Can Seamus Power continue his quest to make the European Ryder Cup team?
Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor, Kannon is an on-air host for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and host and creator of Long Shots, the network’s golf betting show. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his 9 favorite plays for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which kicks off Thursday in Monterey. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money. For more from Kannon, you can also listen to his Long Shots podcast.
The West Coast Swing continues this week, moving from the California desert to the Monterey Peninsula.
For the fourth time in five weeks, the players find themselves playing coastal golf, this time along the shores of Carmel Bay. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am also marks the third week in a row that we will see a multi-course event. Between Thursday and Saturday, each player will take a crack at the host course, Pebble Beach Golf Links, as well as Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
At the conclusion of play on Saturday, a 54-hole cut will the field for Sunday’s final round at Pebble, featuring the top 60 players and ties.
Spyglass Hill, which plays the toughest of the three courses, is heavily tree-lined, especially after an opening 6-hole stretch etched through the dunes. Pebble Beach is the most open of the three courses, with the greatest exposure to the coast, while Monterey Peninsula is a little bit of both and plays as the easiest of the three.
Each golf course has Poa Annua greens, the same grass we saw last week at Torrey Pines. The fairways are wide, the courses are shorter than Tour average, and the greens are on the smaller side with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest putting surfaces we see all season.
For the players who make the cut, half of their rounds will be played at Pebble, which is the only course of the three that provides us handicappers with Shot-Link data. Note that this is a Pro-Am with many celebrities taking part, so green speeds will be kept on the slower side and the rough at a less penal length.
Jordan Spieth, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Viktor Hovland find themselves at the top of this week’s odds board, all in the 10-1 neighborhood. After this, the field becomes remarkably thin and the next tier of competitors are at outright prices close to double what is being offered on Spieth, Fitzpatrick, and Hovland. Unfortunately, one of the world’s most iconic venues is welcoming by far the weakest field we have seen so far this year.
That doesn’t mean we can’t bet on it but what we have seen in recent iterations of this event is a wide split between favorites and long shots emerging victorious. Look at the prices on the last 13 winners. It is pretty much favorites or much deeper long shots with little to pick from in between.
Tom Hoge (66-1)
Daniel Berger (18-1)
Nick Taylor (160-1)
Phil Mickelson (25-1)
Ted Potter Jr. (500-1)
Jordan Spieth (9-1)
Vaughn Taylor (300-1)
Brandt Snedeker (25-1)
Jimmy Walker (28-1)
Brandt Snedeker (14-1)
Phil Mickelson (25-1)
D.A. Points (80-1)
Dustin Johnson (22-1)
Given that history, I’ve spread out my card this week, playing a couple of shorter shots, a couple of longer shots, and a few long bombs as well.
My primary areas of focus this week were par-4 scoring — looking at Par 4 holes measuring between 350-450 yards, Scrambling and Strokes Gained: Around the Green. With smaller putting surfaces, getting up and down from off the putting surface has always been key at this tournament.
I’ve also leaned on Greens In Regulation and SG: Approach. Given the difficulty Poa Annua often poses, I’ve also looked at putting inside 10 feet.
By contrast, I didn’t give much weight to performance off the tee. With shorter courses and wide fairways, neither Driving Distance nor Driving Accuracy should be too important. Let’s also point out that this golf course will likely be relatively soft after all the heavy rains in Northern California this winter. That will keep a lot of balls in the fairway. The conditions won’t allow for much rollout.
As far as correlated courses, I considered shorter, coastal venues: the RSM Classic (Sea Island), the Bermuda Championship (Port Royal) and Mayakoba (El Camaleon). I also looked at how these players have fared at TPC Craig Ranch, where the Byron Nelson was held for the past two years. The course set up there requires a similar set of skills as does Pebble Beach.
7 picks I like to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am outright
Seamus Power (23-1)
Power does everything right at this type of golf course. He won last year at Bermuda, took 3rd at Mayakoba, and has two top-5 finishes at Sea Island. He also has a Top 10 here at Pebble and another at TPC Craig Ranch. He hits a ton of greens in regulation and is an excellent scrambler and putter. The wedge play is great, too, as he ranks 8th in this field over the last 24 rounds in proximity to the hole from 75-100 out. Power is currently 68th on Tour for putting inside of 10 feet.
Matt Kuchar (35-1)
I missed the best price on this one as I’ve seen as high as 48-1. I don’t love it at 35 but 45-1 or better is very good in my opinion. Kuchar is seemingly an older version of Power – great short game, wedge game, strong on the Par 4’s, flourishes on the shorter, coastal tracks. He’s finished as high as 6th here at Pebble Beach, and he has won and finished third at Mayakoba. He has four Top 25 finishes and one Top 10 finish at Sea Island. Kuchar currently ranks 13th on Tour for putting inside of 10 feet. We’ve seen veteran players win at Pebble Beach too: Mark O’Meara, Johnny Miller, Peter Jacobsen, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson. Maybe it’s Kuchar’s turn.
Alex Smalley (50-1)
Smalley ranks high in my areas of emphasis this week. He is 36th on Tour in Greens In Regulation, 65th in SG Approach, 61st in SG Putting, and 33rd in this field over the last 24 rounds on the shorter Par 4’s. He has finished 11th and 12th in two tries at the Bermuda Championship and finished 5th in November at the RSM Classic. Over the span of the last 8 tournaments, Smalley ranks 7th in this field for Strokes Gained: Total.
Scott Stallings (68-1)
A specialist on Poa Annua? Stallings looks the part. He has had great success at Torrey Pines and here at Pebble Beach, where he has finishes of 3rd, 7th, and 14th in his career. He has also finished as high as 5th at Bermuda, 9th at Sea Island, and 3rd at TPC Craig Ranch. He finished last season 43rd on Tour in Scrambling, 44th in SG Putting, and 61st in SG Approach. Over the last 24 rounds, he is 7th in this field for SG Approach and 8th on the longer Par 4’s.
Danny Willett (135-1)
Now we enter triple-digit territory, where, as I noted, many Pebble winners have come from in recent years. Willett’s strengths are short game and approach. He is 3rd in this field over the last 24 rounds for Greens In Regulation Gained. He ranks 1st for SG Around The Green, and 3rd on the shorter Par 4’s. He withdrew from two straight events in November with an apparent shoulder injury and then returned to action three weeks ago at the American Express where he missed the cut. I’m betting that he’s now had time to recover and is back in the form that saw him take 2nd place in Napa, California at the Fortinet in September, a course that has a similar putting surface to what we have this week.
Chesson Hadley (225-1)
Hadley ranks steadily inside or around the Top 50 in this field over the last 24 rounds for the stats I looked at this week. He finished last season ranked 13th on Tour for SG Putting and currently ranks 3rd for putting inside of 10 feet. His record at Pebble has been very good with two 10th-place finishes and an 18th. He also has two Top 20 finishes in Bermuda and a Top 25 at Sea Island. I believe he has a good shot to finish Top 20 this week and at 225-1, it’s worth a small play on an outright win.
James Hahn (250-1)
James Hahn lives in the Bay Area, roughly 90 minutes from Pebble Beach, and he went to college at UC Berkeley, so he’s familiar with this golf course and Poa Annua greens. He has finished as high as 3rd at Pebble. He also has a Top 10 at TPC Craig Ranch, two Top 30 finishes at Mayakoba, and a Top 20 at the RSM Classic. His wedge play and putting can be an issue but he ranks surprisingly high in other areas against this field given his current odds. Over the last eight tournaments, Hahn is 11th in the field for SG Approach, 10th in SG Around the Green, and 5th for SG Tee To Green.