Defending champion Nick Taylor, two-time champ Brandt Snedeker, Si Woo Kim and Rickie Fowler will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
Taking a page out of the playbook of The American Express, which also thinned to two courses three weeks ago, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has shelved the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula County Club until next year. Only Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill will be in play for the 156-man field.
Half will play Pebble Beach in the first round as the other half tackles Spyglass Hill. They’ll alternate courses for the second round. With the shift to two stages, the cut will fall familiarly after 36 holes are complete. The low 65 and ties will advance and play only Pebble Beach on the weekend.
Without amateurs, the setup crew can allow Pebble Beach to flash its teeth. While the iconic par 72 holds its own when hosting U.S. Opens, it won’t play as difficult as a major this week, but it will be capable of stretching 235 yards longer than usual for the non-major hosted by the PGA TOUR.
Of the 11 holes that are at least seven yards longer, four could be paced off at least an additional 30 yards. The greatest increases are the par-4 10th and 13th holes with respective extensions of 49 and 46 yards. Overall, Pebble Beach tips at 7,051 yards. By comparison, it was set up at 7,075 yards and as a par 71 for the 2019 U.S. Open.
Also a stock par 72, at 7,041 yards, Spyglass Hill officially is just six yards longer. That difference exists only on the par-3 fifth hole. For the three rounds it was played last year, it averaged 72.877 while Pebble Beach checked in under par in each of the first three rounds before swinging back with a final-round scoring average of 74.426, although amid the strongest breezes of the tournament. Therein lies the invisible villain. When the wind blows, Pebble Beach almost always is more challenging than Spyglass Hill.
This week’s forecast is vintage, depending your preference for the year, that is. Daytime temperatures won’t escape the 50s, rain cannot be ruled out on any day and the wind gradually will freshen for the final round.
It’s all but a prerequisite to split fairways off the tee at Pebble Beach. The 3,500-square foot Poa annua surfaces are prepped to run upwards of 12 feet on the Stimpmeter – although Mother Nature will see about that – so course management with control on approach will ease the pressure and soften the juxtaposition of the grind against the picturesque backdrop.
Length off the tee is irrelevant in favor of placement. Pebble Beach has ranked shortest in distance of all drives in each of the last four seasons. Last year’s clip was just 272.9 yards on average. It’s also been the stingiest inside 10 feet two years running. The par 3s, par 4s and par 5s all slotted inside the top-10 hardest of 41 courses used last season, but even in the most recent seasons that weren’t interrupted by COVID-19, the par 5s have been among the toughest.
ShotLink isn’t used at Spyglass Hill, but at a beefy 4.93, its par 5s were the most difficult on any course last season. It can’t be ruled out as a new normal since new tees on the par-5 seventh and 11th holes were introduced last year, but with a scoring average of 5.149, the par-5 first checked in as the second-hardest par 5 (of 132) all season. The most challenging par 5 was the finisher at Pebble Beach; it averaged 5.152. The always-demanding par-5 14th hole at Pebble was fifth-toughest at 5.018.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
SUNDAY: Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Rookie Watch
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Source: PGA tour