AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Thurday, Febrary 12th Sunday, February 15th, 2009
Pebble Beach Golf Links (multiple courses)
Pebble Beach, California
The Golf Channel/CBS

By Matt of

With the NFL officially done for another season and the winter coming to a close for much of the country, the PGA golf season is in full swing, no pun intended. This is week six for the Tour and the amateurs get another chance with the pros this at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Pebble Beach is among the more famous venues in PGA competition and co-hosts this week with Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill for the first three rounds. Steve Lowery won last years event in a playoff with Vijay Singh and is back to defend his title. Singh is also back after missing a month following minor knee surgery. Jim Furyk is making his 09 debut and perennial favorites like Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington will tee it up as well. The Golf Channel carries the early round action with CBS picking up the weekend broadcasts.

Three courses are required to handle all the pros and amateurs this week and all three play in the top half of hardest courses on Tour from 2008. Spyglass Hill measures 6,953 yards at par-72 and was the 12th hardest course on Tour last year, playing to a stroke average of 73.2. Poppy Hills and Pebble Beach ranked 19th and 21st in terms of scoring average, with both playing a little more than a half stroke over par on average. All three tracks are kind in terms of fairway width, but the greens are tough to hit and putting is a test as well, with the Poppy Hills greens ranking as the 4th hardest in terms of putts per hole. Look for the accurate players to take advantage of the modest length at the courses and set themselves up in the right spots to have birdie opportunities.

Each week we take a look around the golf sportsbooks and highlight a few players that might be in contention. We will make a pick to win from a short, middle and long odds perspective and breakdown a few head to head matches as well. Here are the players to watch at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Vijay Singh: 12 to 1 to win
If youve been following along with our previews, you know that 12 to 1 is actually pretty long for the favorite, making Vijay a great value pick in this spot. Singh is back from a month layoff to rehab his knee, but has surely been hitting the range in that time and should probably show no signs of rust. Vijay managed a T27 at the season opening Mercedes on the balky knee, hitting over 75% of fairways and greens in the process. Singh is an easy favorite based on his track record over the last few years here, notching 7th, 11th, and runner-up finishes in his last three Pebble Pro-Ams.

Padraig Harrington: 14 to 1
Harrington was okay in his season debut, finishing T24 at the Buick last week. Last years player of the year struggled with the putter, a stat he dominated in 08, finishing 5th on Tour in putting average. If the putter comes around this week, look for more of the Paddy from last year that had the 8th best birdie average and the 3rd lowest scoring mark. Harrington has been off the first page here the last two tries, finishing 30th and 14th in 07 and 08.

Phil Mickelson: 14 to 1
Phil is off to a very slow start in 09, missing the cut at the FBR and managing only a T42 at the Buick, never breaking 70 in any round. Still, there is a lot of reason to like Mickelson this week here at Pebble; Lefty has won two of the last four Pro-Ams, capturing the title in 05 and 07. Mickelson is outside the top-125 in almost every key stat category and is currently hitting only 44% if his fairways with a new driver in the bag. Most troubling, Phil is bogeying par-5s in 09, a major turnaround from 08 when he ranked 2nd in birdie conversion on the 5-pars.

Jim Furyk: 16 to 1
Pebble Beach will be the firstevent for Furyk in 09 so its anyones guess how the veteran will run this week. He has been close the last few years here, logging T6 and T14 finishes in 07 and 08 and is a perennial casher in this event. Furyk remains one of the more accurate players on Tour, ranking in the top-50 in both fairways and greens and managed the 7th best scoring average in 08 despite not winning an event. Jim also led the Tour in top-10 finishes last year, racking up 9.

Mike Weir: 16 to 1
Mike Weir must really like Mondays and Tuesdays on Tour. These are the days that typically host the local pro-ams at every PGA stop and Mike Weir plays some of his best golf alongside amateur partners. Weir was 3rd at this years Bob Hope Classic and has been in the top-15 at Pebble in three of the last four years, including a 2nd and 3rd in 05 and 06. Mike has added some distance to his game in 09, ranking 22nd is driving distance, adding a dimension to his already strong overall game. Weir is 8th in the All-Around stat this year and is our short odds pick to win this week.

Our Picks to Win

Short: Mike Weir (16 to1) 16 to 1 might be our high water mark for a short odds pick, but the players ahead of him all have question marks in one form or another. Right now, there are no questions about Weirs health or overall game.

Middle: Tim Clark (22 to 1) – Clark has quietly racked up two top-12 finishes in 09 at the Sony and Hope and is currently 2nd in driving accuracy and 7th in greens hit to this point.

Longshot: Charles Howell III (40 to 1) Howell started the year off with a nice 4th place finish at the Sony and his 12th best scoring average should play nice in this multi-venue event. Charlie is 2-under on the par-3s this year which is a good indicator of strong iron and putter play.

Head to Head Matches (our pick) *all matches are for entire tournament

Phil Mickelson (-115) v. Padraig Harrington (-115) (Harrington)
We seldom pick against Mickelson because he has been a top-25 machine even when he doesn’t play well. That is not the case in 09 and although Harrington had a spotty week at the Buick, his overall game looks far better than Phils right now.

Charley Hoffman (-115) v. Nick Watney (-115) (Hoffman)
Its a little difficult to pick against a guy coming off a win, but Hoffman has been on too hot of a run with consecutive top-10s. Both players are eerily similar on the stat sheet, so we’re riding Hoffman until he throws up a stinker.

Good Luck!!