Scott Shapiro's Pebble Beach Pro-Am preview
Brooks Koepka rattled off two U.S. Open wins and a pair of PGA Championship victories from 2017 to 2019, but had not visited the winner’s circle in more than 18 months. That was until Sunday, when the 30-year-old took advantage of subpar play from the 54-hole leaders and captured his second Phoenix Open title.
It remains to be seen whether Koepka is back in top form or if his inconsistent play will continue, but his late charge on the back nine in Phoenix, which included a chip-in eagle on 17, was certainly enjoyable for those who backed him at big odds, after he missed the cut in his first two events of 2021.
After a captivating tournament in the desert, which included a career-low 61 on Saturday from Jordan Spieth, the PGA Tour heads northwest to beautiful Pebble Beach, California. Normally, this event is a pro-am, but much like the American Express played a couple of weeks ago in the Coachella Valley, there will be no amateurs in 2021 because of COVID-19 protocols. That also means there will be two courses, instead of three, in rotation this week and the cut will be after 36 holes, instead of the usual 54.
Dustin Johnson was listed as a massive favorite, after a victory overseas in the Saudi International, but withdrew from the Pebble Beach field late Monday night, which leaves Patrick Cantlay as the +700 top choice on TwinSpires Sportsbook.
The tournament lost star power with D.J. out, but it is now wide open, despite lacking the depth of the last few events on tour.
Favorites to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Here are the golfers I will wager on this week at Pebble Beach.
Will Zalatoris (+1600)
The 24-year-old began 2020 on the Korn Ferry Tour. He posted a win and 10 top 10 finishes in 16 starts on the PGA’s developmental tour and burst onto the scene with a hole-in-one and a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open.
Since then, the 2017 ACC Player of the Year has wowed golf fans with his immaculate approach game and appears poised to hoist a trophy on the PGA Tour in the near future.
Zalatoris started 2021 with a seventh-place finish at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open and backed it up with a top 20 effort in last week’s Phoenix Open. T
he former Wake Forest star ranks first in this week’s field for strokes gained approach over the last 24 rounds, first in par 5 scoring, and 14th in birdies or better. He will need to putt better than he did last week in the desert, where he lost nearly a stroke to the field on the greens, but if he does, he has a huge shot to earn his first PGA Tour victory.
Peter Malnati (+5000, top 10 +500)
The University of Missouri alum has just one victory on the PGA Tour and it came more than five years ago, during the swing season at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
There have been far more missed cuts than top 10 finishes since that victory in Jackson, Mississippi, but the 33-year-old heads to Pebble Beach playing some of the best golf of his career. He posted a pair of top five efforts in October, before he earned a 14th-place finish at the Sony Open to start 2021 and a 10th-place effort two weeks ago at the Farmers.
Malnati lacks the length most of the tour’s top players possess, but he makes up for it with elite putting. Driving distance is almost always an advantage, but not as much this week, where both courses (Pebble and Spyglass) are less than 7,100 yards. It presents the 5-foot-10 Malnati with a major opportunity.
He ranks first in the field over his last 24 rounds in birdies or better gained, second in par 4 scoring between 450 and 500 yards, and 12th in strokes gained approach.
If he can keep the ball in the fairway and continue his impeccable iron play, he can contend.