PGA Tour: 10 Players to Watch at Pebble Beach

Kevin Casey@kevincasey19Contributor IFebruary 8, 2012

PGA Tour: 10 Players to Watch at Pebble Beach

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    The PGA Tour’s West Coast swing is in full throttle now as 155 players, including Tiger Woods, will tee it up on Thursday at the beautiful and historic Pebble Beach. 

    Still, despite the large number of players, there will only be one that, come Sunday, will be holding the trophy.

    With that in mind, it seems pertinent to narrow down this long list of players to those who have the best chance to win.

    So, here are 10 players to look out for this week on the California coast. Watch these players closely, because most likely, one of them will be one win richer by Sunday evening.

10. Sean O'Hair

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    O'Hair may only have one top-10 finish in six career appearances at Pebble, but his talent is too tough to deny him a shot at victory this week.

    The 29-year-old may have finished an indifferent T45 at Phoenix, but his game has shown some positive signs early on in the season. At the Sony Open, O'Hair looked in good form, finishing in a tie for second, just two shots behind winner Johnson Wagner.

    If O'Hair can find the form he brought to the Sony Open, he could find himself right in contention at Pebble Beach. And, as he has shown before, if O'Hair can get into contention, he has the game to bring home the trophy. 

9. Brandt Snedeker

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    Like O'Hair, Snedeker has never had great success at this event, recording just one top-25 finish in five tries.

    However, Snedeker has been excellent recently, finishing T8 at the Humana Challenge before overcoming a seven-shot deficit at the Farmers Insurance Open on his way to victory—albeit with a little help from Kyle Stanley.

    The 31-year-old is a good putter and has proven deadly with the flatstick in pressure moments. With the importance of putting magnified this week on Pebble's bumpy greens, Snedeker has a clear advantage.

    Snedeker's recent form—besides his T50 finish in Phoenix—along with his excellent putting, are a great combo this week. If both of these hold steady, Snedeker may be tough to beat.

8. Spencer Levin

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    What a tough Sunday it was for Spencer Levin in Phoenix. Carrying a six-shot lead into the final round, Levin imploded, carding a four-over-par 75 en route to a third place finish.

    The 27-year-old never looked comfortable Sunday, and his double bogey on 15 was a key sign of the pressure getting to him. Still, this isn't a death sentence for Levin.

    Kyle Stanley, the man Levin lost to last week, won the Phoenix Open just a week after blowing a five-shot lead of his own at Torrey Pines. What that means is no matter how much the loss may hurt, there is no reason to believe that Levin cannot return to great play.

    Levin was in great form in Phoenix, and he has had some past success at Pebble, finishing in a tie for fourth last year.

    The young generation on tour nowadays may experience some growing pains, but they are not afraid to win. Levin, like Stanley, is not going to pack up his bags and quit.

    In golf, players need short-term memory. One bad loss is no reason to give up, so don't be surprised to see Levin have a strong performance this week and possibly redeem himself with a win. 

7. Nick Watney

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    In two starts this season Nick Watney has looked less than spectacular, finishing T12 at Kapalua and T60 at Torrey Pines. This doesn't mean Watney should be counted out this week though.

    The 30-year-old had two wins last year and looked the part of one of the game's elite. And despite his slow start this season, expect him to continue this trend in 2012.

    Watney has developed into one of the tour's most complete players, combining a beautiful swing with a solid putter to bury opponents that get in his way. It is only a matter of time before Watney finds his form in 2012, and it could be at Pebble Beach.

    Watney has made his last seven cuts at this event and finished a career best T6 at last season's tournament. With this recent success and the game that he has, Watney will be a factor at Pebble this week. 

    And if his putting under pressure continues to be as good as it was last year, Watney could easily bring home a victory this Sunday.

6. Phil Mickelson

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    After a shaky 2011 season, Mickelson hasn't exactly rebounded so far in 2012. With zero top-25 finishes in three events this season, it's clear that Lefty is struggling to find his game.

    The 41-year-old is still a player to look out for though. Phil is always unpredictable, he won the 2010 Masters after playing rather uninspired golf for the previous two months, and just last year he won the Shell Houston Open despite playing mediocre golf in his previous four events.

    The point is, nobody ever knows when Phil's game will turn on.

