Rickie Fowler’s victory at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, called by advanced-modeling guru Dr. Lou Riccio, marks the fourth winning prediction made by Golf Digest’s panel of experts this season. That’s four out of this season’s 12 events. If you’re picking winners in golf at a 30-percent rate around 20-to-1 odds, that’s some serious money.
Kudos goes to our panel of experts—which includes a PGA Tour caddie providing insight from the front lines every week thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network—plus expert golf handicappers, including two of the biggest honorees by this week’s Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel, who are all providing their analysis on a weekly basis. Our experts are proud of their work, but as with any handicapper, the focus is always on picking the next winner.
Though this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am can provide a frustrating TV experience at times, with network coverage focusing a little too much on the amateurs playing in the field, the field is quite strong for this year’s Pro-Am. And, it is Pebble Beach after all—any time we get to soak in views of the glorious land-meets-sea links along the Monterey Peninsula, it’s a good week. It’d be even better, of course, to increase our winning percentage, which is the goal of this post.
2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Jason Day (9-1) — I’ll take the small odds here. J-Day finished second here last year, and his overall Pebble record is sensational—he hasn’t finished outside of the top 11 in the past four appearances. He’s done everything but win.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Phil Mickelson (25-1 —and a top-5 bet at 5-1) — Normally, I’m not a Phil backer; however, he fits a similar mold to Spieth, but at a deeper price. Spieth and Phil have been god awful with driver in their hands, so if we decrease the impact of that club, as is the case this week, all of a sudden Phil’s skills rate just as good as anyone in the field. Plus, it’s a great buy-low spot on the heels of a truly horrendous second round at TPC Scottsdale. After Round 1, Mickelson was among the leaders in all three facets of Tee-To-Green, and really dominating in approach (+2.28). Friday was basically the opposite. Anticipate a rebound week for last year’s silver medalist.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Patrick Cantlay (20-1) — Cantlay has had lukewarm success at Pebble Beach (a 48th and a 35th) the past two years, but he is now familiar with the setup of the unique event. Over his past 50 rounds on Tour, Cantlay ranks third among the field in strokes gained: approach and is seventh in proximity gained, via FantasyNational.com. He grades out well in all the key metrics needed for a win here.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Dustin Johnson (5-1) — My model gives D.J. more than double the chance of winning over the next competitor. He is by far the favorite, and you are paying accordingly, but I’m liking his chance to pull off the Saudi Arabia-Pebble Beach double. The travel for these elite players flying private doesn’t concern me.
Golf Digest editors: Jordan Spieth (20-1) — We’ve seen positive steps in Spieth’s game, as he played well at Torrey Pines when not many expected him to. Spieth undoubtedly sees Pebble Beach as a chance for him to contend for another win, and shut up all the critics knocking the state of his game. If he can figure out his driver (he hasn’t gained strokes off the tee since September, per FantasyNational.com), Spieth will contend this week.
(Results on the season: Pat Mayo correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners) and Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) earlier this season. Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. And Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler’s win (16-1) last week.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Adam Scott (30-1) — Adam Scott’s top 5 at Torrey Pines shows he’s in good form. On top of that, putting is not that important around here since no one holes putts on these greens.
Mayo: Russell Henley (90-1) — Russell Henley has actually been pretty bad, especially ball-striking, since last summer. Since last year’s Greenbrier, a run of 11 events, Henley piled up six missed cuts, with a lone finish better than T-50. Not great. Last week in Phoenix, though, he gained strokes off the tee and on his approaches, generating an impressive +6.4 Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (provided by www.FantasyNational.com). Now, back on a coastal track, similar to his past wins at the Sony Open and Honda Classic, in what could be some serious wind conditions, like his win in Houston, the arrows are pointing up for Henley. You’re getting a BIG number on a win, and the top-5 and top-10 odds are intriguing as well.
Gdula: Talor Gooch (125-1) — Talor Gooch has a missed cut at this event under his belt and has built up a solid profile in nearly 100 rounds on the PGA Tour. Obviously a risk/reward play as a dark horse, Gooch has flirted with the top of the leaderboard recently due to stellar approach play birdie ability, which is his path to the top this week.
Riccio: Brandon Harkins (175-1) — Harkins seems to play well on seaside courses where approaches and short game are indicators of success. Those are two reasons to like Harkins this week.
