 115 on the course.
Keep in mind that we're back to a 156-man field this week and, without the pro-am, the cut will now come after 36 holes instead of 54. That means getting six golfers through to the weekend will be especially challenging. A strong argument can be made for balanced lineups this week, at least more so than most.
Weather-wise, yes, the conditions will be dicey. Rain and chilly temperatures, with highs in the 50s, are in the forecast all four days. That means it'll be in the upper-40s for the early-morning rounds. And the wind is expected to start out moderate but eventually pick up, resulting in a blustery Sunday.
Key Stats to Winning at Pebble Beach
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Driving accuracy/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
2020 - Nick Taylor
2019 - Phil Mickelson
2018 - Ted Potter Jr.
2017 - Jordan Spieth
2016 - Vaughn Taylor
2015 - Brandt Snedeker
2014 - Jimmy Walker
2013 - Brandt Snedeker
2012 - Phil Mickelson
2011 - D.A. Points
Pebble Beach is a second-shot golf course. Getting on the green is always harder when the greens are small, so superior wedge play is paramount – both from the fairway and around the greens. In the past seven years, no winner has been top-20 in driving distance. Potter, in fact, was not in the top 65. Normally when greens are small, the best putters are neutralized. But that doesn't mean you don't have to putt well to win here. In fact, seven of the past 11 winners have been top-10 in putting average, with Mickelson being the worst of the bunch, ranking 20th two years ago. Nick Taylor ran away to win by four over Kevin Streelman last year, and that's understandable when knowing he ranked third in the field in greens in regulation and second in Strokes Gained: Putting. Taylor and Mickelson both shot 19-under, which falls in the middle of the past eight winners, all between 17- and 22-under. Lastly, and perhaps it's coincidence more than anything else, there have been only two non-U.S. winners of this tournament since 1965 (though Graeme McDowell did win the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2010).
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Daniel Berger - $10,100 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 14-1)
Dustin Johnson was priced at $12,000. Patrick Cantlay is $11,300 and Paul Casey is $10,400. The first one is out and we have reservations about the other two. So for the first time in memory, we're bypassing not only the top guy on the DraftKings board but the top three. Berger has played this tournament twice, finishing fifth last year and 10th in 2015. He opened 2021 with a pair of top-10s before a very rare missed cut last week at Phoenix, just his second in 15 months. He's ranked only 76th on Tour in greens in regulation – though in this field that's a Hall of Fame credential – and 21st in SG: Putting.
Will Zalatoris - $9,900 (20-1)
Zalatoris has fared just fine in quality fields, but now the stars may be aligning for his first win – and his Tour card – in a very weak field. Still playing on sponsor invites, Zalatoris has four top-10s and two more top-20s in eight starts this season. He's never played Pebble Beach but is perfectly suited for it, ranking fourth in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green and sixth in scoring average.
Jordan Spieth - $9,700 (20-1)
Well, this is all Dustin Johnson's fault. We know what Spieth did last week, and what he does many years at Pebble, but we were just not ready to jump on board, certainly at this price. Well, here we are. To review: Spieth tied for fourth last week at Phoenix, which was his first top-10 since June and just his second since last year at Pebble (T9). He won here in 2017, but then faded to 20th and 45th the next two years.
Jason Day - $9,500 (20-1)
It's hard to know where the majority of the DJ backers will turn, but Day is a strong pivot. This is one of his go-to-tracks, resulting in high finishes year after year even as his game waned at other places. He's finished top-5 here four straight years and five of the past six. Day's strokes-gained stats are abysmal almost across the board, and he's missed the cut in both his 2021 starts. But all that goes out the window for Day at this venue.
Tier 2 Values
Francesco Molinari - $9,300 (25-1)
Molinari is a Californian now, so this should be right up his alley, right? Seriously, when he was playing his best, his game featured precision iron play. Molinari has never played this tournament before, but he did tie for 16th at the 2019 U.S. Open here. Most importantly, after a dreadful 2020, he has opened this year with a pair of top-10s, including at Torrey Pines, which has some similarities to Pebble.
Rickie Fowler - $9,200 (40-1)
We're going with Jordan Spieth, so why not Rickie Fowler, too? Setting DraftKings lineups isn't always about whom you like; it's sometimes about whom you dislike less. Fowler has not played this event since missing the cut way back in 2012, but he did play in the 2019 U.S. Open and tied for 43rd after an opening 66. Fowler's putting is way off this season, but he is ranked a respectable 66th in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Kevin Streelman - $8,900 (30-1)
Streelman excels here every year, though this time around he won't have Larry Fitzgerald as his tag-team partner. He's finished top-10 three years running, and was runner-up to Nick Taylor last year. Streelman is ranked 14th on Tour in greens in regulation and is coming off a top-25 at Phoenix. He's quietly still ranked inside the top-60 in the world.
Phil Mickelson - $8,600 (40-1)
There aren't many weeks these days when Mickelson is a viable option. This is one of them. He finished on the podium four of the past five years, including his fifth Pebble win in 2019 and a solo third last year. Sure, Mickelson played last week in Saudi Arabia, but he certainly wasn't on a commercial flight.
Tier 3 Values
Matthew NeSmith - $8,000 (80-1)
As if this week can't get any wackier, NeSmith jumped $1,500 from last week and from the bottom of our long shots to the top of Tier 3. He tied for seventh at Phoenix and is ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation.
Peter Malnati - $7,800 (80-1)
There are some tracks that align nicely with Malnati's game and this is one of them. He tied for 11th here last year. Further, he's been playing well more often this season, even at longer tracks. He tied for 10th at Torrey Pines, which also features poa annua greens. Malnati is ranked fourth on Tour in SG: Putting.
Patton Kizzire - $7,600 (100-1)
Another great putter, Kizzire has made the cut in nine straight starts going back to September. He's ranked 19th in SG: Putting and a better-than-average 52nd in greens in regulation. Kizzire is also 25th in scoring average heading into his tournament debut (he missed the cut at the 2019 Open at Pebble).
Jim Furyk - $7,400 (125-1)
Pebble is a second-shot golf course and this old-timer leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. Furyk missed the cut here last year but was 14th in 2019. He's played only twice on Tour so far this season but has reached the weekend both times, most recently at the Sony Open.
Sam Ryder - $7,000 (200-1)
Whatever was going on to cause Ryder to miss nine of his last 10 cuts to end 2020, it appears to be gone. He's made all three since the calendar flipped, including a top-10 at the Farmers. He's ranked 37th in greens in regulation, and iron play was the hallmark of his game when he was excelling on the Korn Ferry Tour a few years back. This will be his second Pebble start; he made the cut three years ago.
Joseph Bramlett - $6,700 (200-1)
Bramlett turned in a top-20 here last year and is coming off another top-20 last time out at Torrey Pines. His putting is pretty bad, which can't be completely overlooked this week, but the rest of his game is average or better.
Davis Riley - $6,700 (250-1)
A two-time Korn Ferry winner in 2020, Riley would've made the jump to the PGA Tour if there had been promotions. He's getting a start here and there, and last week made the cut at Phoenix. Impressively, it was his first start since October.
J.B. Holmes - $6,600 (200-1)
Holmes has fallen outside the top 250 in the world, in part because of poor play and because he played only nine times in all of 2020. He's missed his last three cuts, including the past two weeks at Phoenix and Torrey Pines. But his course history here is too good to dismiss, and something you rarely see this far down the DK board. He finished 14th last year and had two top-25s and a top-10 from 2015 to 2017. Heck, he was even runner-up way back in 2010. In a touching gesture, Holmes has vowed to honor the amateurs who won't be around this year by continuing to play 6-hour rounds.