PEBBLE BEACH: It’s a new era for one of the oldest and most iconic events on the schedule, as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which began life nearly 90 years ago as the Bing Crosby Clambake, has now become one of the PGA Tour’s Signature Events.

What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means that despite still having “Pro-Am” in the title, that part of the event is going to be scaled back considerably. The amateurs will play the first two days instead of three or possibly four, and many of the familiar celebrities and athletes have been replaced by corporate types– no more Bill Murray or Charles Barkley, sadly. It’s the end of an era, as this tournament has been intertwined with amateur golf and celebrity culture since its inception and was often a nice break from the week-to-week monotony of Tour golf.

The good news is the competition is about to get a lot spicier. Despite the allure of the venue, the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links, this tournament had become one that most of the top players avoided. Much of it had to do with the format– 5-hour rounds with amateur partners, a three-course rotation, galleries who are more interested in watching Ray Romano shank one from the 8th fairway than some journeyman like Tom Hoge shoot 19-under and fulfill his lifelong dream… it had become a week to skip, if you could afford to. Things are changing, however: there are only two courses in use now, with one round each on Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach over the first two days before all the action shifts to Pebble on the weekend. Like all of the new Signature Events, this is a limited 80-man field with no cut and a $20 million purse up for grabs, with a cool $3.6 mil going to the winner. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

The changes, particularly the whole “$20 million purse, guaranteed paycheck” thing, have had the desired effect of bringing out the big guns. We’ve got a major championship caliber field this week, with 48 of the top 50 in last year’s FedEx Cup standings in attendance. The only two missing are recent LIV signees Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, the latter of whom was in this field until Tuesday morning and has now been replaced by Hayden Buckley, who probably did a cartwheel when he got the news. These Signature Events are effectively a tour within a tour– it’s going to be very difficult to rise up the money list and FedEx Cup rankings if you’re frozen out of them. Therefore, this is a huge break and tremendous opportunity for a player like Buckley, a 27-year-old whose runner-up at the Sony a couple of weeks ago was his first podium finish in 64 career starts.

The market is dominated by the names you’d expect– Scheffler (11.0), McIlroy (12.0), and Hovland (17.0) lead the pack and then it gets pretty crowded, with seven guys currently trading between 17.0 and 28.0. The bottom of the market features some astronomical prices for some really good players, so this might be a good week to splash a few bets around and see what we catch. Here are three names that are definitely worth considering:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Max Homa (20.0)- Homa is a California kid who has spoken at length about his reverence for Pebble Beach, which is probably a big reason why he’s teed it up in this tournament frequently throughout his career, unlike some of his peers. He nearly always plays well here and has found the top-15 in each of his last three appearances, including a T7 in 2021. As usual, Homa has been active on the West Coast swing this year and his game is sharp, with recent results including a T14 at The Sentry and a T13 in last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, where he was one of only 4 players in the field to break par all four rounds. This feels like a tournament that Homa is going to win eventually, and with the way he’s playing now I expect him to give it a serious run this week. He’s worth a bet at a price like 20.0.

Russell Henley (72.0)- Henley has made a lot of money on the West Coast over the course of his career, and a big reason why is his comfort on poa annua greens, which he’ll see this week at Pebble. He hasn’t played this tournament in awhile but he’s had some good weeks here in the past, most recently finishing T15 back in 2018. He’ll know what to expect and he’s played well on these courses before– that’s enough for me. Critically, Henley has been playing some great golf to kick off the new year, finishing 4th at the Sony in his last start after breaking 70 all four days and firing a 63 on Sunday. We haven’t seen him since he tapped out for that 63, so who knows… he could be playing the best golf of his life. At better than 70/1, I’m willing to pay to find out.

Chris Kirk (132.0)- I’m telling you, I have a feeling about Kirk this week. He has a middling record in this tournament, though he did finish T16 in 2021, and winning an event of this magnitude would be far and away the greatest accomplishment of his career. That said, he does win fairly frequently when he’s right– he’s got 6 of them now, the most recent coming at The Sentry less than a month ago, when he posted a mind-boggling 29-under for the week. His T47 at The American Express last time out might not be too inspiring on first glance, but he was humming along for most of the week, firing 68-64-67 before a Sunday 73 did him in. Point is, he’s hot right now, and he’s proven that he’s awfully tough to beat when he’s hot. At a price like 132.0, Kirk may be my favorite bet on the board this week.


DAQMAN Sat: Kempton NAP
DAQSTATS Sat: Kempton NAP
THE STRIKER Sat: Premier League Preview
THE STRIKER Sun: WOLVES v SHEFFIELD UNITED
THE ULTRA Sat: La Liga and Bundesliga Preview
THE STRIKER Sun: Carabao Cup Final CHELSEA v LIVERPOOL
WEEKEND GREYHOUND PREVIEW: with BARRY CAUL
PGA Tour: Mexico Open at Vidanta preview/picks
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