The party is over at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and boy was it ever a party. The figure being thrown out was over 650,000 people in attendance throughout the week in Scottsdale, and for the second straight year, we got a 4-hole playoff in which Hideki Matsuyama won on the 17th hole. This year, the win came against Webb, who really played great, consistent golf down the stretch. It was pretty unbelievable to see these two play 18 twice in a row, and Webb hit his tee shot within about a 40 ft circle each of the three times he played it.
But congratulations to Hideki for defending his title – we are certainly glad we stuck with the title defender, who’s course history at TPC Scottsdale is now just nuts: T4, T2, P1, P1. So spoiler alert: we will be going with Matsuyama in the 2018 WMPO.
Now on to the next one! Pebble Beach always seems to be in the hangover position after one of the best parties of the year. Gone is the par-3 filled with boos and cheers. Instead, they feature wild and animated celebrities like Bill Murray, proving that the best way to cure a hangover is to just keep the party going.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am takes place in Monterey, Cal., right on the coast of the Pacific ocean – a little mecca for beautiful golf courses. Of course, most notable of these is the namesake for the tournament itself. Much like the Career Builder Challenge, this tournament will include three golf courses and a Saturday cut, which makes it difficult to nail down specific golfers to feature based on statistics. Instead, current form and the old “gut feeling” approach will take precedent. There are definitely some stars in this field, but once again, draft kings pricing has tried to add to the challenge by putting out some bizarre prices.
*A final note before we get into picks. Weather is predicted to be a factor in this tournament. Thanks to credible media sources like Snapchat, wind and rain has plagued the early practice rounds, and that weather is likely to hold up, but get progressively nicer until the weekend, when it should be out of sight, out of mind. So that could play a factor, especially in terms of looking at who will have the best chance to make the cut. Players who go out early on Thursday could have an advantage, but mostly you may want to consider good wind and bad weather players. Rose, Snedeker, Kuchar, Furyk, and Lowry come to mind (see below).
Pick of the week
Chris Kirk $7,500 – I’m coming back to Kirk fountain and taking a drink. After missing the cut twice, Kirk came back and notched two top-40 performances. He’s notched a runner up here at Pebble in the past as well. Kirk is high in both strokes gained putting and GIR %, which are both stats that have shown up. I think Kirk will make a solid play here at Pebble
Matt Kuchar $8,600 – I’m continuing my trend of bold, question-mark plays for my pick of the week. One of the biggest question marks with Matt Kuchar is simply the fact that he hasn’t played in this tournament since 2010 (when he withdrew). Before that, he had some decent success, but no, I’m picking Kuchar because I think he is a good fit for this tournament/for these courses, and he proved at the WMPO that he’s ready to roll in 2017. Not only do I think Kuch will embrace the Pro-Am distractions as well as anyone, I also think he added this tournament to his schedule because he’s chasing his first win since 2014, and thus is as motivated as he’s been since his incredible play in the Olympics. So I’m predicting a lot of Kuuuucccchhhh chants to be rolling through Monterey this week.
Thick Steak Plays
Jordan Spieth, $12,000 – Most of my plays are going to be pretty chalky this week. Spieth has really not felt like he’s been in”Spieth Mode.” HOWEVER, he has quietly not missed a top 10 this season. I think his putting is quickly getting back into business, and, with the score fest that is Pebble Beach, I look at Spieth as one of the safest cash plays you can make. He’s about as safe a play as I can think in this price range.
Brandt Snedeker $10,000 – Brandt has a weird relationship with Pebble Beach. At first glance I thought he was a course horse. He seemingly wins every other year, followed by a hard cut. This year however, Brandt has been in great form, and I would look to him to perform well at a course that he really enjoys. If the weather is truly as bad as it looks, I also like Brandt to contend more than others.
Justin Rose $9,200 – Rosey has teed it up twice in the States in 2017, and twice finished in the top 5. When players of his caliber do this, it is best to just ride the hot hand. While the top 5s won’t happen every week, Rose is coming off a T6 finish here last year, and oh by the way, he’s currently leading the PGA in strokes gained tee-to-green, scoring average, and pre-cut scoring average.
Jimmy Walker $8,800 – That’s right, I’m hopping back in the Jimmy horse. He might’ve kicked me off twice already this season, but COME ON! Is Jimmy Walker really going to miss three straight cuts? Probably, now that I’ve picked him and made a big deal about it. But seriously, he hasn’t missed three cuts in a row since 2013, his play earlier in this season has still been solid, and his history in this tournament is just as sensational as the Sony Open and the Farmers Insurance Open. So while others hopefully zag away from Walker, I will keep zigging and just address the elephant in the room later if he burns me again.
