2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am picks: Can you rely on Jason Day's course history this week?
Sean M. Haffey
For the third time in five weeks, a PGA Tour event ended in a playoff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. For many who have been wagering on Tony Finau to finally break through for a second time, it was a disappointing finish, but he got beat by arguably the hottest player in the world, Webb Simpson, who broke the three-week run of longshots winning on tour.
Will another sleeper emerge this week, or will one of the big boys blitz the field? As Pebble Beach has shown over the years, anybody can win here. Long hitters, short hitters, great iron players, great short-game players, elite putters, etc. Pebble won't be the only course players face, as they'll also play Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, but they will play it twice, including the final round. A guy with good history on the famous seaside course is always a good option to bet on.
But there's plenty of value as you make your way down the board, as there is every week in golf. The weekend at the Pro-Am is a tough one for regular golf fans and hardcore gamblers, as much of the focus is on awful celebrity golf swings. But if you can power through Saturday, Sunday you will be rewarded with coverage of the guys who play for a living.
Our expert picks this week, just like every week, include a caddie offering insight from the range and putting green at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am; picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and it's growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
Here's who we like this week at Pebble.
2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Picks To Win (Odds from MGM Sportsbook)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the Week: Patrick Cantlay (11-1) — Cantlay has an extremely solid game that starts with his driving. If you drive it long and straight it eliminates many of the intimidating approach shots. If he can putt well this week he can get get it done.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Paul Casey (18-1) — Per usual, Casey's ball striking has been at an elite level to start 2020, even if the results haven't followed. The Brit’s now gained strokes both off the tee and through approach in every measured event dating back to last year's Players Championship. Casey clearly has an affinity for Pebble Beach too. In two starts the past two years he's finished second and T-8; and put up a T-21 result at last year's U.S. Open.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Patrick Cantlay (11-1) — Cantlay has been very good since the start of 2019 and right near Dustin Johnson in terms of win odds in my modeling, but there’s a pretty big pricing discrepancy in the betting market. Cantlay leads the field in strokes gained: approach over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour, according to FantasyNational.com. In a soft field, he could pick up another win.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Dustin Johnson (6.5/1) — We can project what a cross-world flight might do to Dustin Johnson ahead of this week’s Pebble Beach pro-am. Or we can focus on the facts. DJ rates out No. 1 in my modeling for this week, and we see that he’s back in form with his runner-up in Saudi Arabia last week. His history at Pebble Beach is backed up by elite stats. I’ll let others fade DJ, and we’ll cash our tickets in the meantime.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Daniel Berger (40-1) — A somewhat slow start at the WMPO was the only thing that kept Berger from seriously contending, as a 66-67 weekend was enough to claim a share of ninth place. Currently still playing off a major medical exemption from last year’s injuries, Berger is the type who can step on the gas pedal when he feels like he needs to make up for lost time. He’s also the kind of player who turns trends into wins, proven in his previous two PGA Tour victories. Prior to winning the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic, he’d finished top-20 in five of his previous six starts; before claiming that same event the next year, he wasn’t quite as hot, but did have a fifth-place result not long before. After gaining more than a stroke on the field in both tee-to-green and on the greens last week, we should expect him primed and ready for this one, too.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest associate editor: Jason Day (20-1) — Certain courses are candidates for relying on course history. Pebble Beach is one of them. Jason Day hasn’t been his old, 2015/2016 self (he’s an abysmal 91st in this field in strokes gained/approach in his last 50 rounds, per Fantasy National). But he similarly lost more than two strokes on the field at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago, and still finished T-16. In the past six years, J-Day has finished no worse than T-11 at Pebble Beach. It’s an incredible record. He might be the best scrambler in the world on a course where scrambling is more important than most other venues. That’s enough for me to go with J-Day here.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Brandt Snedeker (22-1) — Among the favorites this week, Snedeker has the most value, in my opinion. He's a two-time winner of the Pro-Am and he's in good form, having finished T-17 or better in three of his last four starts, including a T-3 at Torrey. Sneds is doing just about everything well right now, save for his off-the-tee game. But at Pebble, where hitting it far is not a necessity (see: Sneds' two wins here), he can overcome that. Also, I love the weather angle with Sneds. It's going to be chilly all week and windy on the weekend. He thrives in those conditions.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Dustin Johnson (6.5-1) — DJ comes into this event ranked as the World No. 5. Other than Patrick Cantlay, the next nearest player is the World No. 20. DJ’s last two finishes have been 7th and 2nd so he is playing great golf. He also putts extremely well on fast, poa greens like he’ll be facing here.
