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Monday, February 4, 2013

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - Power Rankings

As Phil Mickelson returns to the Monterey Peninsula to defend his AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he does so on the heels of a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. For almost every players, there are two hard and fast rules to picking golf tournaments. Don't pick a guy to go back-to-back and don't expect a guy to successfully defend his title. Phil isn't most guys. He's a Hall of Famer with a history of making the West Coast Swing his personal playground, and when he gets hot on the West Coast, it is generally wise to ride him.

When researching this week's tournament, there were a lot of guys I like, even more that intrigue me and a couple I love. In some ways, at least at the top, this week reminds me of the Farmers Insurance Open. At the Farmers, I mistakenly over-thought the obvious picks of Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker when it came time to fill out my fantasy lineup. I won't do that this week. Lefty and Dustin Johnson will be played heavily.

Here we go:

  1. Phil Mickelson - He was as good as I've seen him last week. It always amazes me how much a player of his caliber tinkers, yet how one change can separate him from the rest of the planet in short spurts. Last week, Butch Harmon flew into town and noticed some technicalities in Phil's swing with the driver that prompted him to put a new driver in the bad with 10.5 degrees of loft. I doubt you will find many TOUR players swinging a driver with that much loft, but it worked to reduce his side spin and he hit it well all week. That means he will be hot this week, and again next week at Riviera CC until he finds something else to tinker with on his next extended vacation. Not that it matters much, but he's won this tournament four times and twice finished third.
  2. (Actually 1A) Dustin Johnson - If Lefty's play at Pebble is the cream of the crop (and it is), then DJ is a close second. In five starts, he's made every cut including two wins and four top sevens. He reminds me a little of Tiger headed to Torrey Pines a few weeks ago. His form seems off a little, but I would argue that after his win to start the year he's quickly grown disinterested when he's fell out of contention at other tournaments since. His budding romance with Paulina Gretzky is also something that will drive gamers a little batty in the short term. If you want to bench him for Phil, then that's fine. Don't put anyone else ahead of him.
  3. Padraig Harrington - Yep, ole Crazy Eyes. He played really well in his first trip to TPC Scottsdale, sneaking out of the desert with a top 10 after a final-group pairing with Lefty and Brandt Snedeker, so he gets a check mark for form. He also has a nice record here, with a T7 in his last trip and two other top 16s in six starts, with only one missed cut. If you decide to go against the grain in your one-and-done game, he may be the one to look at.
  4. Hunter Mahan - He's plodding along with good tournaments to start the year (back-to-back top 16s and 3/3 in cuts), but has yet to break into the top 10. He was a runner-up here in 2011, so it's certainly not out of the question to think this could be the week that kicks his 2013 into high gear. Chances are, this won't be an all-out go low, so he can afford to be average with the flat stick as long as his striking is solid.
  5. Robert Garrigus - He's probably a little more under the radar than he should be considering he's 3/3 with all inside the top 16 to start the year. His long-term record at Pebble only includes one top 20 despite making 5/6 cuts, but it was a T20 last year. The bomber is almost to the point where you can throw the book out on him prior to the start of 2012 because he's playing on a whole other level right now. Given the success bombers like DJ, Lefty and J.B. Holmes have enjoyed on the short courses that make up the Pebble Beach rotation, do not be surprised with a career-best week in this event.
  6. Brandt Snedeker - We don't need to talk about his form. It's excellent. A+. The relevant data here is that he's 3/5 with no top 20s. If he's going to have a let-down week, this is it. That he's decided to play this week given his history gives some glimmer of hope that he feels his best days on the Monterey Peninsula are yet to come.
  7. Nick Watney - I followed Watney pretty closely last week given he was my one-and-done pick, and what I noticed was that his ball-striking was very good but his putting was very poor. It's hard to make a bunch of putts on the small greens at Pebble, which really could favor a guy who's strength isn't putting. It levels the field to where the 8-footers he was missing last week that everyone else was making will also be missed by others this week. He's 8/9 with two top 10s and another top 25 in this event, so this is about the right slot for him.
  8. Charlie Wi - For the true golf aficionado's reading this, you realize that Wi is a California product who came very close to winning his first TOUR event here last year until the Phil buzz-saw took care of him in the final round. He's known for his putting, and if memory serves he opened up the final round with a nervy 3-putt. He's 6/7 in this event, but only has one other top 25 to go with his runner up. His form is nice, making all four of his cuts this year including two top 30s. Otherwise nothing flashy. I don't know if he'll turn into a sexy pick from the masses this week, but he is very worthy of your consideration in deeper formats.
  9. Jim Furyk - Who knows what to expect in Furyk's first start after an emotionally testing 2012. I have to think he will fly under the radar of the Phil circus, which could be nice. Not surprisingly, his record here is very good. He's made 14/16 cuts with seven top 25s; four going for top 10s. He could be a points eater for you in various formats.
  10. Steve Marino - My next three picks are guys that you could argue are more of a dark-horse candidate than a player that should crack the power rankings. I disagree. Marino rested last week after a steady T15 at the Farmers Insurance Open that saw him loosely contend. He's also 2/3 at Pebble Beach, with both paydays being fourth-place finishes. That adds up to about a B+ for form and an A- for course history in my book.
  11. William McGirt - McGirt is trending in a few ways. He's 1/2 in this event with a T31, BUT he was runner-up to Tommy Gainey in the Calloway Invitational event they play at Pebble Beach (with Spyglass Hills also in the rotation) late in 2012. He's made both of his cuts this year improving from T56 to T32 last week. There isn't much he could do this week that could surprise me.
  12. John Mallinger - To say playing Mallinger this week would be risky is an understatement, but he's had some impressive finishes at Pebble Beach. Twice he's finished third in this event. And that Calloway event I mentioned in regards to McGirt......Mallinger won it in 2010. He's also trending, albeit slowly. He missed the cut in his first two events, but then turned in a T78 and a T32 in his last two starts. He will bite you more often than he will help you, but his high risk could yield a high reward this week.
Next 5: Tommy Gainey, Bob Estes, Bryce Molder, Aaron Baddeley and Jimmy Walker.

