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AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 08 Feb 2021 | Comments

FOR once, I am really looking forward to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The reason? Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no amateurs in the field. There are several benefits to this: 1, rounds will not take upwards of six hours to complete; 2, we will not be subjected to the ridiculous antics of actor Bill Murray, and 3, the PGA Tour will be able to set up the glorious Pebble Beach properly.

When so many amateurs are in the field the tour has little option but to ensure that the rough is kept short, but this time we should see the course in proper championship condition so expect the winning total to be higher than normal. And we will have a much better tournament because of it.

Dubai Desert Classic winner Paul Casey has fond memories here, having finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson three years ago. Mickelson is a five-time champion and came close to making it six 12 months ago. If there is a venue where Lefty can add another PGA Tour title, this may well be it.

Paul Casey

Last year, Nick Taylor had more trouble with the wind than he did with Mickelson as he recorded his second victory. With the crowd eager to see Mickelson add a record sixth victory at Pebble Beach, Taylor showed plenty of class in building a five-shot lead at the turn and then holding on when 40mph gusts blasted the Monterey Peninsula.

He closed with a two-under 70 for a four-shot victory over Kevin Streelman (68). Mickelson, who closed within two shots with four holes to play, shot 74 and finished alone in third. He had won, been runner-up twice and finished third in his last four starts at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and will still believe this is a venue where he can win again.

Taylor won in his fourth start as a rookie at the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. He then went 146 starts until his next victory.

It got him into The Masters for the first time, along with the US PGA Championship. In his sixth year on tour, Taylor had played only two majors as a professional. "That was amazing," he said. "I believed I could do it because I've done it before. But to do it in that fashion, playing with Phil, gives me a lot of confidence going forward."

Taylor started the final round with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, and they were tied after Lefty got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-five second. But seven holes later, Taylor had a five-shot lead. He holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth, a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-three fifth, and then he holed a bunker shot for an  eagle on the par-five sixth.

And then Mickelson’s struggles really began. He went over the green at the eighth and played an aggressive chip that rolled by the flag, down the slope and back into the fairway. He pitched the next one too far and made double bogey, and then made bogey on the ninth as Taylor holed a seven-foot birdie to go five shots ahead.

But it wasn’t quite over yet. Five holes later, Mickelson had cut the lead to two despite having only one birdie. Taylor ran into tree trouble off the tee at the 11th, flew the green into a back bunker at the 12th and then took double bogey on the par-five 14th, where he found a bunker off the tee, could only advance it about 100 yards and took five to reach the green.

The wind was blowing so hard at that point that Taylor's cap blew off his head and he had to chase it down the fairway before hitting his third shot from 227 yards away.

Mickelson, however, missed his chances to capitalise on Taylor's mistakes. He came up short of the 11th green from just under 100 yards with Taylor in trouble. He didn't hit a green in regulation after his tap-in birdie on the 10th until his tee shot on the par-3 17th that settled 40 feet away.

Taylor seized control by chipping in for birdie on the 15th for a three-shot lead, and the knockout punch was his tee shot to 6 feet below the hole for birdie on the 17th. He finished at 19-under 268, earning a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson wasn't the only player who struggled. Johnson shot a 78. Matt Every, in the third-to-last group, shot 80. Jason Day closed with a 75.

Jordan Spieth

The best round and best finish belonged to Jordan Spieth, who chipped in to save par on his final hole for a 67. It was the low round of the day and enabled Spieth to finish in a tie for ninth. He is a former winner of this tournament and will be hoping that he can dredge the memory banks this year and find something positive to draw on after his performance in Phoenix.

Streelman teamed up with Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald to win the pro-am for the second time in three years. The tournament was won in 2015 by Brandt Snedeker, in 2016 by Vaughn Taylor, in 2017 by Jordan Spieth, in 2018 by Ted Potter, in 2019 by Phil Mickelson and last year by Nick Taylor.

To Win:

Paul Casey. Looking to prove his victory in Dubai was no fluke

Each Way:

Patrick Cantlay. Has few weaknesses

Fantasy Picks:

Paul Casey.  Streaky but full of confidence right now

Patrick Cantlay. Really needs to find a way to win more often

Jordan Spieth. Remains a work in progress 

Phil Mickelson. If he can still win anywhere, this is probably the place

Max Homa. Glorious golf swing

Lanto Griffin. Looking to rediscover winning form

Alex Noren. Nobody works harder.

Francesco Molinari. Slowly finding his feet again

Stewart Cink. Enjoying an Indian summer

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