Middle of the Road
Phil Mickelson $9,300 – Here’s a fun thing: apparently mild hernias are not that hard to recover from. Phil has been in great form, and has had great success at Pebble in the past. I honestly thought about making Phil my pick of the week, but thought better of it. Again, this is a chalky, chalky play, but in cash games especially, I don’t know if there is a safer play other than Spieth. His experience with Pebble is what sets him apart. Couple that with great current form and he’s a no brainer for me.
Jim Furyk $7,500 – It happens every year, a mispriced Jim Furyk. Furyk is a hell of a scorer, and starts a lot of his seasons with Pebble Beach. He hasn’t been cut in recent memory at Pebble, and has the last time he played here he came in 7th. Birdies in droves is Furyk’s game and it bodes well for Pebble. You won’t find a better player priced this low.
Tony Finau $8,100 – I’ve got a theme going here, and let me just say it does not have to do with course history (Walker not included). Finau has actually not played in this tournament during his first two full-years on the PGA Tour. That is always risky, and with the added concerns of wind and rain, I would almost put Finau into the “flyer” category despite his price and raw talent. But let’s not forget, Finau can hit it a mile, and one key factor that is pushing me to endorse him is that he has excelled on Poa Annua greens, gaining over a stroke on the field since 2014. This is our first true Poa Annua tournament of the season, and so I’m rolling the dice on Finau.
Shane Lowry $7,000 – Since shifting to a more PGA-heavy schedule in 2015, Lowry has been a quiet mechanic on the West Coast swing. It’s a small sample size (5 tournaments in 2 years), but he hasn’t missed a cut, and the only finish outside the top 25 was a T41 here last year. But the Irishman did finish T21 in his debut here in 2015, he’s coming off a T16 at the WMPO, and he gets to play with fellow countryman Paddy Harrington. But more than anything else, Lowry’s price is ridiculously low for one of the top golfers in the world, and he can excel in any kind of conditions, so I’ll be putting him in lineups early and often this week.
Tom’s Fade of the Week (Fact or fiction edition)
This week, I’m going to run through who I think are the top 5 high-level golfers that folks will be considering fading this week due to recent performances. Fact means I agree/endorse fading; fiction means I think you are over-analyzing or just plain wrong to fade.
Jordan Spieth $12,000 – Fiction. First, the only reason you could question Spieth’s recent performances is because he hasn’t won since the Dean and Deluca Invitational last year. And I get it – if Jordan is going to be the highest-priced player every week he tees it up, you really do want him to win. But still, as Jon mentioned above, he’s quietly getting it done this season, and now enters a tournament hosted by his title sponsor, AT&T, where he’s had success in the past.
Jason Day $11,600 – Fiction. Uh oh, Jason Day missed his last cut in a tournament (Farmers) where he’s a recent winner. Better hit the panic button! Not so fast… J Day could get overlooked for that reason, which is exactly why he could be a good golfer to target this week. He’s had really good results at Pebble Beach, a tournament he’s committed to each of the past 4 years. The only question is how to choose between Spieth, DJ, and J Day this week (the only golfers above 10K). My advice: either fade them all for strategy purposes, or choose one to play more than the others. For the latter strategy, I actually think I would go with Day.
*Also, apologies for going all Lee Corso on this analysis.
Jimmy Walker $8,800 – Fiction. As you can see above, I think that fading Walker is incredibly ill-advised. Of course, I’ll applaud you later when it pans out, but for now I think Walker is safe to use heavily in a projected bounce-back week.
Patrick Reed $8,300 – Fact. Okay, now we’re getting to the two I actually endorse as fades. Despite a T6 at the Tournament of Champions and T12 at the Career Builder (which he backed into with a Sunday 65), Reed has not looked like his elite Ryder Cup self yet in 2017. On paper, it looks like this is the kind of tournament where he could change that, but I’ve never liked Reed (the sentence could end here and be accurate) for lineups when he’s in a slump, because it’s just very hard to predict when he will finally turn things around. Not worth the risk.
Kevin Chappell $7,200 – Fact. Similar to Reed, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach with Chappell. He did everything you could do in a season without winning to solidify himself as a great player last year. And that price tag is very appealing. But again, he did not win last year, and has looked straight bad in his first two starts of 2017. So remember, we are not fortune tellers, and there is no reason to take the risk on Chappell until he starts to show some of the form that elevated him to great heights last season.
Jon’s Flyer of The Week
Cameron Smith $6,900 -Take this as you will. But Smith has been a cut maker this year. He’s finished t11 back in 2015, and ranks high in the stats that I’m looking at this week (strokes gained statistics, including strokes gained putting). I’d like him to rank a little better in GIR% and scrambling, but on the whole, I do like Cameron Smith to make the cut this week, and possibly contend.