Reed. Walker. Haas. Koepka. Day. 2015 has burst through the door like:
Ever heard of it? Widely known as (at minimum) one of the five best golf courses in the world, Pebble has played host to this tournament since 1947, as well as five U.S. Opens through the years. Measuring 6,816 yards, it’s the shortest track in the PGA Tour rotation and actually plays the easiest (in relation to par) of the three courses in the rota this week.
Get your picture in front of the ocean out of the way pre-round because there are birdies to be had from the get-go. The first eight holes are way gettable with two reachable par-5’s, as well as a potentially (depending on prevailing winds) driveable par-4 (#4). Holes 9 and 10 are brutal par-4’s along the ocean that can be really awkward for righties. Once the course routes inland, holes 11 through 16 are, relatively speaking, extremely forgettable (you’re still at f’ing Pebble). Then comes the picturesque, magnificent finishing hole. The par-5 18th is both beautiful…
…and gettable (with a real threat of calamity)…
Another course straight off a postcard, Spyglass has the reputation as “Pebble’s Little Sister” (actually I just made this up, but it works). Diminutive like Pebble (listed at 6,858 yards) and much lesser known, it’s actually a very stern test with #8 and #16 considered two of the toughest holes on Tour. Possessing serious elevation changes, oddly shaped greens, and awkward uphill/downhill shots, all the while overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Spyglass camps out at the top of public course rankings. The last thing we’ll note is that the course sometimes borders a little bit on rinky-dink due to the shortness, shapes and forced iron play. Glass half-full, it’s shot-maker nirvana; glass half-empty, it’s the prettiest damn pitch and putt you’ll find.
Monterey Peninsula (Shore Course)
MPCC was added to the tourney rotation in 2010, and has recently been extended through 2020 as the third site for the event. Stop me if you’ve heard this so far: it’s beautifully scenic, with ocean views, and short (6,838 yards). MPCC usually gets cut out of the broadcast for the most part, so there’s much we don’t really know about it. The front-nine is a funky little par-34 featuring three par-3s, so there is that.
For more information, here’s a solid website which runs through the aforementioned courses, as well as other beauties in the area like Cypress and Pasatiempo (more on this below).
The tourney describes itself as ‘A Charitable Classic since 1937,’ when Bing Crosby “invited some friends to play golf, enjoy a clambake, and raise a little money for charity.” NLU Godfather Sam Snead won the inaugural Pro-Am in ’37, and legends have continued to raise what looks like a miniature, crystallized version of the CN Tower ever since:
Shortly after, Phil told Clint to ‘GET OFF MY LAWN’
These days things feel a little more corporate (then again what doesn’t, am I right?) what with the number of big-money, non-celeb amateurs in the field. Amazingly AT&T has maintained its lead sponsorship of the event since 1986–that and $0.50 will get you a cup of coffee!
Truth be told, even though the celebs overall border on C-list, it’s kinda cool the tournament has held on to its roots with the Hollywood folk sauntering around inside and outside the ropes. Their presence, along with the unrelenting gorgeous scenery, always puts everyone in good spirits and the vibe does hit ‘convivial clambake’ throughout the week, even if it’s meandered from Bing Crosby’s exclusive-based-on-coolness to exclusive-based-on-Bilderberg membership. Pros here to grind won’t have fun. Amateurs here to grind should be shot.
Jimmy Walker held to win despite the fact that he played the last few holes with his hands gripped firmly around his own neck. A true horse for course, DJ almost ran him down from 9 shots back:
- Bill Murray finally got his win here back in 2012 with D.A. Points. There is a 6% chance that Bill Murray actually knows who D.A. Points is.
- Johnny Miller won here in 1994 at the age of 46. Expect to hear him mention this on the broadcast this weekend. Oh he’s not calling the event? See if that stops him…
- Matt Gogel has still not recovered from Tiger running him down in 2000 to win his 6th consecutive tournament. (OK, he won the event two years later, but you know this still haunts him):
Overall, I’m not crazy about the lines this week. Vegas isn’t giving us shit to work with on the odds front for the favorites, and the field is decidedly top heavy. That being said, I’m a degenerate, so let’s play:
- Hunter Mahan (22/1, Sportsbook) – Horse for course. Top 16 in each of the last four years.
- Spencer Levin (70/1, Sportsbook) – Top-10’s his last two starts here, three top-15’s in four starts. This is essentially his home. Strong showing at Torrey on a course that hardly fits his game. Extreme value here this week.
- Kevin Streelman (75/1, Sportsbook) – Just an itch this week, not sure why. He’s made his last several cuts, and only has one top 10 here, but I’m gonna scratch that itch.
