PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM: The stars will be out this week as the PGA Tour makes its annual stop at the little slice of heaven-on-earth known as the Monterey Peninsula, where the world’s most famous pro-am gets underway on Thursday.

Originally known as the Bing Crosby Clambake and featuring a who’s-who of actors, singers, and Hollywood figures from the mid-20th century, this event has been a fixture on the schedule for nearly 90 years and has retained its pro-am format throughout. Celebrities from all walks of life will join the Tour pros between the ropes for the first three rounds (Thu-Sat), and the fun, laid-back atmosphere combined with the stunning California coastline scenery is a big part of what makes this tournament unique.

The true star of the show this week is the host course, the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links, a seaside gem that is a regular in the U.S. Open rotation, with the next one scheduled for 2027. The setup this week won’t be U.S. Open-tough, of course, and the players will only see Pebble once over the first three days, and again on Sunday if they make the 3-round cut. The other two courses in use are Spyglass Hill, a tight, tree-lined track that is the most difficult of the three, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club, a generous layout with minimal trouble off the tee and straightforward green complexes where the pins can’t be hidden. The scores will be low this week– they always are, on account of the amateur-friendly setup– and it’s always a sprint at Monterey Peninsula CC, a course that wasn’t designed with championship golf in mind.

Apparently a week in paradise and two rounds at Pebble isn’t quite as appealing to the elite Tour pro as it may be to you and me, because the field isn’t particularly strong this week, with Matt Fitzpatrick (13.5) and Viktor Hovland (14.0) heading BETDAQ’s Win Market and only three top-25 players in attendance. I’m sure having to play with 20-handicap amateurs and slog through 5-hour rounds is a contributing factor to this reality, and watching the Tom Hoges of the world cover themselves in glory isn’t the worst fate for us, the viewers. But what would really make us smile is striking gold on the winner, and with that in mind, here are my favorites this week:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Maverick McNealy (21.0)- After an incredible amateur career it’s taken the 27-year-old McNealy longer than expected to find his footing as a pro, but based on what we’ve seen lately he appears ready to blossom and become a real force on Tour, and it’s only matter of time until he finds the winner’s circle– it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon. He’s one of the best putters in the world, ranking 2nd on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained Putting and 1st in Total Putting, and his 69.3 scoring average through nine events is good enough for 5th on Tour. He’s made eight straight cuts and already has five finishes of 12th or better in this young season, with the latest being a T7 at the Sony Open. He’s on the rise, in other words, and his record at this tournament includes a runner-up finish in 2021, the largest check of his career, and a T5 in 2020. This is the time and place for McNealy– he’s my pick to win this week and will make his backers happy at 20/1.

Lanto Griffin (44.0)- This is one of those tournaments where past performance is heavily predictive of future success– the same guys seem to play well here every year. That’s partly a function of the same rotation of courses being used for quite a while now, but I believe it’s also because this format is so unique– not only is it a pro-am spread out over three different courses, but the fanfare surrounding some of the amateurs combined with their mostly dismal level of play leads to long rounds that must feel more like exhibitions than high-stakes golf tournaments. At any rate, some guys thrive in this sort of atmosphere and some don’t, and it seems to suit Griffin, who is a combined 18-under in his last two appearances at this event, finishing T16 last year and T9 in 2020. He made his first start of the season at the Farmers last week and was playing some terrific golf until a Sunday 77 left him in a tie for 37th, and now that he’s shaken the rust off, if he can carry over what he was doing right for the first three days to this week he could be dangerous. He’s certainly worth a bet at a price like 44.0.

David Lipsky (84.0)- Longshots have a history of success in this event, with 4 of the last 7 winners beginning the week at 70/1 or longer, including last year’s champion, Tom Hoge. One guy you may want to keep an eye on this week is Lipsky, who finished 4th at the Sony Open two weeks ago, breaking 70 in all four rounds. He made his first career appearance at this event last year and finished T24 after missing 6 of 7 cuts to start the season, so it stands to reason that he’s got an excellent shot at finishing better than 24th now that he’s in much sharper form. Can he win? He does have three international victories, but a win this week would be a career breakthrough for Lipsky, no doubt. We’ve seen similar breakthroughs here recently from Hoge, Nick Taylor, and Ted Potter, however, so why not Lipsky? He strikes me as an excellent value at better than 80/1.


DAQMAN Tues: Epsom NAP
DAQSTATS Tues: Southwell NAP
THE STRIKER Tues: ARSENAL v CHELSEA
THE ULTRA Tues: LAZIO v JUVENTUS
THE EDGE IPL Tues: Chennai Super Kings v Lucknow Super Giants
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