Results from this season: We correctly predicted seven of the first 15 winners to start the season. FanDuel's Brandon Gdula has predicted four outright victories on his own, netting +128 units this season alone (the equivalent of being up $1,280 on $10 bets), after predicting Justin Thomas' win at Kapalua. Our tour caddie, and DraftKings' Pat Mayo, also had JT as their pick to win. FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick picked Rory McIlroy at the WGC-HSBC Champions, giving him three winning predictions early in the season. Three members of our expert panel correctly picked the favorite in the fall at the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas (8-1), so we have a lot of positive momentum. Check out everyone's records in the betting card above.
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (odds from MGM Sportsbook)
Caddie: Jordan Spieth (33-1) — Something tells me the end of his struggles have to be near. He has a way of putting together scores at tougher courses. With Jake Owen as his partner this week, it may relax him and free him up to play some better golf.
Mayo: Jimmy Walker (125-1) — Much like last year’s winner Phil Mickelson, getting to tackle a course that highlights approaches and putting and de-emphasizes the drivers is a perfect combination for the 2014 champion. Walker’s now lost strokes off the tee in 10 of his past 11 starts, but he has recaptured the fire with his irons, gaining in five of his past six. Now, you get him back on poa greens, at a discounted price, at a course where he’s made the cut nine of the past 10 years (with a win and four top 10 finishes), and you have the makings of an unsexy sleeper.
Gdula: Cameron Tringale (150-1) — Tringale has lingered for a while now and sits ninth in strokes gained: approach over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour. He’s also 12th in birdie or better rate gained and a good poa putter. At such long odds, he’s worth a dart, and if nothing else, a top-10 or top-20 is enticing.
Riccio: Henrik Norlander (150-1) — For a second week, Norlander pops in my model. And for good reason. He gained more than seven strokes on the field in back to back events, the RSM and Sony Opens, which are two seaside tracks that might be somewhat comparable to Pebble Beach. His wedge play and par-4 scoring earn him a highlight in my modeling, showing he’s severely mispriced at 150-1.
Sobel, Action Network: Adam Hadwin (50-1) — If we’re looking for some early-year trends and commonalities amongst winners, then we can’t overlook the Royal Melbourne effect. So far this year, four out of five PGA Tour winners played in the recent Presidents Cup. Whether they’re still feeling the aftereffect of being in form or riding momentum from that event or simply really talented players and that’s why they made it there in the first place, it’s tough to ignore the pattern. This week, Hadwin is the lone International team member who competed in that event. Fresh off his first start since then, he opened with a few strong rounds, then understandably ran out of gas on the weekend. I’d expect more in his second start here at Pebble, where he finished T-18 a year ago.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Patrick Rodgers (66-1) — Powers and I are strong aboard the Patrick Rodgers train this week. As Powers said in our Golf Digest podcast, he’s been on P-Rodge since Patty came out of the womb ... I’m just along for the ride. The current form; the past top-10 at Pebble Beach ... there’s a ton of hype on Rodgers this week. And I’m not missing out. You can shop for a better number than 66-1, but we’re here for the Patty coronation.
Powers, Golf Digest: Patrick Rodgers (66-1) — It's worth repeating. I've been on P-Rodge since he came out of the womb. Some of the sharper gambling folks on Twitter seem to be high on him this week as well. Join the club! I've bet him for the last three weeks, and he's teased me with finishes of T-9 and T-16. He's so close to putting it all together and getting career win No. 1. Pebble, where he finished T-8 in 2018, would be a special place to do it.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jimmy Walker (125-1) — Walker ranks fifth in our Course Suitability Ranking this week, mainly down to his sharp approach game on short courses and ability to putt well on fast, poa greens. It’s not surprising then to learn that he has a previous victory here and 5 other top 11 finishes.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Jason Day (20-1) — With cold weather in the forecast and Jason’s recent injuries, I’m not sure that’ll allow him to perform at his best. He’s priced too high this week.
Mayo: Phil Mickelson (25-1) — Sure, Phil grinded out a top 5 finish last week in Saudi Arabia (his first since this event last season), but let’s not get crazy. One good event in 12 months doesn’t justify his outrageous odds this week.
Gdula: Branden Grace (30-1) — Grace rarely rates out well for me because I always try to put the data first. He’s not a good putter on any surface, and that goes for poa, as well. His ninth-place finish last week was fueled by approach play (+5.0 strokes), which is something I want to see, but it’s an abnormal blip for him. His great recent Euro play (1st and 17th) has him overpriced even for this thinner field.
