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Stat attack!: AT&T Pebble Beach National preview

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Unlike baseball, where a hot streak can be ended by the next day’s starting pitcher, momentum in golf is under the player’s control and can be extended from tournament to tournament, until finally, after weeks of coming close, a victory is celebrated. Billy Horschel is a perfect example. A year ago Horschel began his season with 12 straight cuts made. The first eight were nothing too special, the best being a T10 at Humana. He followed that with three straight top-10s (including a T-2 at Houston), and finally he rode that four-month momentum charge with a victory at the Zurich Classic, the first of his PGA Tour career.

There’s also the Brandt Snedeker method of riding momentum. In 2013, Sneds was second at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Phoenix Open to become the first player to finish second in back-to-back weeks in four years. Unfazed by the close calls, he shot four rounds in the 60s at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for a tournament-record aggregate of 267 for his fifth career victory. The start to his year in 2013 is worth another look.

Brandt Snedeker’s start in 2013:

 Tournament  Place  Scores  To par  Money
 Hyundai TOC  3 70-70-69—209 -10 $432,000
 Humana  T-23 67-68-67-67—269 -19 $51,520
 Farmers  T-2 65-75-69-69—278 -10 $536,800
 Waste Management  2 64-66-65-65—260     -24 $669,600
 AT&T Pebble Beach  1 66-68-68-65—267 -19 $1,170,000

At the AT&T, Snedeker took advantage of the par-3 holes, averaging 2.76 strokes on the shorter holes at Monterey Peninsula CC, Spyglass Hill GC and Pebble Beach Golf Links. He ranked T-3 in the field, the fourth time in the last six years the winner of the AT&T has finished in the top five in par-3 scoring.

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am champion in par-3 scoring average:

 Year  Winner Average Rank
 2013  Brandt Snedeker 2.76 T-3
 2012  Phil Mickelson 2.88 T-14
2011  D.A. Points 2.82 T-4
2010  Dustin Johnson 2.94  T-30
2009  Dustin Johnson 2.62 1
2008  Steve Lowery 2.53 1

So, who are this year’s hot players, and do any of them dominate the par-3 holes? There are nine players in the field who have made the cut in six straight starts in the 2013-14 season. Here’s how they have fared on the par-3 holes.

Par-3 scoring of AT&T competitors with at least six straight cuts made on Tour in 2013-14:

 Players  Consecutive cuts made  Par-3 scoring (rank)
 Charley Hoffman  7 2.95 (T-23)
 Brendon Todd  7 2.94 (T-20)
 Ken Duke  6 2.98 (T-37)
 Matt Every  6 2.98 (T-37)    
 Chris Kirk  6 3.04 (T-90)
 Bryce Molder  6 3.10 (T-134)
 Kevin Stadler  6 2.93 (T-16)    
 Pat Perez  6 3.01 (T-59)
 Seung-Yul Noh  6 3.06 (T-106)

None are in the top-10 on Tour, but Phoenix champion Kevin Stadler leads the group with a 2.93 scoring average. Pay attention, Stadler will be back later.

Hitting greens in regulation is also a priority at Pebble Beach, where the putting surfaces are on the smallish side. Snedeker hit 56 greens a year ago and was T-6 in the field. Six top-10 finishers were also in the top-10 in GIR.

Top-10 finishers at the 2013 AT&T Pebble, who were also in the top-10 in GIR:

 Player  Finish GIR
 Brandt Snedeker  Won T-6 (56)
 James Hahn  T-3 T-4 (57)
 Kevin Stadler  T-3 T-4 (57)
 Jason Day  6 1 (62)   
 Patrick Cantlay  T-9 T-10 (55)
 Retief Goosen  T-9 T-10 (55)

Snedeker was also sixth in scrambling last year at Pebble, an important factor in a tournament on a course with small greens. Six top-10 finishers were also in the top-10 in scrambling, with Snedeker and James Hahn finding their way on both lists.

What does it mean for this week? There are 14 players in the field who are hitting more than 70 percent of their greens in regulation this year and have a scrambling percentage of greater than 60 percent.

 Player  GIR percentage Scrambling percentage
 Briny Baird  74.27 65.91
 Pat Perez  70.74 65.82
 Spencer Levin  71.85 65.79
 Michael Thompson  70.37 64.58
 Nick Watney  70.83 63.81 
 Brendon Todd  74.80 63.78
 Chris Kirk  71.76 63.11
 Kevin Stadler  72.45 62.18
 Charley Hoffman  70.63 61.49
 Jimmy Walker  71.37 61.19
 Joe Durant  71.43 61.11   
 Brendan Steele  70.00 60.74
 Phil Mickelson  70.27 71.03
 John Senden  70.96 60.00

It’s a long list, but notice how many players were also mentioned on earlier lists in this column (there’s Stadler again). Let’s take a closer look at that group to see how they have fared at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am.

• Phil Mickelson; A four-time winner at Pebble Beach (1998, 2005, 2007, 2012), Mickelson has won 13 times on multi-course tournaments, but only once at such tournaments in the last six years.

• Charley Hoffman: Making his eighth start at the AT&T, Hoffman has finished no better than T14 the five times he made the cut.

• Brendon Todd: He was T9 in 2012 but like everyone on the leaderboard that year, fell victim to Phil’s final-round 64. He missed the cut in 2009 and 2013.

• Chris Kirk: The runner-up to Snedeker last year (130 on the weekend), missed the cut in 2011 and was T69 in 2009.

• Kevin Stadler: Could the junior Walrus win two in a row? Probably not, but he was T3 in 2013, his fifth cut made in seven AT&T starts.

• Pat Perez: Does he have the patience to handle the slow pace of play caused by the amateur competition? He has made 9 cuts in 11 starts, with a solo second in 2002 when he lost a four-stroke 54-hole lead with a final-round 76.

ONE FINAL NOTE: The last three winners of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am played their first two rounds on the outside courses and played Pebble Beach on Saturday and Sunday. All three improved their scores from Saturday to Sunday quite a bit. Snedeker went from 68 to 65 in 2013, Mickelson went from 70 to 64 in 2012 and Points went from 71 to 67 in 2011.

If you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc.