Pat Mayo provides a quick preview and makes his early 2021 Pebble Beach Picks in his first look and provides research for the PGA TOUR event.
2021 Pebble Beach: Field
Field: 156 Players
Cut: Top 65 & Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: Thursday, February 11
Defending Champion: Nick Taylor
Much like The American Express a few weeks back, the 2021 Pebble Beach Pro-Am won’t have the “Am” component, much to the delight of golfer watchers, golfer bettors and golfers in the tournament. In a normal season, each player is paired with an amateur partner, ranging in notoriety from Bill Murray to the VP of sales at Valspar. Since all of the 156 players in the field is given a playing partner, the event has to use a three-course rotation, leading to a cut following the third round, and since the partners aren’t professionals yet are playing a professional set up, the rounds take like seven hours. But now that’s all gone, for this year, at least.
The very easy Monterey Peninsula is out for 2021, so the field of 156 players, sans an amateur partner will now rotate between Pebble Beach GL and Spyglass Hill the first two rounds, then there will be a cut, and the remaining Top 65 and ties will take on Pebble Beach for the final two days to close the tournament.
This couldn’t be better news. You’d think an event with some real celebrities would possess a modicum of entertainment, but it’s exactly quite the opposite. Long rounds, infrequent golf shots, and when we get them it’s not from real golfers, it’s from Larry the Cable Guy. And, the biggest factor for DraftKings and betting purposes — only Pebble Beach has Shot Link lasers. So the players getting three rounds at Pebble instead of two is gigantic from an in-play standpoint. Plus, they have limited cameras at Spyglass and Monterey, as those extra broadcasting devices must be used to get multiple angles of Jim Nantz watching some guy no one’s ever heard of strum a guitar.
In the weakest field of 2021, and in years at this particular event, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger top the field. They’re followed by Paul Casey, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Si WOOOO Kim, Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa and Matt Kuchar.
DJ, Phil, Casey, Jhonny Vegas, Min WOOO Lee and Rafa Cabrera-Bello are all returning from overseas after playing last week’s Saudi International. An 11-hour time difference.
It is a stacked field of exemptions, though. Zalatoris, Davis Riley, Andy Ogletree, Kamaiu Johnson and Akshay Bhatia all got invites to tee it up. There are also incredibly random players this week: Matt Gogel, who hasn’t played a TOUR event since 2007 will be at Pebble, Kenny Pigman, first discovered by Kramer, was last seen at Torrey Pines in 2019, and potential “Tiger Woods 2005” create-a-player Kevin Hall is lacing up the spikes on TOUR for the first time since 2017.
2021 Pebble Beach: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 5s: Gained
Proximity Gained: 100-150 Yards
Par 4 Gained: 350-400 Yards
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Pebble Beach: Course(s)
Course: Pebble Beach GL (Three Rounds)
Shot Tracker: Yes
Course: Spyglass Hill GC (One Round)
Shot Tracker: No
2021 Pebble Beach: Past Winners
2020: Nick Taylor -19
2019: Phil Mickelson -19
2018: Ted Potter Jr. -17
2017: Jordan Spieth -19
2016: Vaughn Taylor -17
2015: Brandt Snedeker -22
2014: Jimmy Walker -11
2013: Brandt Snedeker -19
2012: Phil Mickelson -17
2011: D.A. Points -15
2010: Dustin Johnson -16
2021 Pebble Beach: Notes
Dustin Johnson is the favorite in this event every year and has played incredibly well, but hasn’t actually won at Pebble Beach in a decade now.
Both courses are incredibly short and limit the advantage of driving distance. Pebble Beach is annually the course with the shortest average drive on TOUR (264 yards vs. 283 yards); and the one with the fewest amount of drives over 300 yards (8.96 percent). This mitigates the advantage of the premier drivers in the world, aka most of the elite players, and combined with a lack of elite golfers at the top end in this event, it has opened the door for long-shot winners. Three of the past five winners — N. Taylor, Potter, and V. Taylor — all went off at triple digits. Coastal winds can be a contributing factor to this as well. Pebble Beach can switch from easy to frustratingly difficult with a wind shift. It’s worth noting that the 2021 scorecards are showing Pebble Beach playing almost 200 yards longer while Spyglass Hill has an extra 100 yards to navigate. Assuming this is a result of the lack of infrastructure required on the course and lack of non-pros having to hit shots
Again, Shot Link data is only available for Pebble Beach GL. When you’re researching the statistics, keep this in mind as half the rounds golfers have played historically at this event are not weighted in the Strokes Gained metrics.
Short-iron specialists, regardless of distance, consistently perform the best on an annual basis. However, PB GL sports much shorter par 4s than its counterpart. There are six par 4s shorter than 400 yards; whereas Spyglass features par 4s from 400-450 yards. Per FantasyNational.com, the players gaining the most strokes on Par 4s less than 400 yards over the past 36 rounds are: Dustin Johnson, Cameron Percy, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Jones, Jim Furyk, Doug Ghim, Kevin Streelman and Cameron Davis.
This is the first tournament of the year with a full complement of Poa Annua greens. Torrey Pines is spilt between Poa and Bentgrass between the courses. For players with at least 10 measured rounds on Poa, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Will Gordon, Patrick Rodgers, Kristoffer Ventura, Maverick McNealy and Brian Stuard average the most strokes gained per round on the greens.
The putting surfaces at Pebble GL are around 3,500 square feet, almost half the size of an average green on TOUR. That puts a heavier emphasis on the short game since every player will miss plenty of greens, regardless of how well they’re hitting their irons. That said, Strokes Gained: Approach has been almost four times as impactful as SG: OTT and SG: ATG at Pebble Beach GL among top 10 finishers, historically.
Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Streelman, Jordan Spieth and Nick Taylor have gained the most strokes at this event over the past five seasons.
Since 2000, the leader or co-leader after 54 holes has gone on to win 12 times, including seven of the past eight years. Phil Mickelson was three back of Paul Casey entering the final round in 2019. Six first-round leaders have gone on to win at Pebble Beach since 2000 as Nick Taylor became the sixth a year ago. Taylor also became the first international winner at of this event since Vijay Singh in 2004.
Mickelson, Casey, Stallings, Day, Streelman and Brian Gay have at least two top 10 finishes in their past three starts at the Pro-Am. Max Homa has consecutive Top 15 finishes at Pebble Beach.
2021 Pebble Beach Picks
Day’s record is undeniable at Pebble Beach. The Aussie has posted a top 5 finish in five of the past six years, with a T11 blip in 2016. But it’s really about what he’s doing at the moment that is most intriguing. Day hit his irons pretty well in Phoenix and just couldn’t putt. The awful flat stick has forced him out early in his only two events in 2021— he’s lost 6.5 strokes putting in three weighted rounds — but it was encouraging seeing him pin seek for the first time in ages. The putter has made Day undervalued in the market, but if he can keep up the approach play from the Waste Management Phoenix Open, this is Jason Day, he’ll start rolling it well sooner rather than later. In his past six starts at Pebble Beach, he’s only lost strokes on the greens once.
Harold Varner III
Varner missed the cut in his first appearance in this event a year ago, but absolutely tore up Pebble Beach GL. In fact, if you average all the players from the past three years, no player averages more Strokes Gained: Total per round than Varner at PB GL. Bless you, insignificantly small sample size. After skiing off the ring rust at Torrey Pines, Varner looked like more of his regular self in Phoenix, finishing fifth Tee-to-Green and top 10 in approach for the week. It’s always a struggle for HV3 on the greens, but Poa is his least bad surface. Buy low now.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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