Riccio: Brandt Snedeker (22-1) — My model is very down on him this week, and his missed cut last week at the Waste Management scares me. I’d pivot to some other guys with equal upside, whom I’m more confident being in contention come Sunday.
Sobel, Action Network: Jason Day (20-1) — It’s not that I Day this week – far from it, really – but I don’t see his potential matching up with either his odds or his past record at this event. Coming off a T-16 in his last start, his second-best result since last year’s Masters, Day still doesn’t sound completely optimistic about his own game. With top-five finishes in each of the last three editions of this tournament, expectations might be higher than he’s able to surpass this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Dustin Johnson (6 1/2-1) — You could build a case around any of the favorites this week. And none of them have the negative storyline of having traveled back from Saudi Arabia. DJ’s results are good long-term at Pebble, but he shot two rounds of 73 last year at the AT&T en route to a mediocre T-45. And he was T-35 at the U.S. Open last year. I’d rather take the more attractive odds than backing DJ at this low price, without knowing which DJ will show up.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (20-1) — Day has great history at Pebble. Actually, ridiculous history. His last five starts here? T-4, T-11, T-5, T-2, T-4. But I'm not trusting him at 20-1 yet, even after a decent week at Torrey. Day has played so well here in the past because he's an elite iron player, but as of this typing, he is not, ranking 213th on tour in strokes-gained: approach the green. That's not a recipe for success this week.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Cantlay (11-1) — Cantlay is a great player but there are enough question marks around him this week to not be the second favorite in the field. He loses shots to this field when putting on fast, poa greens which explains why his average finish here is just 28th. Not great for an 11-1 shot.
2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Matchups
Caddie: Brandt Snedeker over Jason Day (+105, Bookmaker.eu) — As I mentioned earlier the cold conditions don’t favor JDay, and Brandt has a solid record around here.
Mayo: Kevin Kisner over Russell Knox (+100, Sportsbetting.ag) — Everyone is on Knox as a trendy sleeper this week, and it’s over inflated his odds. While Knox’s ball striking has been on point this season, he’s been carried by his putter the past few events. That’s not typical. Kisner, conversely, has been striking the hell out of the ball, is coming off a quality break since missing the cut at the American Express, and had posted three consecutive Top 15 finishes before that.
Gdula: Viktor Hovland over Matt Kuchar (+102, FanDuel) — Hovland missed last week’s cut, and Kuchar was 16th after a win in Singapore. However, the stats rate out well for Hovland as he returns to the place of a U.S. Amateur victory. We don’t often get odds like this, so there’s a good bit of value on Hovland’s name in this matchup.
Riccio: Branden Grace (+120) over Matthew Fitzpatrick — My model is significantly higher on Grace, making these plus-odds very favorable. Fitzpatrick has OK history at Pebble Beach, but Grace's game should fit the course just as well.
Sobel, Action Network: Harry Higgs over Adam Long (-110, Sportsbetting.ag) — Higgs' pro-am partner this week Jay Monahan—yup, THAT Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner—so he should be locked in and prepared to show off with his best stuff. I like him against most other players at a similar price.
Powers, Golf Digest: Daniel Berger over Viktor Hovland (+100, DraftKings) — I'm going to ignore, perhaps foolishly, Viktor Hovland's love affair with Pebble Beach, where he won the 2018 U.S. Amateur and finished as low amateur at the 2019 U.S. Open, and take Daniel Berger at even money in this matchup. Berger has made only one start at Pebble, but it was a good one, as he finished T-10 thanks to three sub-70 rounds. It's been a slow climb back to full strength for the two-time St. Jude Classic winner, who returned from a wrist injury in January of 2019. Since then he's had just two top 10s, one of them coming last week at the WMPO. He's trending nicely, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets back in the win column soon.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Max Homa (+105) over Alex Noren (Sportsbook) — Max Homa is sneakily playing some of the best golf out of anybody on the PGA Tour right now. Fifth-place and a ninth-place in the past two events and no missed cuts in 2020. He's gained an average of 9.2 strokes on the field in his past two starts, so to get him at plus-odds is really attractive. Noren's also experiencing a nice turnaround from a frustrating 2019, so this isn't a play against Noren as much as it is a play on Homa, at plus-odds, over nearly anybody right now.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Champ over Viktor Hovland (+100, Betway) — I absolutely love Champ this week whereas Hovland comes in off of three missed cuts in his last four. This will also be one of Hovland’s first experiences of playing a PGA Tour event as a Pro-AM which will take a bit of getting used to.
