It's the calm after the storm as the Tshwane Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National follow what was an enthralling week of golf. Danny Willett holed a 15 footer downhill on 18 in Dubai to avoid a three man playoff while Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama contested a thrilling finish including extra holes to cap off the hugely exciting Phoenix Open.
The Tshwane Open comes from Pretoria CC for the 2nd year running - home to defending champion George Coetzee - 8.50 - while the amateurs will be out at Pebble. The AT&T Pebble Beach is a pro-am format played over 3 courses with Monterey Peninsula, and the toughest of the trio - Spyglass Hill - joining the host course over a three day rotation. The final day will be contested at Pebble with the top 25 teams + top 60 (and ties) pros teeing it up on Sunday.
Big George had this to say on winning the Tshwane Open last year: “I think I’ve got this course down after 18 years of playing golf. I think it played to my advantage knowing when to be aggressive and when not to. I threw one club championship away here by playing conservative on 17, so today it was quite an easy decision to hit driver”, and Coetzee is battling for favouritism with Charl Schwartzel - 7.00 - and in my opinion should be market leader with form just about to hit first gear.
Pebble Beach looks like a market within a market with 12 of the top 25 of the world's best competing here. It will be tough for anyone to infiltrate the upper echelons of the market on one of the iconic Tour stops. Brandt Snedeker looks to make it 3 wins here in the last 4 year - a feat only accomplished by Mark O' Meara in the past. Snedeker set the tournament record low -22 under par in 2015. Jordan Spieth and Jason Day return to the fray.
The courses - Pebble Beach, 6,825 yards, par 72 - Spyglass: 6,960 yards, par 72 - Monterey: 6,873 yards, par 71
Key features and trends
Being a pro-am format, the courses are set up for scoring and we will see nothing like the rough we saw at the 2010 US Open. Wind conditions will always have a strong bearing on the total winning number but generally we see a trend of California natives popping up here. Event specialists include Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker but the likes of Nick Watney, Bryce Molder and Kevin Na have a strange affinity with Pebble. California native Hunter Mahan also tends to excel here and may be one to watch at a price. Snedeker led the field in scrambling en route to his tournament record low in 2014.
Key features and trends
Playing a short 6,830 yards to a par 70, key here is keeping the ball in play from the tee. As Coetzee alluded to, knowing where to attack and knowing where to play safe will be a big advantage. The track is equipped with small elevated greens surrounded by some sticky grass and a standout trend from last year's leaderboard and those who hit low rounds here was scrambling ability and hot putters. Pretoria CC is a treelined course with trouble for the errant and owns an exciting finish with the drivable par 4 17th and the long par 4 18th.
Top betting tips - Pebble Beach
Shane Lowry - 46.00 or 10.00 is a standout bet for me this week. Lowry is quite obviously very comfortable on the PGA Tour with a win at Firestone already wrapped up. Shane has started this season in fine form with a T13 at the Farmers Insurance followed by a T6 in Phoenix. Links golf is the Irishman's speciality and he's one of the best scramblers and wind players in the game. He was in buoyant mood in his post Phoenix interview and confident about returning to the event he secured a top 25 finish in his debut in 2015.
David Horsey - 31.00 or 7.00 - had a mini meltdown in this event last year on Sunday. He decided to chip from just off the green complexes and the sticky stuff cost him a lot of shots. However, Horsey was in fine form, leading after round 1 with a 64 in the bag. He continued his fine ball striking and putting through 54 holes until he came unstuck. Horsey was simmering in the desert swing with three top 40s and closed in Dubai with rounds of 68-69
Brett Rumford - 34.00 or 7.50 - was another to start fast here in 2015 with an opening 64. The Aussie had to withdraw at halfway due to illness. Rumford is a short game specialist which is what gets my attention this week. He owns a longterm putting average circa 28.00 on the European Tour. He bagged a win on the ANZ Tour at the back end of last year and is another simmering current form wise with an average finish of 36th on the desert swing.