AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Preview
by Matt Fargo
The PGA Tour stays in messy California this week as the pros head to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of three host courses for the event that is going to look and feel different from past years. First off, Pebble Beach is the site of this yearís U.S. Open but there will be few similarities since playing the course in February and playing it in June are two totally different things. Still, it will give players a look at some of the new features.
In November, all of Pebble's fairways were re-contoured to specific widths and locations as defined by the USGA. As a result, the fairways have been narrowed to an average width of 27 yards, down 13 yards from the average 40-yard width under normal AT&T Pro-Am set-up. Three new tees were added, however those are not in play this week. Also, different is that the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course replaces Poppy Hills as one of the three courses that had been part of this event.
Although the Shore Course will play as a par 70 for the tournament, it will likely replicate Poppy Hills in being the course where competitors feel they should post their best score of the week. The weather will have a say with that though as if it is windy, there were certainly be no advantage. Lastly, the field was cut from 180 to 156 players to help alleviate the snailís pace of some of the rounds. Some foursomes took over six hours to complete their rounds last year and that helps no one.
The field this week is good but not great as three players in the World Top Ten are teeing it up with Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington. Out of the Top 30 in the world, 10 are in the field including Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen Vijay Singh. Garcia will be making his first PGA Tour start of the year after a couple decent showings world-wide and he will be seeking his first win over here since 2008.
Here are some notables to look at. Mickelson (+800) is the favorite once again this week but he has yet to be a threat this year with a T19 and T45 in his first two events. His putting, which came on strong at the end of last year, has been his downfall so far this season especially last week when he averaged 30 putts per round. In comparison, winner Steve Stricker averaged only 26 putts per round. Mickelson won here in 1998, 2005 and 2007, in addition to finishing third in 2001 and 2004.
Goosen (+1500) is making his first start in a month after finishing T6 and 4th in two starts in Hawaii to open the year. He never seems to make a lot of noise throughout the week but he somehow pops up on the leaderboard Sunday and is always a threat. He missed just one cut all of last season and he had four top five finishes last season and he made his first ever start at the AT&T last year and the results were solid as he finished outright 3rd.
Furyk (+2000) made his season debut last week at the Northern Trust and finished T20 following a solid weekend. He has a strong track record at Pebble with seven top 25 finishes in 13 starts and he has missed the cut only once. He has not finished higher than T3 and that was back in 1998 while his best finish last decade was T5 in 2003. Last year he finished T33 but that was his season debut and with a tournament under his belt this year, he cannot be counted out.
Dustin Johnson (+2000) is the defending champion but it was 54-hole win as the final round was canceled twice because of torrential rain and dangerously high winds. If the weather is bad again this week, which is a possibility, it will work in his favor Johnson played his college golf at Coastal Carolina in South Carolina and his coach made sure his team was on the course regardless of the weather. He also finished T7 here in 2008, his only other start at Pebble.
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