We go from one colorful event on tour to another. Even though the fans from Waste Management Phoenix Open are still nursing their hangovers, it’s time to move on to Pebble Beach.
The pro-am format and the abundance of celebrities combine with the incredible beauty of three fantastic golf courses along the California coast to create one of the PGA Tour’s unique events.
Here are 10 bold predictions as to what golf fans can expect at the tournament this week.
Unfortunately, an additional heat of caddy races isn’t one of them...
Bolstered by a new driver in the bag and newfound confidence off the tee, Phil Mickelson lit up TPC Scottsdale last week. More impressively, at nearly 88 percent, he led the field in greens in regulation.
If Mickelson, whose career driving accuracy is barely above 50 percent, continues to find the short grass with regularity off the tee, there’s no reason he shouldn’t win for a second week in a row. Additionally, the left-hander is a four-time winner at the event, with his most recent victory at Pebble Beach coming just last year.
True, his year before last week had been unimpressive and filled with off-the-course bogeys. However, Mickelson’s commanding performance at the Phoenix Open, his spike in confidence and his return to a course he loves and has played incredibly well make him the surest bet to win this week.
O.K. The term “celebrity” won’t be as loosely applied as it is at your local “celebrity bartending” fundraiser. However, in addition to Bill Murray, Wayne Gretzky, Andy Garcia and Ray Romano, there will be a few head scratchers and refrains of “what was that guy in?”
Last year, for example, the following celebrities were in the field, according to the tournament’s website: TobyMac, Josh Duhamel, Eric Close, Jeffrey Donovan and Lucas Black.
Those are not exactly A-Listers.
And of course, there’s Pebble Beach stalwart Kenny G...
There's low-hanging fruit in the prediction department, here: Bill Murray will provide his usual blend of bold attire, moderately decent play, silliness and borderline annoying behavior at the tournament this year.
Last year, the Caddyshack star donned a Ghillie suit, in addition to punting a football and tickling a cameraman.
Over the years, Murray has sported all manner of ridiculous headwear and engaged in innumerable varieties of buffoonery.
Look for the shenanigans to continue this year.
Excluding the rain-shortened, 56-hole Hyundai Tournament of Champions, there has been some seriously low scoring on tour this year.
At the Sony Open, for example, Russell Henley won with a 24-under 256. Last year, at the same tournament, Johnson Wagner’s winning score was a 13-under 267.
Additionally, Kyle Stanley won the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open with a respectable tally of 15-under 269. Phil Mickelson blew that mark away this year, shooting a 28-under 256.
Perhaps all of this means nothing. However, even with the variable weather in Monterey County, the winning score at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am over the past 10 years has generally been between 14-under and 19-under.
Given this, as well as the low-scoring trend on tour this year, the winner will finish at 18-under or lower.
In addition to winning the tournament in 2009 and 2010, Dustin Johnson has finished outside the top 10 only once in the five times he has played the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Johnson has won once on tour this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The long-hitting TaylorMade staffer hasn’t played well since his victory (W/D at the Sony Open, T-51 at the Farmers Insurance Open).
However, with a week off to rest up and reorient himself, he is assured a good finish at a course he has dominated in his brief time on tour.
An excellent proposition bet would be whether there will be more shots of the Carmel Bay during the television coverage of the tournament than there were of the paragliders during the Farmers Insurance Open.
Of course, a precise calculation would be difficult, and I unfortunately lack the time to tabulate appropriately. However, I predict that there will be nearly twice as many shots of the bay as there were of the gliders.
Slow play is a hot-button issue on the PGA Tour. The larger-than-expected (because of the lack of an additional cut) final round field at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago was the latest pot-stirring incident.
At that tournament, Tiger Woods voiced displeasure over the fact that the final nine holes took an absurd three hours to play (one of the main offenders, pictured). Additionally, many speculate that among the reasons Woods has only played the Pebble Beach Pro-Am twice are long rounds as well as “celebrity-driven crowds.”
Play is notoriously slow at Pebble Beach (for obvious reasons). Expect to hear a lot of talk about the issue, as one of the most dawdling events on tour will serve as a catalyst for some serious slow-play banter from all sides.
Assuming the World Golf Hall of Famer tees it up at Pebble Beach this week, expect to hear more about Vijay Singh’s use of S.W.A.T.S. deer-antler spray. The discussion was nipped in the bud last week by Singh’s withdrawal from the Phoenix Open, as the attention of the golfing press was quickly captured by Phil Mickelson’s run at 59 on Thursday.
However, it’s unlikely that the statement Singh issued last week will be the end of the public discussion of the golfer’s misdeeds, especially with presumed sanctions by the Tour to follow.
It’s a safe bet that golf fans will get much more than their fill of deer-antler spray/PED discussion this week.
As the PGA Tour’s Media Guide points out: “The 2010 NCAA champion teamed with Dana Quigley to win the Pro-Junior division of The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in 2006.”
Given this, Scott Langley will make the cut in his first career start at Pebble Beach.
Even though the rookie has missed consecutive cuts following his fine play at the Sony Open, he is poised for a rebound on a course he played well as an amateur.
Rain last shortened the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2009. Since 1998, the tournament has been shortened to 54 holes three times. Rain in the forecast Thursday and Friday doesn’t necessarily indicate that the tournament will be shortened from 72 holes.
However, given the forecast and coupled with the damp/often misty oceanside conditions on the best of days, it’s virtually guaranteed that it will rain for some portion of the of tournament.
As Jan Null writes positively, “In the past 36 years there have actually been 16 when it has not rained any of the days during the tournament. In the same period there have been just four occasions, most recently in 2009, when it rained all four days.”
So, it’s only rained 20 out of the last 36 years...regardless, rain is the money play.
*All stats from PGATOUR.com and the PGA Tour Media Guide