Free AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am tips from Ben Coley

Dustin Johnson stands out from the crowd this week
Dustin Johnson stands out from the crowd this week

Golf expert Ben Coley, who put up an 80/1 winner last week, has selections ranging from 6/1 to 250/1 for this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am recommended bets

4pts win Dustin Johnson at 6/1

1pt e.w. Maverick McNealy at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Jason Kokrak at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Scott Stallings at 200/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Brandon Harkins at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

Unlike last week's Phoenix Open, an event for which any one of five could have headed the betting, there can be only one worthy favourite for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am where Dustin Johnson is unequivocally the man to beat.

Twice a winner here, Johnson might also have added the 2010 US Open had the occasion not proven too much for him and has subsequently added four further top-five finishes to demonstrate that nobody in this field is more comfortable around Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Monterey Peninsula's Shore Course, which share hosting duties over the first three days before the iconic Pebble Beach provides the stage for Sunday's final round.

The idea that Johnson might have a mental block when it comes to winning at the venue, having last done so four months prior to his US Open meltdown, is farcical. Here's a player who has the shortest memory in golf, one who overcame another three major setbacks before winning his first, and whose response to blowing a six-shot lead in China late last year was to come out in 2018 and beat many of the world's best by eight in Hawaii.

A subsequent ninth place in Abu Dhabi came despite Johnson not having his best stuff - 27th for greens hit around a course which plays to his strengths shows that his long game was left behind - and, freshened up after a fortnight away, his prospects of yet another PGA Tour title are outstanding.

The question is, are those prospects more outstanding than the price suggests? That's less clear cut and entirely subjective, but my inclination is towards yes - chiefly because the opposition appears less fearsome the closer you look.

Dustin Johnson - six shots clear in Sheshan
Click the image for Sky Bet's Price Boost: 6/1 ANY of our tips to win

Rory McIlroy has returned to action in the sort of form which hints at a big year ahead, but he's a rare visitor to California and we know he's far more comfortable on long, parkland courses with definition off the tee. His form in the European Tour's equivalent event, the Alfred Dunhill Links, is good; but he's yet to win it, and on poa annua greens at a venue where he shot 75-77 in the US Open, there are far too many questions to answer to make him a bet.

Remarkably, only 11 players of the 206 measured rank worse than Jordan Spieth in putting this year, and it's hard to believe a return to poa annua will prompt the required improvement from last week's missed cut. Concerns should only be short-term and Spieth is the defending champion after last year's display of total dominance, but he's not drifted far enough to become tempting.

Jon Rahm has contended at some point for the last three weeks and looks a bigger threat along with Jason Day, who loves the west coast and was back to his best when taking the Farmers Insurance Open for a second time, succeeding Rahm, a fortnight ago. These two very real dangers temper enthusiasm in Johnson a little, but we know that if he does turn up in top gear, both will struggle to live with him.

Accordingly, I want to have the favourite on-side and have plumped for a wager somewhere between saver and banker. He's expected to be right in the mix on Sunday.

While it's true that this event does have an extremely high-class roll-of-honour, its very nature means that shocks are bound to happen from time to time. Vaughn Taylor was any price you like prior to winning in 2016, few would have foreseen Steve Lowery's 2008 play-off success, while in 2011 it was a Billy Murray-inspired D.A. Points who won the first of what's now three PGA Tour titles.

That Points has subsequently won by the coast in Puerto Rico points towards in-form Chesson Hadley, twice inside the top-10 in three starts here and placed four times from eight already this season. Back with a bang and no mistake, he's a solid proposition but hasn't been missed in the market whereas Maverick McNealy just might have been.

It's less than six months since McNealy made his professional debut in the Safeway Open, where he sat eighth after the opening round but faded throughout the week, and he's running out of time to secure his playing rights for the rest of the season with this being his fifth of seven available sponsor exemptions.

However, there's no cause for panic given that a top-10 finish at Qualifying School secured his Web.com Tour card for the year ahead, and whichever route he takes there's surely little doubt that he'll begin the 2019 season at the top level.

This 22-year-old son of a billionaire took his time to commit to a career in professional golf, but now that he's done so expectations should be set high for a graduate of Stanford who went 4-0-0 at last year's Walker Cup having started the year at the top of the amateur game.

Granted, he's done little so far at this level save for a couple of fast starts, but 29th at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago was his best yet and sets him up perfectly for Pebble Beach, where his family owned a house alongside the 16th fairway throughout his childhood.

McNealy, from a town between Pebble Beach and San Francisco, has more experience of these courses than most players in the field and called Spyglass one of his "top-five favourites" after winning the Northern California Match Play title there in 2015.

Although such connections don't always pave the way to success at this altogether different level, James Hahn's victory at Riviera a couple of years ago demonstrates that it is possible and McNealy, who struck the ball really well on his latest start and is ordinarily a very strong putter, is good enough to make an immediate impression in this grade.

