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Dustin heads strong field at Pebble Beach


Jon Rahm at 9/1 on Tuesday was the bookmakers No 2 favourite behind World No 1, Dustin Johnson (11/2) for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am which this week will, once more, be played on three acclaimed courses in Northern California's Monterey Bay, not the least of them being the iconic and scenic Pebble Beach Golf Links.

This despite the fact that the 23-year-old Spaniard's final-round burst of temper tantrums and club bashing at TPC Scottsdale last week (he claimed it helps him rid himself of bottled up frustration) were ineffective. 

The big and brawny World No 2 shot a disappointing level-par 72 at the Phoenix Open to slip back from his place among the front-runners to finish in a tie for 11th.

He did, of course, accomplished a lot more than World No 3 Jordan Spieth, who at 12/1 is another of the bookie's favourites this week. 

With a wayward putter letting him down, the 24-year-old Texan, already a three-time major winner at 24 and the course-wise defending champion here this week, missed last week's cut altogether.'

And that begs the question; can he offset this negative memory with the positive memories of his victory here last year and come back just seven days later with his confidence restored and his game, notably his putting skills, sharp enough to beat a strong field that along with Johnson and Rahm also includes other high rankers like a refreshed and rekindled Rory McIlroy and recent back-from-the-Doldrums winner Jason Day?

Mind you, while McIlroy will be coming to Monterey Bay fresh from a strong, confidence-boosting runner-up finish in Dubai a fortnight ago, he is going to be playing on three courses he's never tackled before, all of them with greens turfed with poa annau that has subtle differences to those on which he has played most his golf. 

Some players like Californian native Phil Mickelson love poa annau. Others hate it.

As has been the case since 2010, the players and their celebrity amateur partners will play one round each at Pebble Beach Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course, the easiest of the three, and Spyglass Hill Golf Club, the toughest, before those making the cut return to Pebble Beach for the final round on Sunday.

The wind has been a big factor at times in this seaside contest, but this year, outside of Saturday when it could be gusting between 15 and 20 mp/h and when Spyglass Hill with its wind-protecting, tree-lined fairways might be the place to be, the wind this time, according to's forecasters, isn't expected to get up much above 6mp/h for the other three rounds, and shouldn't be a key factor,  

Nor should rain. All four days are expected to be clear, sunny and cool.

And Johnson, the favourite? How good are his chances? He has the power and the skill to win anywhere and especially at Pebble Beach where three years back he hit a five iron at the par-5 18th, to within 12 feet of the hole, hit his eagle putt 3 feet past and then missed the three-footer coming back to gift the PGA Championship to Spieth.

So yes, he knows Pebble Beach alright, but will he have the form this time? He certainly didn't have it in Dubai two weeks back when he finished well down the field.

Day, in the meantime, has come out of his more than a year-long slump with excellent form and a new-found determination to reclaim the World No 1 spot he held a year or so ago. 

He made this clear two weeks back when he beat Sweden's  Alex Noren and American Ryan Palmer in a playoff to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Keep an eye on him and yes, Rahm too - if he can his emotions in check - but then, as is so often the case on the star and up-and-coming star-studded US PGA Tour, there is always the chance that a long-time door-knocker like Gary Woodland who won the Phoenix Open last week will finally come through (it was his first win in 10 years), or if a little-known upstart like 2017 Tour Championship winner Xander Schauffele will emerge from the woodwork and shock us all.

Schauffele is not playing in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but there are plenty others like him who are, so along with all the celebrity glamour - and the sliced drives and fluffed chips that come along with them -  expect a week of see-saw drama heightened by a good few of the world's finest golfers, but not necessarily won by any of them.

(Tuesday AM, Feb 6, 2018)

Dustin Johnson 11/2
Jon Rahm 9/1
Rory McIlroy 10/1
Jason Day 10/1
Jordan Spieth 12/1
Gary Woodland 22/1
Paul Casey 30/1
Phil Mickelson 28/1
Patrick Reed 33/1
Brandt Snedeker 35/1
Patrick Cantlay 35/1
Brandt Snedeker 35/1
Matt Kuchar 35/1
Branden Grace 40/1
Pat Perez 40/1
Kevin Kisner 50/1
Kevin Chappell 55/1
Adam Scott 55/1
Chesson Hadley 55/1
Chez Reavie 60/1
J B Holmes 60/1
Charlie Hofman 70/1
Bryson Dechambeau 80/1
James Hahn 80/1. 

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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