PGA Angle of Attack: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

You won’t see any better recent form than Bill Belichick’s right now, and he has amazing history on the West Coast. Do we pencil in his playing partner as our #1 lock of the week?  How about that game on Sunday, eh?  It certainly seems like the Patriots luck could rub off on anyone in Belichick’s foursome this week!

On a more realistic note, Hideki Matsuyama just keeps rolling. I feel pretty comfortable saying the he has turned the top tier of golfers into a six man group, much as Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson expanded it from three to five with their performances last year.  I saw some team FanVice players up near the top of the leaderboards, and even successfully deployed Rickie Fowler, which has not been an easy feat for the better part of a year now. A number of high exposure guys who barely missed cuts (Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson) stopped me from personally putting it all together, but a nice week on the whole. Oh, and since I’m from New England, the Super Bowl was pretty cool too.

This week we get another course rotation, and another tournament with 54 holes for everyone, before a big cut (only top 60 of 156 get through) on Saturday. This is also a Pro Am, so expect a lot of Bill Murray and Bill Belichick coverage on the broadcast. As much as I may believe both to be national treasures, it’s a little irritating when all your money is on their playing partner and we have to watch them hack their way around the course or suffer through a Larry the Cable Guy interview. All three courses are 6,800 – 7,000 yards, two par 72s and an unconventional par 71 that has an extra par 3 hole. These are on the shorter side, but we will as always prefer longer players with all else being equal.

The fairways are pretty wide, and the rough is not supposed to be too bad, so I will be toning down the accuracy weight. The big thing we are going to want a ton of this week is quality second shots. The greens are tiny, but reachable for everyone, so we really need players who can stick the ball to the pin.

The area has received a bunch of rain lately, which will make for softer greens and should help those that can loft the ball in. This makes the courses somewhat more suited to bombers than they have been in years past. The wind is likely going to be bad, but with another course rotation we have everyone teeing off within two hours of one another again. Check back again on Wednesday night/Thursday morning to see if you can glean an advantage.

Length: As I said earlier, while maybe not the priority it was the last two weeks, we’re still going to prefer getting as close as possible as early as possible. Wet conditions will make the ball roll less all over the course, making it play longer than usual.

Fairways: Less worried about accuracy than usual this week. The fairways are wider, the rough is said to not be too penal, and the wind is likely going to mess with the best looking swings anyway. Wild men like Jimmy Walker and J.B. Holmes have crushed in the past. Hell, even Andrew Loupe has good results here.

Greens: The greens at these courses are all slower poa annua grass, and we have to factor in the rain that will slow them down even more. This should make going at the hole aggressively on the approach a little easier. It is also likely to even out the putting differences. The greens will be bumpy and slow, which means long putts won’t hold their line as well and mistakes will not roll by as far. This tends to reduce both one and three putt attempts.

Weather: Should be bad, don’t think we will be able to avoid it, but definitely check as tee time approaches to see if any clear windows develop.

On to the golfers:

Pricey (9.0k+)

Hard to argue with any of the three up top, as Dustin Johnson – $11,800, Jordan Spieth – $12,000, and Jason Day – $11,600, all look like fine values. I probably lean slightly in the order listed above, and would make Deej the first priority for cash if jamming in a stud. There simply aren’t any flaws in his game, unless you think being paired with his father in law is going to mess with him. It hasn’t in the past. Spieth is always a nice GPP play as he can go unconscious on and around the greens, but as I mentioned before we are likely looking at very slow, sloppy conditions, which will make those crazy shots tougher. Day looks like crap this year but I’m still trying to buy some based on the pedigree, and I would think you can get him for less than half the ownership of the other two based on what he’s done so far.

Justin Rose – $9,200 and Phil Mickelson – $9,300: Personally, I prefer Rose here. Much more complete all – around game right now, and he’s been hot out of the gate. Definitely will be one of my highest exposure guys this week, and I’m strongly considering him for cash. Phil is approximately 63 years old, and really has struggled overall since that crazy battle with Stenson at the British last summer. But there were signs of life last week, he has owned this event in the past, and you can see why. He won’t be punished as much for his ineffectiveness off the tee, and there are plenty of the crazy long iron shots he excels at. The wet conditions should make his tendency to go right at the pin on the approach more effective, too. The math says Rose to me, but Phil continually defies math. Stay tuned to see what kind of popularity we’re looking at. If the price bump has people off of him, I’d be willing to invest some.

Mid – range (7.5 – 8.9k)

I do think that attacking players who just barely miss the cut is a nice strategy, as the game logs show the same CUT or MC for Jason Kokrak – $7,500 and as they do for Andrew Loupe. For reference, the difference in strokes per round last week between Kokrak and Loupe (5) was greater than the difference between Kokrak and Hideki (4.25). I think he’s been playing fine, I don’t believe that cut making is a skill, and I was literally the only person to play him in the $300 tournament last week on DK. That should pay off eventually.

J.B. Holmes – $8,400: This is a binky play for me, and I’m happy to jump back on at this course. Scored the 10th most DraftKings points despite coming in 24th place last week. Three pre – cut rounds helps mitigate the potential for some disaster stretches we know are coming.

Webb Simpson – $8,200 and Roberto Castro – $7,900: Castro struggled with his irons last week, which is not typical. I’m willing to write that off as an outlier, and he still missed the cut by the smallest amount possible. Webber played incredible, ultimately losing to ‘Deki in a playoff. I don’t think this week is going to turn into a birdie fest, so these slow and steady, elite iron guys should be able to compete by getting on the green repeatedly and giving themselves the looks.

Patrick Reed – $8,300: Total price play. I’m not the hugest fan, but he’s a much better golfer than this tag suggests. Great short game, always a threat to go on a run.

Fade: J.J. Spaun hits 280 and is gaining strokes off the tee at Finau/J.B./Rahm levels. That’s not lasting.

Also consider: Gary Woodland/Jimmy Walker (GPP), Matt Kuchar/Jim Furyk (Cash)

Cheapies (7.4k and below)

Scott Piercy and Kevin Chappell – $7,200: Both of these guys are nice, solid golfers. With the weak field adjusting the pricing up a bit this week, they both stand out to me. Both a little above average at just about everything, if they catch some favorable bounces they could be right in it come Sunday.

Ryan Palmer – $7,000: Please Ryan, stop making me write you up, you’re killing me. I swear if you blow it this week again I’m out.

Not gonna lie, what he’s doing is concerning. But he lost 3 strokes putting in two rounds last week, which is tough to do. I think playing 10% is going to triple the field’s exposure, and there aren’t a lot of players down here in his class.

Also consider: Vaughn Taylor, Robert Streb, Shane Lowry

Go and get it everybody.