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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
As we continue this amazing run of mainstay PGA Tour venues, the west coast heads north up the PCH to Carmel-by-the-Sea, aka golfer’s haven and Pebble Beach. The oceanside cliffs, wind whipping off the bay, and the overall tranquility of Pebble make it a premier golf destination for any golfer on the planet with a pulse. Is it an overpriced 18 holes at $500 a pop? For you and I maybe, but for the pros that are getting millions to play this track, it makes the week a little more tolerable. Add in the element of each pro having an amateur or celebrity partner by their side ALL WEEK, and it creates an interesting environment come the weekend.
At Torrey, the elephant in the room was whether or not Jon Rahm could continue his insane heater, and he did not. Rahm sniffed contention early in the weekend but the week belonged to the Cali kid and funny tweeter Max Homa. No one here should be surprised since we had him all week, and Homa has an inept ability to close when it matters. Six wins for him on tour and we already have two outright winners under our belt in 2023.
DROP ME IN HEAVEN
I could wax poetic about Pebble Beach for days. It’s arguably the most beautiful public golf course in the U.S. and presents an artistic landscape with every camera angle. From the doggos running the beach by 18 to the soft sleep sounds of the waves crashing ashore, you can’t find a much prettier PGA Tour venue. As for the golf, Pebble is a modest 7000ish-yard track, and it can be played a few hundred yards longer or shorter based on the weather. Pebble at its sunniest is a benign track with soft fairways and greens and approachable par 3’s. At its rainiest and windiest moment, par 4’s feel like par 5’s, and it turns to a grind versus Mother Nature.
In the field at Pebble are Jordan Spieth (paired with his pal Jake Owen), and Matthew Fitzpatrick starts off his 2023 campaign as well. Viktor Hovland, Justin Rose, and Kevin Kisner but truth be told – this is a weaker field. While the wrinkle of the amateurs and celebs teeing it up in golf heaven adds intrigue, I’m not sure every Tour pro loves a week full of 5+ hour rounds with weekend golfers cramping their style on the course.
FORECASTING PEBBLE BEACH
This event has the added layer of the amateur (or celebrity) partner playing alongside you as you’re trying to win a professional event. Imagine Joe from your rec league basketball team suddenly getting burned in an NBA Finals game off the bench. It’s a unique playing scenario that does require a certain type of player in order to excel. With longer rounds, we’re looking at patient players who are used to the format, and guys that don’t take themselves too seriously out there.
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for The AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble, the picks are a mix of players who thrive in softer conditions, and ball striking with the irons on some treacherous par 4’s could make the difference as well.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the Farmer’s Insurance Open, we did it again and lifted another trophy. Four events in we have two outright winners nailed, so let’s keep this stove cookin’. Outside of Homa, the team picks were about even par, but for the 20/1 winner cashed it’s an A- week.
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Matthew Fitzpatrick
I saw Matthew in person at the PGA Show last week – he’s fit, well rested, and finished 6th here last year, no reason he shouldn’t be contending out of the gate in 2023.
2: Seamus Power
Another easy draftee this week – a top 10 here last year and he’s been a leaderboard magnet on a variety of similar tracks in his ascension to the top 30 in the world ranking.
3: Justin Rose
Rosey has tons of experience in this course rotation and won’t be wowed by Pebble’s beauty. The analytics suggests he contends this week.
4: Joel Dahmen
Coming off some solid play to start 2023, Dahmen has a strong history on the Cali coast and at this event.
5: Beau Hossler
Going off on low odds and a cheap price due to recent form, but his third here last year was boosted by really good putting. Some players just like certain green complexes and this is a match.
6: Nate Lashley
Lashley has had a close call here in 2021 and if you’re looking for a flier, he’s your pick.
RYP One and Done Pick: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Where to watch: Golf Channel and CBS all week – I’m sure Jim Nantz will reference his nearby mansion on the broadcast a few times.
Why to watch: Pebble Beach is visually pleasing golf at its finest, and with a solid field and celebs in the mix, it’s always a good take – if they show the right shots on TV.
What to eat: I’ve heard stories about the Steak at the Pebble Beach Tap Room, so I’ll fire up one of my own on the grill.
Purse: $9 million
Winner’s Share: $1.62 million