    Another reason for a possible Mickelson sighting this week is his previous success here. He has won the event three times in his career and is the event's all-time leading money winner. So if there's any place for Mickelson to unpredictably come back to form it could be here.

    Mickelson hasn't been his best so far this year, and has had some major struggles over the last couple of years, but he's still been able to put his game together once in a while.

    This week at Pebble Beach, watch out for Mickelson, this might be another random week where he puts it all together and comes away with a win. 

5. Dustin Johnson

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    If Mickelson's play has been bad this year, Dustin Johnson's has been putrid. The 27-year-old has played in three events this season, and has finished T43, T61 and withdrew from another, as he's recovered from an offseason knee surgery.

    So why exactly is he on this list?

    Well, quite simply, Johnson owns Pebble Beach. Although he finished just T55 at this event last season, Johnson won here in 2009 and 2010. Along with this, Johnson held a three-shot lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 (before collapsing to a final-round 82).

    This course clearly fits his eye, and despite a slow start to this season, Johnson should regain his form this week.

    The highly talented young man is too good of a player to continue this slump, especially at a course that suits his game so well.

    Dustin Johnson's name could early be near the top of the leader board on Sunday afternoon.

4. D.A. Points

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    The defending champion has had a fantastic start to the year with two top-10 finishes in his first four starts.

    Points had a tough week in Phoenix, finishing T45, but the 35-year-old has had an overall solid start to the season and is in prime position to defend his title this week.

    Still, despite his victory here last year, this event has not always been so kind to Points. Actually, in his five appearances previous to his victory here, Points had four missed cuts and hadn't recorded a top-10 finish. Let's just say that maybe this course doesn't quite fit his eye like it does for Johnson.

    However, Points has some good mojo at this event coming off of last year's victory. Combine that with some good recent play and Points has a distinct chance to repeat.

3. Hunter Mahan

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    Fans will be in for a treat as Hunter Mahan brings one of the game's most beautiful swings to one of the world's most beautiful golf courses this week.

    The 29-year-old missed the cut last week in Qatar, but a T6 at Torrey Pines last month showed that Mahan is at least somewhat comfortable with where his game is.

    Mahan also may find it comforting to return to this event, where he used a back nine five-under-par 31 in the final round last year to charge up the leader board before ultimately finishing in second place.

    Although Mahan hasn't registered a tour victory since 2010, he has a great deal of talent and could strike at any time. In good form and at an event where he did so well the year previous, this might just be the week Mahan ends his victory drought.

2. Bryce Molder

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    Bryce Molder comes into Pebble Beach riding a hot streak after a crazy year.

    The 33-year-old struggled mightily after finishing T6 here last year, missing nine of his next 11 cuts as his game went south for a full three months of the season.

    But Molder had a stunning turnaround, missing just two cuts in the last four months while reeling in five top-10 finishes and a victory.

    That form has followed him into 2012 as well with three top-15 finishes in his first four starts. Stemming back to last season, Molder now has six top-15 finishes in his last seven starts.

    Molder will attempt to continue the good play this week and he should. The man is playing great golf and he comes to an event that has seen him finish in the top-10 each of the last two years.

    He may have had problems at points last season, but with his game back and at a venue where he has experienced some success, Molder has a great chance to secure a victory this week. 

1. Tiger Woods

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    Last, but not least is Tiger Woods. Who else did you think it would be?

    The 36-year-old golfing legend is slowly regaining the form that made him golf's greatest star. Woods has been sensational in the last three months, finishing third at the Australian Open in November, winning the Chevron World Challenge in December, and holding the 54-hole lead over a world-class field in Abu Dhabi before falling to third in January.

    Woods is back on track and brings his revitalized game to a course that has been the spot for some of his greatest moments. After all, it was here where Woods came back from seven shots down with seven holes to play to win the AT&T back in 2000. It was also here that Woods put together a mind boggling 15-shot victory at the 2000 U.S. Open.

    Before we guarantee Woods the win though, it is important to note that this his first time in the event in 10 years and besides his victory in 2000, he really hasn't done that well at this event. He only has one other top-10 in his six appearances here.

    That being said, this is still a course where Woods feels great peace, and with his game the best it has been in years, Woods might finally get his 72nd PGA Tour victory.

    It has been a dramatic three years for Woods, but on Sunday, the Tiger of old may finally get a win and be back on the path to Jack.