Forelinx Fantasy Preview ⏤ AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Fantasy Golf

Pebble Beach1

The PGA TOUR continues its West Coast Swing this week with a trip to golf's most beautiful meeting of land and sea at the picturesque Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, California. This week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is going to feature a slightly different look this year as the Pro-Am component of the event has been eliminated for the first time in the history of the event. The end result will be a focus on the two incredible host courses and the incredible professional players competing across their magnificent confines.

Dustin Johnson was initially anticipated to be the headliner of this week's event, but after his win at the Saudi International last week he opted out of participating and instead chose to get some rest. He's not the only late withdrawal from the tournament as Padraig Harrington was forced to bow out after a positive COVID-19 test. Each of these withdrawals happened late, and so both of these players are found in our Pick Em' Pool and Head-to-Head Contest formats. Fantasy players for this week should be mindful of both withdrawals and ensure that they do not roster either of these players as the consequences could be fatal to their contest entries.

Weather is expected to be a significant factor on the Monterey Peninsula this week. Temperatures are expected to top out in the mid-50s at best with some time spent in the 40s in the early mornings and late afternoons. The coolness will be accompanied by significant cloud cover, wind and occasional rain that will make coastal California look a lot like Scotland and Ireland. Foul weather players should thrive this week as the ability to control your golf ball in the elements will play a major role in who survives what will likely be a very tough week.

The Field and the Favorites

With the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson, the top of the board appears a little bit light on the protein this week. Not a single one of the top-ten players in the world can be found in the field and the highest-ranked player competing in the event is the tournament favorite Patrick Cantlay (+700). Cantlay grew up in Long Beach and played a ton of amateur and college golf in California, so he should be intimately acquainted with Pebble Beach Golf Links. Moreover, one of Cantlay's best assets is his ability to grind out rounds and with the weather forecast calling for brutal conditions this asset should rise in value. 

The rest of Group A is populated with a number of players who might ordinarily be considered Group B players. Jordan Spieth (+1800) used to be a permanent fixture among the favorites in a given golf tournament, but only this week thanks to the weak field and the strong result at the Waste Management Phoenix Open does he find himself among the Group A players. While plenty of his game looked shaky last week (especially on Sunday), he still managed to fire three great rounds including a career-low of 61 on Saturday. There were flashes of the Jordan of old, but the inability to hit fairways and a temperamental putter that have plagued him of late showed up when it mattered in the Final Round. While we all want to see Jordan back to his winning ways, he may still be some distance from being the player we all used to know.

Other Group A players include similarly struggling big names like Rickie Fowler (+4000) and Jason Day (+2000). Both of these player wouldn't ordinarily find themselves behind names like Will Zalatoris (+1800) on the list of betting favorites, but neither has played anywhere near their best golf as of late. Fowler's usually reliable putter seems to have abandoned him and he's been messing around with different grips as he looks to regain his form. Jason Day seemingly cannot catch a break on the injury front, and while he put together some decent golf during the summer of COVID-19 he is still a long way from looking like the player we all used to know.

Between the weak field and the uncertain conditions, this could be a week where a relative unknown or blast from the past emerges from deep down the list of favorites to claim the title. Names like Francesco Molinari (+2200) come to mind as the former Open Champion seems to be showing signs of emerging from his post-Masters meltdown struggle. He hasn't been seen near the top of leaderboards on either tour since he rinsed a couple of golf balls down the second nine at Augusta National to let Tiger Woods back into the 2019 Masters. That having been said, he's had a couple of good weeks recently and has shown his capacity to play in foul weather. He might be a sneaky choice among the Group B players.

The Golf Course

The golf course rotation looks a little bit different this week as Monterey Peninsula CC has been dropped along with the Pro-Am component of the event. This leaves Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach Golf Links as the two host venues, with the weekend rounds being played exclusively at Pebble Beach. Spyglass will most certainly play as the more difficult of the two golf courses during the opening pair of rounds, but we'll focus our attention on Pebble Beach at it will decide the winner over the 36-hole weekend.

Pebble plays as one of the shortest golf courses on the PGA TOUR and, accordingly, places far more of a premium on accuracy as compared to raw length and power. It contains the smallest group of putting surfaces of any course on the PGA TOUR as well so, in addition to testing the iron play of its competitors, it demands chipping/pitching prowess as even the best players will miss a fair number of the small greens. 

Wedge play will be another key component this week as the opening seven holes provide the players with as many as five or six high-quality birdie opportunities. The par-four first is just an iron from the tee and a wedge into the green and the third hole is nearly a mirror image of the same hole design. The fourth hole is a semi-drivable par-four (depending on the conditions) while the sixth is a reachable par-five and the seventh is a drop-shot par-three along the cliffs that measures just a shade over 100 yards. Blitzing these opening holes has always been critical to a successful round at Pebble.

Once the player reaches the eighth, he faces the toughest three-hole stretch on the golf course. That par four requires a blind iron up and over a hillside to a fairway that cuts off abruptly with a cliff that overhangs Stillwater Cove. The trick to the eighth is getting the tee shot as close as possible to the cliff's edge without going over the far side. Otherwise, the player will be left with another semi-blind long iron to a very exposed green that should be extremely difficult to hit if the weather forecasts for the week prove to be accurate. The ninth and tenth hardly let up as both holes require accurate drives to avoid the lurking cliffs along their right side. Those players who bail out away from the cliff will be left with a long second from either rough or a fairway bunker to a green that is anything but accommodating to those playing from that poor angle. The player who can get through these three holes at par or better will collect at least a shot and maybe two over the field on a daily basis.

The final hole of the golf tournament will be played across one of the finest five-par holes in the world. The eighteenth at Pebble Beach bends hard left around the rocky Pacific Ocean coastline and invites the player to bite off as much yardage as he dares in order to give himself the opportunity to reach the green in two. Those players who bail right may be blocked out by a pair of trees in the middle of the fairway or stymied in either of the fairway bunkers that abut the right side of the fairway. Eagles are possible here, but so too are meltdowns that usually begin with a drive or a second that finds the ocean.

Pebble Beach is perhaps the most visually spectacular golf course found on the PGA TOUR calendar, but it's also a master class in strategic golf course architecture. It's lack of length hardly diminishes its challenge, and the player who can survive the course during the difficult conditions the field is expected to face will find himself a worthy AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Champion.

Our Forelinx DFS Cheat Sheet for the week will be posted on Wednesday once the tee times are revealed.