Matchup results last week: Powers: 1 for 1 (Bubba Watson (+115) over Gary Woodland); Tour caddie and Mayo: 1 for 1 (Branden Grace (+105) over Ryan Palmer); Alldrick/FanShare: 1 for 1 (Webb Simpson (+105) over Hideki Matsuyama); Sobel/Action Network: 1 for 1 (Daniel Berger (-110) over Brendan Steele); Hennessey: push (Ryan Palmer (-125) over Jordan Spieth); Riccio: push (Hideki Matsuyama (-125) over Xander Schauffele); Gdula: 0 for 1.
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 11 wins, 2 losses, 1 push (up 7.43 units); Riccio: 8 wins, 5 losses, 2 pushes (up 2.75 units); Tour Caddie: 7 wins, 3 losses, 1 push (up 3.58 units); Mayo: 8 for 14 (up 2.37 units); Action Network: 8 for 14 (up 1.41 units); Hennessey: 2 for 4 (down 0.05 units); Powers: 1 win, 2 losses, 1 push (down 0.85 units); Gdula: 5 for 13 and a push (down 2.61 units).
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
Caddie: Viktor Hovland (+340) — History speaks for itself, doesn’t it? If you’ve been paying attention his record around Pebble is quite something. Ball striking wins out here and he strikes it as well as anyone in the field.
Mayo: Jason Day (+240) — Jason Day posted a T-16 in his return from injury at Torrey. Yes, he once again lost strokes on approach for the fifth consecutive event, but I’m still good backing a player with immaculate course form. Day's played this event each of the past six years and has no finish worse than T-11. Course history isn't normally something I weight too heavily, however, this event, and its wonky format have produced the same names on the leaderboard consistently.
Gdula: Vaughn Taylor (+650) — He won here in 2016 and then fell off (cut, 55th, cut) and also just missed the cut last week (77-68 to open). That missed cut is masking a lot of great underlying peripheral stats for Taylor, who rates out well for this three-course setup.
Riccio: Henrik Norlander (+1600) — I'm doubling down on my Norlander prediction here. Even if he doesn't win and comes close, 16-1 are very attractive odds. DJ is 6-1 to win, but Norlander is 16-1 to finish top 10? That doesn't seem right.
Sobel, Action Network: Cameron Champ (+380) — Last year, mired in an amalgam of MCs and other poor results, Champ still managed a T-28 at Pebble, which might suggest that, like Johnson, his length could be a major advantage on these courses. I wanted to pick Champ in Phoenix, but there was just one little problem: He decided not to play there. No problem, though, as he should be rested up for another big week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: — Scott Piercy (+650) — Piercy had an elite week stats-wise last week—gaining nearly 10 strokes on the field at the Waste Management. And he's back at a place where he's enjoyed some success in the past; with a 10th place at the AT&T last year and a 20th place in 2018. I like his chance to duplicate his stellar play this week ... unlike the pick from the guy below me ...
Powers, Golf Digest: Beau Hossler (+1200) — A certain someone in this here gambling column (COUGH Steve Hennessey COUGH) told me I might as well light my money on fire for this bet. Well, call me the fireman because I'm on the Beau show to pick up his second top-10 in his last three starts this week. Two years ago he opened 65-67 here to take the 36-hole lead, only to implode on the weekend. If he can avoid the disaster I think he'll be a factor. He loves poa and he loves the wind, and it's supposed to be windy on the weekend. Let's go Beau.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Champ (+380) — Champ ranks first in our Course Suitability Ranking this week, in large part due to his ability to overpower short courses like this and his ability to putt well on fast, poa greens. He also has seven top 33 finishes in a row. He is playing great golf right now and these courses will suit his game.
Top 10 results last week: Sobel: 1 for 1 (Max Homa (+800); Everyone else: 0 for 1.
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Sobel/Action Network: 3 for 14 (up 5.3 units); Mayo: 2 for 14 (up 4.1 units); Alldrick/FanShare: 3 for 15 (up 3.9 units); Gdula 2 for 15 (down 4.7 units); Powers: 1 for 4 (down 1.35 units); Riccio: 1 for 15 (down 11.5 units); Hennessey: 0 for 4 (down 4 units); Tour Caddie: 0 for 13 (down 13 units)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. For more analysis from The Action Network, click here.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.
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