Golf Digest editors: Austin Cook (150-1) — You should be targeting a player who can hit a ton of fairways and scramble at an elite level this week, with Pebble Beach’s insanely small greens. We’d trust few other players than Cook if we needed a fairway-hit for our life. And Cook’s short game is strong. Though he missed the cut at last week’s Waste Management Open, that’s not a track that suits his strengths. What does? Battling the wind, scrambling and hitting fairways. Cook gained 6.2 strokes off the tee (per FantasyNational.com) in his start previous to that, at the RSM Classic. This is a lofty price for the talented second-year player.
Alex Cejka (250-1) — Another extremely enticing price for a player who excels around the greens and hits fairways with regularity. Cejka has some solid history at Pebble Beach, too—he was in one of the final groups at Pebble Beach during the 2010 U.S. Open. We’re intrigued by the odds for a top-10 bet (20-to-1) or a top-20 wager (9-to-1) on the veteran.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Dustin Johnson (5-1) — The conditions are going to be tough on the weekend, so it will really be anyone’s tournament if it’s this wet and when the greens are going to be this bad.
Mayo: Dustin Johnson (5-1) — Nothing against DJ: He’s clearly the best player in the field, but that price is just too short in a week where so many unknown elements are going to come into play. I’m not actively picking on him in head-to-head bets, but I’ll be fading him in the outright market and on DraftKings.
Gdula: Patrick Reed (33-1) — Look at Patrick Reed’s travel schedule over the past month: Reed has traveled from Hawaii to Torrey Pines to Saudi Arabia and now back to Pebble Beach. And the Masters champ already had some statistical red flags relative to the other top options this week. Altogether, Reed isn’t someone I’d back.
Riccio: Jim Furyk (200-1)
Golf Digest editors: Cameron Champ (66-1) — We might be somewhat hitting the breaks on the Cam Champ hype train after the last few weeks. And to be clear, we were riding shotgun. At a couple courses we’d think were meant for him (Torrey Pines, Waste Management), we go to a tournament where driver strength is mitigated. We’ll get back on the Champ hype train in coming weeks, but this is a week to fade the rookie.
PGA Tour Caddie: Brandt Snedeker (-105) over Adam Hadwin (Sportbet) — Take Snedeker. Fantastic record here, including two victories at this event, and he excels especially when conditions are not favorable.
Mayo: Russell Henley (+100) over Kevin Kisner (Bodog) — Like Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner too excels on shorter, coastal tracks, but I’ll take upward spike in Henley’s game over the short term inconsistency of Kiz.
Gdula: Scott Piercy (-105) over Kevin Kisner (Sportbet) — Scott Piercy has a significant edge over Kevin Kisner in the ball-striking department over a large sample, and he should use that to outplay Kisner this week.
Riccio: Tony Finau (-118) over Patrick Cantlay — Cantlay does not chart well at Pebble Beach—his scrambling inconsistencies have held him back in the past. Both players are coming off missed-cuts, but my model shows to trust Finau’s length and short game over Cantlay here.
Golf Digest editors: Brandt Snedeker (-125) over J.B. Holmes — Snedeker owns two victories at Pebble Beach and excels in tough conditions and when driver is mitigated. J.B. Holmes missed the cut here last year and hasn’t had a top-10 at Pebble since 2015. We’ll go with Sneds’ prowess here.
(Matchup results last week: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (Ryan Palmer over Luke List); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Zach Johnson over Abraham Ancer); GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Martin Laird over Lucas Glover); Mayo: pushed his matchup (Bubba Watson over Chez Reavie—both finished T-4); Gdula: 0 for 1.
(Matchup results for the year: Riccio: 4 for 5; PGA Tour Caddie: 3 for 5; GD Editors: 3 for 5; Mayo: 2-4-1; Gdula: 1-3-1)
Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Chez Reavie (+275) — Chez had a top 5 last week in Scottsdale. You need to drive the ball straight this week with wet conditions, and that’s what he does. Plus, you gotta love that he finished T-2 here last year.
Mayo: Phil Mickelson (+250) — The guy always plays well at Pebble Beach, and he’s already proven he can put it together, as he did at the Desert Classic.
Scott Stallings (+1400) — Stallings gained strokes on approach shots despite missing the cut—a stat that could bode well on the small greens this week.