Notable Omissions: Webb Simpson and Lee Westwood

I'm not sure how it slipped through the multiple nets that I cast, but Ryan Moore originally appeared in my power rankings and is not in the field. Thanks to several readers who caught that! I have replaced him in my Yahoo! lineup with Bryce Molder.

Yahoo! Lineup:
  • A-List - Mickelson starting with Harrington on the bench
  • B-List - DJ and Wi starting with Mahan and Watney on the bench.
  • C-List - Garrigus starting with Molder on the bench.
Golf Channel Lineup:

  • Group 1 - Mickelson
  • Group 2 - Baddeley
  • Group 3 - McGirt
  • Group 4 - Marino
Tomorrow we will review last week's BuzzDraft results, as well as take a look at the new PGA TOUR fantasy game. If you haven't already, feel free to join our free Private League if you are looking for a place to play. Register on PGATOUR.com here http://www.pgatour.com/fantasy.html. Our League name is The Golf Aficionado and the password in Rotoryan.

Best of luck!


  1. I think Jimmy Walker (20 on money list) who is 4/4 this year, tied for 9th the last 2 years at this event finishes higher than Moore or Garrigus. And maybe Bryce Molder (61 on money list) who is 3/3 this year didn't finish last year but tied for 6th in 2011 and 10th in 2010.

    1. You are sure to be right on him beating Moore, since several readers accurately pointed out he is not in the field! Walker is trending well. His strength is his putter, but he's sneaky long when needed. I certainly wouldn't count him out against any of those. Garrigus is more consistent right now, but on any given week Walker could top him.

    2. Lol. Boy can I call them or what?
      As a side note, Bryce Molder rankes 4th in strokes gained putting on TOUR this year, a stat that will serve him well this week on those greens.