- Aaron Baddeley (100/1, Sportsbook) – T56 a year ago, but the three years prior he finished in the top 12, with two top 6’s. MC’d at tough Torrey, but T17 in Scottsdale. He loves these greens.
- Bryce Molder (120/1, Sportsbook) – I file my annual Bryce Molder bet at Pebble right around the time I file my tax return. Top 12 in 4 of the last 5 years.
- Jon Curran (500/1, Ladbrokes) – This is Tron’s pick. Loves him on short tracks.
Fantasy Corner: I’ve been remiss in including this section in recent weeks, and it’s bitten me. I rarely bet favorites that are below 20/1 because the payout when you bet multiple guys per week, yet hit a guy at 14/1 (like Day was last week), you’re looking at a pretty minimal profit. That being said, Day and Walker are absolutely primed this week at Pebble. I hate their odds, but they should be in your lineups. DJ loves it here, Spieth was great here last year, and Patrick Reed should be solid as well.
(Tracker: +51 units in 2015. Last week: +6 in the preview thanks to Tiger not making the cut, -1 in the twitter picks. )
Brian Williams thinks CBS has been off to a terrible start in 2015. For those of us hoping for a turnaround in television coverage, this is not the week. The Saturday CBS broadcast is the absolute worst of the entire year, as they spend more time schmoozing with celebs and fake celebs than a Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s marathon. The only way you’re going to survive this telecast is to drink whenever the following happens:
- Jim Nantz tries to make it seem like he feels bad about the weather being shitty in your city while he looks at whales surfacing in the cove.
- Your eyes bleed from Peter Kostis wasting his phenomenal talents on the Konica Minolta Bizhub Swing Vision Camera on a celebrity’s awful swing.
- Kenny G’s fake 2-handicap pops up on screen. Or any fake handicap for that matter. Most of the amateurs in this event are titans of their industry, type-A’s to the core. Lopping off a stroke or six from their Index for appearances is standard operating procedure.
- Chris Berman can’t get out of a greenside bunker. Or you see Chris Berman’s pit stains. Or just generally whenever Chris Berman is on camera—you’ll want to be as numb as possible.
- A Dustin Johnson-Paulina Gretzky-Wayne Gretzky parallel is drawn and the palpable awkwardness hangs in the air.
- CBS interviews an Entertainment-industry celeb you’ve never heard of.
- An amateur clumsily attempts to pick up or scoop his ball green-side. Most of these peeps realize they have no business being alongside Pros and are walking on eggshells all week. Around the greens especially they’re trying to 1) stay the hell out of the way and 2) get the hell out of the way after they do have to hit their ball. For most of em this usually results in rushed, non-athletic moves to pocket their rock. Cheers to that!
- You find yourself muttering, either silently or aloud, “why the hell is CBS showing [insert amateur’s name] again?”
- You get The Itch and live north of the Mason-Dixon line. You’ll want to consume heavily knowing it’s early February and golf season is still at least a month and a half away.
- The best part of this week for Fil and Tron is the presence of Dermot Desmond and JP McManus. These two Irish playboy billionaires have lived pretty incredible lives (check out their wiki links for full detail–we’ll hit the highlights below).
- McManus (pictured on the right) made an early killing in the horse racing hustle, as both owner and wagerer. Awesome. He’s also a currency savant it seems, acquiring a sizable chunk of his billions trading FX from a small office in Geneva, Switzerland. Of course. He’s also a large shareholder in Ladbrokes. Savory. Not mentioned: obligatory run-ins with regulating bodies and questions surrounding certain business dealings. Hey, it happens.
- Desmond (pictured left) is basically McManus minus the penchant for ponies plus some badass lip foliage. He’s a wheeler and dealer across all business industries, his main profession making money. He has majority ownership of Celtic FC, while also having stakes in Casinos, Airports, and seemingly everything else. Like McManus, he’s crossed paths with governing agencies, a requisite for real wealth-builders.
- Pasatiempo, as mentioned above, is one of the most underrated gems in the area, if not the country. The pictures don’t do this Alister MacKenzie masterpiece justice. This intricate design with lush rolling fairways just oozes class. I had a chance to play it four years ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. If you’re ever in the area, I can’t recommend it enough.
- I’m travelling this week, so tune in to @TronCarterNLU for twitter updates this weekend.
- FYI on our previews: A lot of the stuff that applies to multiple years (course, vibe, etc.), you’re going to see some stuff that we’ve just rolled forward from last year’s preview (mostly Tron Carter’s work). Is this poor journalism? Absolutely. That’s why we aren’t actually journalists. Of course the picks section, and recent events will always be updated, but previews are hard to do, and there is no point in trying to recreate some of the stuff that we’ve already covered.
Check in with the NLU Gang all week on twitter whilst we do our usual hood-rat act: @NoLayingUp.