Power Rankings: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

February 06, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

Pebble Beach Golf Links has served as the site for a series of unforgettable moments in golf. On the list was an improbable eagle at last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. There was an argument to be made that D.A. Points' hole-out from the fairway at the infamous par-5 14th hole in the final round was the shot of the year.

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It certainly was the shot of Points' career. Not only was he chasing his first career PGA TOUR victory but his amateur partner, fellow native Illinoisan Bill Murray, was after his first victory in the pro-am competition. Despite a forgettable chest-bump with his partner, Points won by two over Hunter Mahan.

Pebble Beach may be the holy grail of golf courses, but that 14th hole is anything but. For the last two years, it's been the most difficult par-5 in a non-major. (In 2010, it also ranked as the hardest par-5 in a major when Pebble Beach hosted the U.S. Open.) Last year's scoring average was +0.341 strokes to par. Consider that only four of the 163 par 5s played in all of 2011 averaged over par. Furthermore, the 14th hole ranked T20 in scoring average among all 918 holes played.

Adding fuel to the value of Points' feat is that he jarred his eagle (from 100 yards) at the same hole where Bryce Molder had taken a 9 the previous year when he was in the mix late as a non-winner at the time. Molder's quadruple bogey was the fourth carded at the hole on that treacherous Sunday in 2010.

The moral of the story is that everyone in contention will gladly walk away from the hole with a 5 in the final round. Prior to that, however, the last field that goes 156 deep until late April can have a go at the triumvirate of tracks co-hosting this week.

Everyone will play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill Golf Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club once before a 54-hole cut of low 60 and ties advances to play a second 18 at Pebble. (Golfers 61st through 70th plus ties will be tagged with the traditional MDF. They will receive official earnings and FedExCup points, but will not compete in the finale. The top 25 amateur teams will also advance to play for the pro-am title.)

Of 21 par 72s in non-majors in 2011, Spyglass (+0.426) and Pebble Beach (+0.381) respectively ranked fourth- and fifth-most difficult even though both measure under 7,000 yards. Monterey Peninsula checked in at sixth-easiest of 14 par 70s in non-majors at 0.160 strokes under par. Back in the rotation for the third consecutive year, it maxes out at 6,900 yards.

Despite 1-over 71s on the easiest of the three courses, Steve Marino, Phil Mickelson and Steven Bowditch still managed top 10s in the tournament last year. Points opened with a 63 at Monterey Peninsula for low aggregate on the day. The rest is a Cinderfella story.

After a dodgy weather system that blows through late on Tuesday, the skies are expected to calm for the remainder of the week. High temperatures will dance around 60 degrees, winds will be moderate at worst and the chance for rain is minimal.

MORE: Rookies | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers

Power Rankings: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Rank Player   Comment
Top-15s in six of his last seven starts going back to the JT Shriners in October. Closed out a T15 at TPC Scottsdale last week with a bogey-free 66. After missing his first four cuts here, he's posted top 10s in each of the last two editions.
First appearance at the Pro-Am since 2002. Winner here in 2000. Shared third place two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, his only start anywhere in 2012. Now nine weeks removed from his clutch victory at the Chevron World Challenge.
The Sacramento native arrives on the heels of a stinging Sunday at TPC Scottsdale. The timing of the AT&T couldn't be better given his strong pedigree and track record on the Monterey Peninsula. Shared fourth place here last year.
Withdrew early last week due to an illness. Finished T60 the week before at Torrey Pines. Still looking to avert consecutive finishes outside the top 25 since the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs. Made last seven cuts here, including a career-best T6 last year.
Per his Twitter page, he returned from his missed cut in Qatar on Sunday. Shared sixth place at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. Runner-up here last year during which he carded a pair of bogey-free, 5-under 31s on the front nine at Pebble.
The defending champion has started 2012 with gusto. While he couldn't avoid the big number at TPC Scottsdale en route to a T45, he's already posted a pair of top 10s in full-field events. Led the field in putting here last year; co-led in eagles and birdies.
Finished alone in fourth place at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his first top-five on the PGA TOUR in 16 months. Ranked T3 in Strokes Gained-Putting at TPC Scottsdale. He didn't crack a top 20 in SG-P in all of 2011. Two top 10s at Pebble Beach.
Coming off a share of 12th place at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Since opening the season with a pair of 76s at the Humana Challenge, he's strung together nine consecutive rounds under par. Currently 14th in birdie average.
He's started 2012 inconsistently, but this is a comfort zone. In seven rounds at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the two-time champ owns an actual scoring average of 69.71. That includes a 73 and two 74s, both of which have occurred in his last three loopsg.
Withdrew from the WM Phoenix Open with one hole to play when play was suspended on Friday night. Seven top 10s in 17 appearances at Pebble Beach including a victory in 2004 and a trio of runner-up finishes, the most recent a playoff loss in 2008.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am:

11. Phil Mickelson ... While he's in a bit of a funk at the moment, he's a three-time champion and all-time money leader of this event. Seven top-10s in 16 appearances, including in each of the last two years. Currently 32nd in Strokes Gained-Putting.

12. Bob Estes ... Potentially season-changing week as the q-school grad has two starts left on a medical extension to earn $18,062 and get elevated to the Major Medical category. Finished T4 here in 2009 and T16 in 2010. Placed T22 at the Humana Challenge in January.

13. Sean O'Hair ... Just one top 10 here in six appearances (T10, 2009) but he's off to a mildly impressive start this year. While the co-runner-up at the Sony Open stands out, he's carded 10 of 12 rounds under par. Also a lofty fourth on TOUR in scrambling early on.

14. Brandt Snedeker ... After winning the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff, he struggled with his putter at TPC Scottsdale, placing T50. His wild, closing 68 featured an eagle, six birdies and five bogeys. Has one top 25 at this event in five tries.

15. Jeff Maggert ... Faded from the top 15 on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale with a 72 to finish T26, but he continues to play well overall. Established the course record at Monterey Peninsula in the third round last year when he carded an 8-under 62.