If you're in a game that uses scoring in relation to par as your measurement, then how you arrange your golfers as they make their way around the rotation of three courses this week is of utmost importance. The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is played on two par 72s -- Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill -- and par-70 Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course [MPCC]. It's the last tournament of the season contested on multiple tracks.
Since this is the fifth consecutive edition that this same trio has co-hosted, it's relevant to review how each compared to the other two in the same round of every edition. Pebble Beach is the only course played in the final round, so only the first three rounds apply to this analysis. This leaves 12 rankings of three (i.e. three rounds in each of the first four editions).
MPCC has ranked as the lowest in relation to par in half of the occurrences, while Pebble Beach scored the lowest in five. However, Pebble Beach has been the easiest course in three of the last four rounds with MPCC coming in a relatively distance second. (In the one instance of the last four when MPCC was lower, it was but a difference of a mere 0.02 strokes in the first round of 2013.)
It's too soon to know if this is a trend as Pebble Beach's overall scoring average in 2013 was a 15-year low (and MPCC's was its highest since returning as co-host), but accept this as good news since it allows you to move golfers around on both courses with confidence. And because of that, you begin the decision-making process with flexibility.
Spyglass Hill's lone time as the easiest course was in the first round of 2011; it was 0.02 strokes clear of Pebble Beach and 0.27 lower than MPCC. If you're wondering why, it wasn't due to the weather, which was benign that day. All but one of the remaining comparisons slot Spyglass Hill last. In the third round in 2011, it ranked second, but just 0.06 lower than Pebble Beach.
Tournament history is always a factor in our decision-making, but stat mavens will want to review the results of the annual Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational in November. Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill also co-host that unofficial event (with Del Monte Golf Course). For more, navigate the EVENTS page at PebbleBeach.com.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Jim Furyk ... First live action since a solo eighth at the 18-man Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in early December. Logged five top 10s in his last seven starts of 2013. He's missed only two of 17 cuts at Pebble Beach but has placed no better than T30 (2013) in his last five tries.
Pat Perez ... A recommitment to his craft has yielded personal-best finishes as it corresponds to his last two tournaments -- T2 (Farmers) and solo 11th (WM Phoenix Open). That he's 9-for-11 at Pebble Beach, albeit with no better than a T35 (2010) in his last five appearances, is probably irrelevant as compared to his renewed focus and lofty goals.
K.J. Choi ... A pedestrian T42 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open ended a string of top 25s at five, but it extended his run of 13 consecutive cuts made. He's survived seven straight at Pebble Beach dating back to 2003, but hasn't appeared since 2011 (T39).
Brendon Todd ... He tied for ninth at Pebble Beach in 2012, but this endorsement is just a reminder of how well he's played overall in the last 12 months. He's 7-for-7 this season with four top 20s and ranks 15th in greens hit, T17 in strokes gained-putting and eighth in adjusted scoring. Also eighth in the all-around.
Russell Knox ... After months of peppering PGA TOUR leaderboards, he finally picked up his first top 10 since late 2012 with a T10 at Torrey Pines. That trailed a T13 at the Humana Challenge. Six cuts made in seven starts this season. Inside the top 20 fairways hit, greens in regulation and adjusted scoring.
J.B. Holmes ... The co-runner-up here in 2010 has somehow played in seven consecutive editions despite two surgeries on his brain and a busted ankle. Since returning from the rollerblading accident, he's 3-for-3 worldwide with a T23 at the Farmers two weeks ago.
Robert Garrigus ... A mild endorsement if only for the fact that he's always a dangerous investment either way. Top 25s in the last two editions of this tournament and a T28 at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago.
Justin Hicks ... Frequently included in my Sleepers feature in 2013 -- five times to be exact -- he could have occupied one of this week's spots. Tied for 12th here last year and shared 19th place last week. Five consecutive cuts made. Co-leads the TOUR in ball-striking (also T1 in greens hit), 36th in strokes gained-putting and 28th in adjusted scoring.
Ken Duke ... He's 6-for-6 on the season and tied for seventh here just two years ago. Currently 11th on TOUR in fairways hit and ninth in greens in regulation.
John Mallinger ... More of a sleeper but he lands here instead after last week's T12 at TPC Scottsdale where he ranked 19th in the all-around. He's 6-for-7 at Pebble Beach, a record that began with a pair of third-place finishes in 2007 and 2008. No top 55s in his last four trips, but he probably comes cheap in most formats.
Steven Bowditch ... This is a nod to the course history buffs given he's survived six straight cuts worldwide entering the week. The Aussie tied for ninth here in 2011 and validated with a T15 in 2012. Consider him a flier in daily fantasy formats.
Alex Cejka ... Ninth consecutive appearance, this time on a sponsor exemption. If he didn't have success at Pebble Beach -- T10 in 2010; T21 in 2011 and T8 at the 2010 U.S. Open -- he'd still get the attention for arriving having finished inside the top 20 in his last three starts (on the Asian Tour). He's a Veteran Member on the PGA TOUR, so one solid week would result in a major lift in the Beyond 150 Reshuffle following the Match Play in two weeks.
