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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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It’s back out to California this week as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am gets underway. As always at this event, three courses will be used over the opening three days — Monterey, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach — before the latter is played once more on Sunday.

With the alternating courses, Shotlink is only available for Pebble Beach, which provides difficulty in assessing course statistics and frustration following your picks for the week. As the event is a pro-am, you can also expect to see as many shots from the likes of Bill Murray, Ray Romano and Andy Garcia on television coverage over the opening few days as you will of the pros.

All three courses are short; none measure over 7,000 yards. That makes form with the short irons imperative. Some of the smallest greens on Tour are also on display this week, which means any mistakes with irons will provide players with a lot more work to do than usual around the greens. Last year, Jordan Spieth claimed the title, posting 19-under par, four shots clear of Kelly Kraft.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 11/2
  • Jason Day 10/1
  • Rory Mcilroy 10/1
  • Jon Rahm 10/1
  • Jordan Spieth 12/1
  • Gary Woodland 25/1
  • Phil Mickelson 28/1

Headlining my picks for this week is four-time champion Phil Mickelson (28/1, DK Price $9,600). The California native produced his best display of his year so far last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, finishing T5. After his final round, he sounded very positive telling the media: “I think that my game’s gotten better each week, my focus is getting better each week. So I’m hoping that I continue to build on this. This shouldn’t just be a one-week deal. I should be getting better and better as the weeks go on.”

With his confidence clearly high at the moment, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am may have arrived at the perfect time for Lefty. Last week, Mickelson was T6 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and third in Strokes Gained Putting.

Each course this week provides four Par 5’s, which players will need to take care of should they have hopes of claiming this championship. Mickelson will be very confident in doing so, as he comes into this event second in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s over his last 24 rounds. Mickelson is also a fabulous putter on poa annua greens. Over his last 50 rounds on poa annua greens, he sits third in Strokes Gained Putting.

Despite beginning his year with a missed cut at the CareerBuilder and a T45 at The Farmers, Mickelson ranks second in this field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over his last 12 rounds and second in Strokes Gained Putting over the same period. At a course which Mickelson thrives on, there’s a sense that his game is rounding into shape to give him a great opportunity to win for the first time since 2013.

Another Pebble Beach specialist who I like this week is Brandt Snedeker (35/1, DK Price $8,100). The two-time champion has been slow to get back in the groove after his injury last year, but last week he recorded his best finish since his layoff. That should have him feeling good on his return to a place he loves.

Possessing one of the best short games in golf, it should be no surprise that Snedeker has excelled here. He’s second in this field for Strokes Gained Around the Green for his last 24 rounds and first for Strokes Gained: Short Game. His scrambling ability is something that makes him a specialist at this event, where getting the ball up and down around these small greens is vital.

His ability to score on short Par 4’s is another asset that he possesses. Over his past 24 rounds, Snedeker is No. 1 in this field for Efficiency on Par 4’s measuring between 350-400 yards and third in Proximity to the Hole for approaches between 125-150 yards — a yardage he will see plenty of this week. He finished fourth at this event last year, and barring an off week with his reliable wedge game and superb short game you can expect to see Snedeker in the hunt for title No. 3 here.

While Mickelson and Snedeker both have terrific records at Pebble Beach, my No. 3 pick is making his debut this week — and the fact that this is the first visit for Branden Grace (40/1, DK Price $9,100) is my only concern about him. It’s a surprise that this is his first trip to Pebble Beach, as it’s an event that should suit his game.

Grace possesses a very tidy short game — he sits 5th in this field for Strokes Gained Around the Green for his last 24 rounds — but it’s his performance on short-to-medium Par 4’s that grabbed my attention. His last 12 rounds on the PGA Tour at the end of last year see him ranked fourth in the field for Efficiency on Par 4’s between 350-400 yards and seventh on Par 4’s between 400-450 yards.

Grace is making his first start of the year on the PGA Tour, but he isn’t coming in cold. He has performed well to start his season on the European Tour, winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November and beginning 2018 with a solo second at his home event, the BMW SA Open.

Grace’s form at the RBC Heritage makes me believe that this event should match up very well for his type of game. Just like this week’s venue, Harbour Town Golf Links is a short links course that possesses some of the smallest greens on tour. It is also an event that can get windy like Pebble Beach can. Grace has a very impressive record at the RBC Heritage, with results of seventh, first, and 11th, and I believe his game should prove just as good a fit at Pebble Beach.

Recommended Plays

  • Phil Mickelson 28/1, DK Price $9,600
  • Brandt Snedeker 35/1, DK Price $8,100
  • Branden Grace 40/1, DK Price $9,100
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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