For the second time this year, the Tour takes part in a tournament where three different courses (Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore) each of which features Poa Annua greens. All three courses get played once by the field before a 54-hole cut following Saturday’s round; the top 60 and ties will play the Pebble Beach course again on Sunday. Much like the CareerBuilder Challenge a few weeks ago, all of the professionals in the field will be paired with an amateur, providing nothing but a nuisance on the TV coverage.
With all three courses being among some of the shorter on tour, this tournament typically turns into somewhat of a drive, chip, and putt challenge. Last year saw Vaughn Taylor overcome a six shot deficit on Sunday to overtake Phil Mickelson for the victory, finishing with a final score of -17.
PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS – 6816 YDS – PAR 72
A six time major host, Pebble Beach is one of the most famous golf courses in the world. At just over 6800 yards, this is one of the shortest courses on Tour. The fairways are very generous, with a field average around 70 percent hit. The rough here isn’t too penal, however the coastline which borders around half the holes will bring OB into play. Protecting par around Pebble are its exceptionally small greens (3500 square feet) which are exceptionally undulated. Last year the host course had a scoring average of 72.654, the highest of the three in the tournament.
SPYGLASS HILL GOLF COURSE – 6953 YDS – PAR 72
Spyglass is historically the most difficult of three courses, despite last year being slightly easier than Pebble Beach in terms of scoring average (72.506). Spyglass doesn’t have as much coastal exposure as it’s two sister courses but it does feature plenty of trees, bunkers, and sand dunes to keep golfers honest. The four Par-5s on the course are all reachable in two, setting up plenty of eagle opportunities. Golfers who can score at Spyglass will find themselves with a considerable advantage on the rest of the field.
MONTEREY PENINSULA COUNTRY CLUB – 6958 YDS – PAR 71
Monterey’s Par-71 layout is unique in the fact that it features 4 Par-5s, 5 Par-3s, and 9 Par-4s. Last year Monterey’s scoring average was nearly two strokes better than Pebble’s (70.699). Much like its two counterparts, the fairways here are very inviting and the greens are smaller than Tour average. Many of the holes on the course are guarded by the California coastline, potentially causing wind to become a factor. Players will need to post a score here at Monterey in order to find themselves in contention come Sunday.
BIRDIE OR BETTER %
PAR 5 SCORING
PROXIMITY (50-125 YDS)
STROKES GAINED: AROUND THE GREEN
BIRDIE OR BETTER %:
Last year’s event saw 11 of the top 20 here finish inside the top 50 in Birdie or Better Percentage at seasons end. Over the past seven years the average winning score is 17 under par, making scoring very important.
PAR 5 SCORING:
All three courses feature four Par-5s, most of which reachable, making it paramount for golfers to take advantage and keep pace with the rest of the field. Six of the top 10 last year finished within the top 40 in terms of Par-5 Scoring. Five of the 16 Par-5s that the golfers will see had a scoring average over par last year; being able to score on those holes in particular will be a huge advantage.
PROXIMITY (50-125 YDS):
With three of the shortest courses on Tour being on the slate, approach shots will be coming from much closer, making wedge play very important. Looking at players who can knock it close from within 125 yards will be a good indicator of which players succeed with a wedge in their hands. This past week has seen the course get plenty of rain which should provide soft greens that reward close approach shots. Putting on wet and bumpy Poa Annua can be very difficult, so getting close to the hole will be more important than usual.
STROKES GAINED: AROUND THE GREEN:
Across all three courses golfers will face some of the smallest greens they’ll see all year. Ideally, they’d hit every green, but that’s not always the case. Being able to get up and down when not hitting the Green in Regulation will be key to maintaining a good score. Among the top 16 golfers in this event last year, nine of them finished inside the top 40 in Strokes Gained: Around the Green.
Check back tomorrow for my Going For The Green article, and Wednesday for Adam Daly’s (@adalyfrey) Core Fore.
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