Potentially Good Week For Favourite Backers On Both Tours – By Ian Hudson
It is rare that neither tournament on the PGA and European tours are conventional men’s 72 hole stroke play events. This week there is a pro-am tournament and a men’s event sitting alongside a women’s event on the same courses. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and ISPS Handa Vic Open provide the action. The two main selections are Dustin Johnson and Jason Scrivener and the double on the favourite’s pays over 90/1 in a week in which both tournaments could go to form.
The Pebble Beach event is a pro-am in which each professional is paired with an amateur to play three courses in rotation over the first three days. The pros making the cut and the leading amateurs then play Pebble Beach again on Sunday. The three courses are generally tougher than those usually used for pro-ams but each is less than 7,000 yards in length. Pebble Beach sits by the Pacific Ocean so it’s exposed to the wind and becomes a very severe test in bad weather. The two other courses put a premium on accuracy over distance and are tough for resort courses.
You must bear in mind that scores at Pebble Beach are greatly influenced by the weather. If the weather forecast is not consistent over the first three days avoid players who are out in the worst of the conditions at Pebble Beach. The pro-am format is a test of concentration for the pros as rounds can take up to six hours. Proven pro-am form is a major asset and some players are better suited to the environment than others. Johnson has the type of relaxed personality that often does well but its also worth noting that this is the biggest field of the year.
This is the 10th consecutive year in which the current rotation of course has been used so there is plenty of course form to assess. Despite being short my modern standards the three courses have not been set up to make things less demanding for the amateurs. Averages for driving accuracy change from year to year but finding fairways and then greens will be at a premium. Johnson combines long and straight driving so he could overpower these relatively short courses.
The selection won the event in 2009 and 2010 and has achieved seven top fives in total in 11 starts. Johnson is travelling from Saudi Arabia where he won the Saudi International on the European Tour on Sunday. Jet lag could be an issue but he has three full days to adjust. Jason Day is another player to consider based on course form. He’s made nine cuts from nine starts and been in the top six five times in that spell. Day was tied 5th on his last start but Johnson is just preferred.
Phil Mickelson is now reaching the veteran stage of his career on the PGA Tour. If he is to win again before joining the Seniors’ this week’s courses give him his best chance. Mickelson has won the tournament four times and is the all-time earnings leader. He was also second in 2016 and last year so clearly has a game suited to the host course and the temperament to keep his form and composure in the pro-am environment. Despite Mickelson’s claims Johnson is the better bet.
The Beach Course at Geelong is a par 72 track over 6796 yards. It’s the shortest course used during the season and the Vic Open women’s event is played over the same 18 holes and another course. The four rounds rotate with the Creek Course at the same venue which is also less than 7,000 yards in distance. There is an obvious premium on accuracy and over distance which gives Scrivener a great chance to win the tournament in the country of his birth. Both favourites are fancied to oblige this week in something different on both tours.