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Sam Eaton brings us his predictions for First Round Leader at this week's PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach.
  • First Round Leader specialist Sam Eaton has seven selections for this weeks event at Pebble Beach including three selections on Spyglass Hill and a double.
  • All of Sam's tips are based on statistics and models built on the course requirements.

This year’s AT&T Pro-Am has actually improved due to covid, they are playing on just the two courses (annoying for the first round leader market) and there’s no celebrities.

Luckily the 4/1 favorite, Dustin Johnson pulled out earlier in the week which has completely thrown open the market. With Cantlay, Berger and Casey at the top of the market, this is very much a competition for an outsider to win.

This competition is massively dictated by the weather, with the winner normally well accustomed to playing in blustery conditions. However, the opening day looks like it will be pretty settled in terms of wind, but there will likely be rain in the afternoon/evening.

To win this event you need to be hot with the irons and around the green, as the greens are considerably smaller than recent events. The putting surface (Poa Annua) will also play a vital role.

Pebble Beach Pro Am: Pebble Beach First Round Leader Picks

Mark Hubbard @ +4000

Mark Hubbard is turning himself into somewhat of a Thursday specialist on the PGA Tour. Hubbard has two first round leads since June 2020, which includes leading last week at the Waste Management. Since June, he’s also registered three other top ten finishes after the first round.

Over the last two months, Hubbard has been 7th in terms of shots gained in approach in this field when you filter just first rounds.

He gains shots on the field on this surface, unlike the Bermuda surface we’ve seen lately, and also picks up shots when the wind starts to blow. He hasn’t got the best course history in this competition, but comes into the tournament in relatively good form.

Si Woo Kim @ +2500

Si Woo Kim will likely be one of my picks to win the whole event given his performance in blustery conditions. However, he’s also a good option in the first round leader market.

The Korean has put together some very good performances in the last six months or so, which includes a win at The American Express, and top ten finishes at the Shriners and Wyndham.

Si Woo Kim’s success is built of his approach and around the green. He’s averaging 1.8 shots gained on the field in his last five events, which includes a huge performance at The AmEx.

Putting is something which normally let’s down Si Woo Kim, however, he tends to perform marginally better on Poa compared to Bermuda.

Harold Varner III @ +3300

It was a toss up between Harold Varner and Michael Thompson for the final tip on this course. However, I’ve settled with Harold Varner III, largely due finding a bit of form last weekend.

If the American plays well it’s because of his approach game, which was was the main reason behind his top twenty finishes at the Waste Management and Houston Open. His putting tends to let him down, which was the case at the Houston Open, but like Si Woo Kim, he tends to perform slightly better on Poa. Varner’s not the most renown for par 5 scoring.

Like Hubbard, Harold Varner III tends to get off to a flyer, with two first round leads since June, and a couple of seconds in there as well.

Pebble Beach Pro Am: Spyglass First Round Leader Picks

Cameron Davis @ +2200

Like Si Woo Kim, Cameron Davis will likely be in my tips to win the whole event. The Australian has been in great from following missing the cut at the Workday Charity Open last year.

Gaining shots off the tee will likely be more important at this course, and so will be putting. This surface isn’t the best for Davis, but he can get very hot with the putter which he’s shown on a couple of occasions this season.

Davis has gained over five shots on the field in terms of approach in this last two events, and everyone knows his ability to pick up shots on par 5’s.

If the wind picks up, this will only benefit Davis.

Phil Mickelson @ +3000

Phil loves this competition, he’s had 12 top ten finishes which includes a 3rd in 2020, a win in 2019 and a T2 in 2018.

I wouldn’t even consider looking into recent form when it comes to backing Phil, he missed both cuts before finishing 3rd at this event last year, and missed the cut in the event before winning the competition in 2019.

Phil’s unique ability around the green has been the reason for his success here, alongside the uplift on putting on Poa greens.

Mickelson has shot lower on the other courses, but has posted a couple of 68’s on this course in the last couple of years.

Kevin Streelman @ +2200

If you’re looking for another like Phil who has course history, prefers Poa greens, plays well with a bit of wind, and has rock solid irons then Kevin Streelman is your man.

Streelman has four top ten finishes at this event, which includes three in the last three years. He also posted a very tidy 65 at this course back in 2018, which placed him as the first round leader.

Streelman’s is a little concern, as he’s not posted a top twenty finish since the Safeway. However, his approach play has looked dialed in since missing the cut at the Houston Open.

He’s not dropped shots with the putter at this event since 2015, if he can get this hot on the opening day he has every chance.


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