Pebble Beach experts' picks

February, 7, 2012
If it's raining and the PGA Tour is in Northern California, it must be time for Pebble Beach. With the pro-am format -- and Tiger Woods' 2012 PGA Tour debut -- expect big crowds and lots of celebrities at the three courses that host this event.

From Pebble Beach Golf Links to Spyglass Hill Golf Club to the Shore Course at the Monterey Peninsula Golf Club, one thing is for certain: five-hour rounds.

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in Monterey, Calif.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
First PGA Tour start of his 2012 season after a strong showing in Abu Dhabi. His short game still isn't quite ready to get a win, but I expect nothing short of a top 10, especially in this format playing with Tony Romo.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Dustin Johnson
Though he hasn't done much so far this season, it's hard to bet against the 27-year-old South Carolinian in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he has two wins, a 7th and a 55th in four trips to the famous seaside course. When the U.S. Open was held there in 2010, he blew a 3-shot lead on Sunday with an 11-over-par 82.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Dustin Johnson
It's hard to argue with his success in this tournament. Two victories and three top-10s in four appearances.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: D.A. Points
It's feast or famine for Points at Pebble Beach. He's got three MCs, a T-14 and a win. Toss in the fact he's 4-for-4 in cuts made this year, including a pair of top-10s, and that's a recipe for a good week for the defending champion. Oh, and if anyone's worried if he'll be too tense out there, he's playing with Bill Murray again, so the week will definitely be on the lighter side.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Kevin Na
What happens when a player who's known for being hard on himself starts relaxing and embracing the fact he's slow and needs to have more fun on the course? He gets his first win on tour and starts the next year making three of four cuts. This week he'll take his time and enjoy his amateurs all the way to a top-five finish.

Farrell Evans: Hunter Mahan
The man who nearly won the FedEx Cup last year in an exciting playoff duel with Bill Haas is probably a little tired after the trip from the Qatar Masters, where he missed the cut. But after finishing second at Pebble Beach in 2011, he is eager to start play on Thursday. At the Farmers Insurance Open, his only PGA Tour start this season, he finished in a tie for sixth.

Bob Harig: Brendan Steele
He's coming off a final-round 64 at TPC Scottsdale that vaulted him to a tie for fifth and gave him two top-25 finishes this season.

Kevin Maguire: D.J. Trahan
The big-hitting Trahan went 64-66 over the weekend in Phoenix, so he comes into this week on a good note after his fourth-place finish. Plus, he's 10th so far this year in strokes-gained putting and that will help no matter where he's teeing it up.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Trevor Immelman
It was at this tournament last year that Immelman started his slow climb back from injury to a return to prominence and consistency on tour. A tie for 33rd at the Farmers, followed up by a tie for 12th last week and you can expect his upward trend to continue at Pebble.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
Finally last week in Phoenix, Mickelson looked like we might see the player who has won 39 PGA Tour events, including three times at Pebble Beach. But on Sunday he struggled with a 2-over 73 to finish in a tie for 26th. Still, the 41-year-old San Diego native is slowly coming into form at a time when players are trying to condition their games for Augusta.

Bob Harig: Hunter Mahan
He will literally be sleeping through this week, having gone from San Diego to Qatar and now back to Pebble Beach.

Kevin Maguire: Jeff Maggert
He'll turn 48 later this month, and that's not the only reason to root for the guy who turned pro back in 1986. At his age, the only reason he has full-time status is because he swallowed his pride and went back to Q-school last year -- and placed T-13. His worst finish so far in three starts in 2012 is last week's T-26 in Phoenix and his best is a solo fifth at the Humana. He's been second twice at Pebble (OK, so one was back in 1994) but that's why he's a super sleeper.


Michael Collins: Phil Mickelson
I know right?! It's supposed to be Tiger's party but it'll be Phil who takes the title. He said last week was, in his mind, his first official start of the year. Solid "start" for Phil and now he'll win his fourth title at this event.

Farrell Evans: Spencer Levin
Last year at Pebble Beach, Levin finished in a tie for fourth. After losing a 6-shot lead last week in Phoenix, he said that maybe he had put too much pressure on himself. This week he should have fun on a course where he won the 2004 California State Amateur.

Bob Harig: Nick Watney
He withdrew with an illness last week, but Watney has a decent record at Pebble Beach, including a tie for sixth last year.

Kevin Maguire: J.B. Holmes
Could we get another amazing story so soon on the PGA Tour? After Kyle Stanley's improbable turnaround for a victory in Phoenix last week, who would expect Holmes to pick up his first victory in four years just months after undergoing brain surgery? He's never missed the cut in five starts at Pebble and was T-2 back in 2010.





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