Brandt Snedeker ... It's not often that the defending champion lands here, but he's lacked consistency since returning from a knee injury. After a bogey-free, 7-under 64 in the second round at last week's stop in Scottsdale, he went 1-for-24 in par-breaker opportunities and shot 9-over 72-79=151 to finish T61. Ranked 59th in strokes gained-putting for the week. Also keep in mind that last year's title capped off an incredible run of four top-three finishes in five starts.
D.A. Points ... The absence of perennial partner Bill Murray aside, Points finished T67 in his title defense here in 2012, and then missed last year's cut. A missed cut in Arizona last week ended a streak of eight straight cuts made, but only one of those went for a top 25 (T18, Thailand Golf Championship).
Jerry Kelly ... After a solo third at Waialae and a T13 at the Humana Challenge, it's time to slam on the brakes. Since 2002 at Pebble Beach, he's 1-for-7 with a T35 in 2004.
Padraig Harrington ... All of his top 20s here have occurred in the last three even-numbered years, but that coincidence is just that. Missed the cut in his last two starts and eight of his last 14.
James Hahn ... Working through an equipment change, but since last year's T3, which is his career-best finish on the PGA TOUR, he's yet to back it up with another top 20. The sophomore has missed 17 of his last 28 cuts.
Bo Van Pelt ... Failed to translate decent form in the fall into an acceptable start to 2014. Just 1-for-3 with a T48 at the Humana Challenge. Only cut made in his last three trips to Pebble Beach was a T70 in 2010.
John Senden ... He's 6-for-6 here, but this is his first appearance since 2010. Also 2-for-2 in 2014, but neither went for a top 60.
Richard H. Lee ... With top 15s in both starts, he'll be a favorite among course history buffs, but he's missed his last three cuts entering the week and has no better than a T35 (CIMB Classic) in his last 10 starts. Over par in eight of his last 13 rounds.
Ted Potter Jr. ... Tied for 16th last year during what was a three-week spurt of good form. However, in his last eight starts, he's missed six cuts and hasn't cracked a top 35.
Alex Prugh ... Rode a torrid start his rookie year of 2010 to a T27 in his debut here, and then improved to T21 the following season. He hasn't posted another top 25 on the PGA TOUR since in 28 starts. Riding an 0-for-7 skid dating back to 2011 but includes four missed cuts this season.
Keep an Eye On
Nick Watney ... Nine consecutive cuts made but none of his last five are top 25s. Primary blame is on his putter. In between missed cuts in his first (2004) and last (2013) starts at Pebble Beach, he strung together eight cuts made with a pair of top 10s.
Charley Hoffman ... This won't be a popular decision despite last week's T61, but consider it a week to give him a rest. He hasn't missed a cut in 12 consecutive starts and has three top 10s this season, but the veteran has only one top 30 in seven visits to the Monterey Peninsula (T14, 2009).
Matt Every ... This has nothing to do with his closing 75 at TPC Scottsdale; rather, he's yet to find a top 25 in four appearances at Pebble Beach. Survived his last 10 cuts entering this week, four of which going for a top 10 and yet another for a top 15.
Sean O'Hair ... It's encouraging that he's survived five straight cuts in this tournament, including a season-best T16 last year, but he arrives this week having missed four consecutive cuts.
Chesson Hadley ... The rookie has missed his last five cuts but he took second place at the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational in November. Shot 73 at Spyglass Hill and 67 at Pebble Beach. (Incidentally, Kevin Kisner won by one. He's also in the field this week, but Hadley has more value moving forward.)
Returning to Competition
Freddie Jacobson ... Back in play after withdrawing one round (81) into the Farmers Insurance Open. No information to explain the decision was released. Tied for seventh here last year.
Scott Piercy ... Second early withdrawal in the last three weeks, but he nestled a T15 at TPC Scottsdale in between.
Camilo Villegas ... Played in each of the last three tournaments. He survived the cut in all but finished no better than T33 at the Humana Challenge.
Billy Hurley III ... This is his third consecutive week off since missing the cut at the Humana. While he's 95th in the FedExCup standings, it's rare for anyone in the reshuffle to sit out three straight events at any time during the season (He was exempt on merit for two of the potential starts).
It's tough to dust myself off after swallowing a T43 by Bill Haas at the Farmers Insurance Open and a solo 76th by Chris Kirk at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but I simply cannot go wrong by plugging in Jason Day at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. With proven success here and a week off following a co-runner-up at the Farmers -- his fourth straight top 10 worldwide -- confidence isn't an issue for him or me. It's why he's also No. 1 in my Power Rankings.
Hunter Mahan (No. 2) was tempting but Day is trending better. I'll probably burn Jimmy Walker (No. 3) at Riviera next week. While I'm bullish on Graeme McDowell (No. 4), he hasn't played in several weeks, so I'm concerned about his rust on the greens.
Dustin Johnson (No. 5) is the no-brainer but I want to see how his season develops. He missed the cut last year with his then-girlfriend's father as his amateur partner, but now that Paulina Gretzky is DJ's fiancee, perhaps playing with future father-in-law, Wayne, will have a different vibe this time around.
Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak and (Sleeper) Spencer Levin are smart choices in two-man formats.
Waste Management Phoenix Open: Chris Kirk; 76th; $11,656.00; 0.880 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 10-for-11
FedExCup points: 572.213
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 4
Top 25s: 6
Missed Cuts: 1