It's also worth noting that he gets to play alongside his father, Scott, and his brother, Scout (yes, really), himself a very promising young player, in this pro-am event. "I can’t wait," McNealy told golfweek.com. "It’s going to be so much fun to have those guys inside the ropes. Obviously, my dad has meant so much to me and my golf career."

We've seen plenty of young players without full status go close to winning events in recent years, and at some stage soon I'm sure one will go the distance and win. McNealy is promising enough to at least threaten and, at 200/1 generally or 250/1 in a place, he's worth a speculative bet.

Maverick McNealy
Maverick McNealy has been sharpening up at Pebble Beach and can go well

Next on my list is one of the best players on the circuit yet to win, Jason Kokrak.

As a Canadian-born, Ohio-raised, North Carolina-living man, it's not clear why Kokrak would perform so well in California, but that has been the case ever since his rookie campaign in 2012.

That year, he arrived at Pebble Beach with form figures of 75-MC-MC-MC as he struggled to find his feet on the PGA Tour, and there was clearly something about Pebble Beach which made him feel comfortable. Kokrak finished ninth, and it would take until October and a return to California for his only other top-10 that season as he produced a brilliant runner-up finish in the Frys.com Open to somehow secure his card out of nowhere.

The following year, a return to the Golden State saw Kokrak bag his third top-10 finish and while he's spread his wings since, it was little surprise that his standout performance came back here as he finished a fine second behind Bubba Watson in the 2016 Northern Trust Open.

That event has close and obvious ties with Pebble Beach, largely owing to the greens, and Kokrak has since shown some more promising form in this event. Last year, having missed his first two cuts of the campaign as he adjusted to fatherhood, Kokrak managed to somehow climb to 23rd despite an opening 77 which saw him sit in a share of 132nd, while his 30th place in 2016 also came on the back of a poor run of form.

This time, he's in a great place having moved the family back to Cleveland in the off-season and come out firing with yet another California top-10 in the CareerBuilder Challenge, where three dropped shots over the closing two holes cost him a shot at the title - had he played those same three in one-under, he'd have been part of the play-off.

Kokrak still has a little to prove under the gun, but he did precious little wrong at Riviera two years ago and given that these greens bring out his best putting, I'm hopeful he can step up on last week's tie for 31st with a return to California a definite positive.

Patrick Reed, Branden Grace and Patrick Cantlay are all solid options from back towards the head of the market, particularly the latter who is another young star from California. Cantlay's return to action following a three-year absence came in this event last year and he's since produced one of the most impressive runs of form you'll ever see given the circumstances, including a breakthrough victory over the border in Nevada.

It'll be interesting to see whether Phil Mickelson can build on last week's third and bag a fifth title here, having gone agonisingly close to doing so when Taylor won, while Brandt Snedeker appears to be edging closer to his best following a spell on the sidelines and is one of the best in the world if we focus solely on poa annua greens by the coast in California.

All have obvious prospects, but none quite does enough for selection and I'd much rather take a chance on 200/1 shot Scott Stallings.

One of those rare players whose scoring improves fairly markedly for a return to poa annua greens, Stallings has a win and a play-off defeat down the coast at Torrey Pines to his name while he should also have won the CareerBuilder Challenge in California.

Here at Pebble Beach, he took a couple of spins to get to grips with all three layouts but a third-round 65 at Monterey last year helped him to 14th place and something to work with on his return.

Scott Stallings leads with a round to play
Scott Stallings could go well at a big price

Stallings sat fifth at halfway last week only to shoot a disappointing 74 on Saturday, but a final-round 67 for 23rd means he heads up the coast on the back of his best performance since last July. He's always been a player who is worth following when hot, as back-to-back places on a number of occasions demonstrate, while his first victory came a week after he'd finished 22nd.

Given that he played better than his finishing position for the majority of the Phoenix Open, where he was strong throughout the bag, Stallings might just be able to build on last year's effort at Pebble Beach and further enhance his fine record under these conditions.

Nick Watney is another local whose form is getting better, but I'll sign off with Brandon Harkins.

Winner of the Monterey Open nearby and a player who shot 65 at Pebble Beach in the Taylor Made Invitational, Harkins is as comfortable in this part of the world as you'd expect him to be having grown up two hours north of Pebble Beach.

That comfort - something he referenced when interviewed three weeks ago - is something he's capitalised on, with form figures of 2-9-8-12 in California since the start of last year, three of which rank as his career-best performances from a ranking-points perspective.

Harkins was a shade disappointing in Phoenix, especially given that he now resides in Scottsdale, but a slow start on a cold Thursday morning in the desert can happen to anyone and he can be forgiven that effort now returned to these even more familiar surroundings.

Posted at 1200 GMT on 06/02/18.

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