One more bonus bet: Freddie Jacobson (+2000 to finish top 20) — This may just be stupid, but Freddie Yaks finally made a cut in the desert last week for the first time since his injury, and actually gained strokes with his irons. Dating back, the Swede has a solid record at Pebble — two top-10s in his past four starts — and no matter what range you look at, Freddie rates out as one of the better Poa putters on the planet.
Gdula: Corey Conners (+1200) — Conners’ length will be somewhat mitigated here, but if it’s wet, he could still gain an advantage with the driver. He has posted elite approach and proximity numbers over his past 50 rounds, stats that could lead to birdies and a top-end finish for Conners, who offers nice value at his top 10 odds.
Riccio: Jordan Spieth (+250) — My model gives Spieth the second-best chance of winning this week, and given these odds, him finishing top-10 at a tournament he feels so comfortable in seems like a great pick.
Golf Digest editors: Shane Lowry (+400) — Off his recent victory at the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi, and a T-12 at the Omega Desert Classic, Lowry is one of the hotter players in this field. The Irishman excels in windy conditions and has a strong short game—so we like Lowry to play well, particularly at Pebble Beach.
(Top-10 results last week: Riccio: 1 for 1 (Matt Kuchar +300); Mayo: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1; GD Editors: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: PGA Tour Caddie: 2 for 5; GD Editors: 2 for 5; Riccio: 2 for 5; Mayo: 1 for 4; Gdula: 1 for 5)
Mayo: As mentioned on the Pebble PME Show, there are myriad ways to tackle this event because of the three course rotation, and expected rain, wind, cold. Building lineups exclusively with players starting at the same course is a viable option, as is setting the Fantasy National Gust filter to “Windy AF” and seeing who gains the most strokes in those conditions is another. For me, the best option is to rely on the players who’ve just experienced a lot of consistent success at this event. That would be Day, Spieth, and Phil. I’ve already told you why I’m on Henley, leaving Sungjae. Bettors and hardcore DraftKings players know how good the 20-year-old Korean already is, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him notch his fourth Top 20 (or better!) in his last five starts on TOUR.
Jason Day ($10,900); Phil Mickelson ($9,600); Jordan Spieth ($9,400); Sungjae Im ($8,400); Russell Henley ($7,600)
As mentioned in my complete DraftKings breakdown, with so many capable players in the mid-to-low $7K range, it’s quite easy to jam in two high priced studs and not hate your lineup. When you dip below the $8K threshold, you’re looking at supreme ball strikers, which makes Keegan and Sungjae pretty easy choices to round out a roster.
Riccio: DJ and Phil will make a ton of birdies, and I expect Jordan Spieth to contend. I like the off-the-tee games of Brandon Harkins and Tom Lovelady, as well.
Dustin Johnson ($11,400)
Phil Mickelson ($9,600)
Jordan Spieth ($9,400)
Brandon Harkins ($7,000)
Tom Lovelady ($6,500)
Freddie Jacobson ($6,000)
Golf Digest Editors: Yes, Ernie Els is in the field. And yes, he did contend a few weeks ago on the European Tour. With so much experience at Pebble Beach, it wouldn’t surprise us if Ernie makes the cut—and we like the rest of these players to put up some birdies this week.
Jason Day ($10,900)
Phil Mickelson ($9,600)
Chez Reavie ($9,000)
Martin Laird ($7,100)
Chris Stroud ($6,800)
Ernie Els ($6,600)
Gdula: This week can be one to go top-heavy with so many studs in the field, and there are numerous value options we can try to rely on, given the 54-hole cut that allows for our cheaper golfers to rack up points even if they ultimately miss the cut. There is still risk in getting too heavy on golfers who struggle for three rounds, however. I’ll be locking in my favorite studs of the week and using these value plays to help round out my lineups:
Russell Henley ($9,500), Sungjae Im ($9,300), Russell Knox ($9,200), Talor Gooch ($8,800), Corey Conners ($8,500), Kevin Streelman ($8,300).
Dustin Johnson ($12,400)
Phil Mickelson ($11,300)
Jordan Spieth ($10,800)
Adam Scott ($10,000)
Brandon Harkins ($7,600)
Tom Lovelady ($7,300)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA’s handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 14-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist and earned the 2018 FSWA “podcast of the year” award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.