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Friday, 14 December, 2018

It can be Jason's day as big names descend on Pebble Beach

Australian could claim second PGA Tour title in three weeks

Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open
1 of 1

Starts 4pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf, 8pm

The US Tour moves to one of its most iconic venues this week and with the weather at Pebble Beach set fair, there seems a good chance that some of the game's most exciting players can serve up something spectacular.

The three-course test can be an acquired taste with each player being partnered by an amateur for the first three rounds and plenty of attention given to the performances of actors, singers and baseball players, making it a potentially frustrating experience for the armchair spectator on this side of the pond.

However, the tournament could boil down to a titanic battle on Sunday between some of golf's leading lights.

Wilkerson's top tip
Jason Day 11-1
Five players are available at 12-1 or shorter, but there are questions for most of them to answer.

Dustin Johnson has two Pebble Beach wins but has not performed well at the course since he blew his chance of winning the 2010 US Open there. He will happy enough to be accompanied by his father-in-law, ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, but a single-figure price looks short enough.

Emerging light Jon Rahm claimed the recent CareerBuilder Challenge but suffered a Sunday slump at last week's Phoenix Open, while Rory McIlroy went close to winning the Dubai Desert Classic on his last outing but is tackling this unusual format for the first time.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth is a greens-in-regulation machine but his putting has been letting him down. He has not been fully in the swing of things since a bout of illness at Christmas and he needs to recover from missing the cut in Phoenix.

However, it is not just a process of elimination that leads us to former world number one Jason Day.

The Australian has won four times on the poa-annua greens that will have to be negotiated this week and it is just two weeks since he fought his way through a Monday playoff to claim victory at the Farmers Insurance Open.

He has finished in the top 15 in six of his eight attempts in the tournament, so this is a format in which he can flourish and the fact he is ranked fifth in birdie average suggests this master putter could take advantage of his opportunities and improve on last year's fifth place.

Next best
Matt Kuchar 35-1
It is almost four years since the ultra-consistent Matt Kuchar won on the US Tour at the RBC Heritage, but the 2012 Players Championship winner could be set for a decent challenge.

Little ruffles the Floridian and he should be able to cope with the demands of an amateur partner, while he demonstrated last week in Phoenix that there is hardly any rust in his game as his first 2018 outing resulted in a fifth-place finish.

His course form is not great, with a standout sixth place in this tournament coming in 2007, but he did claim a similar finish at the 2010 US Open on the course when he ended four shots behind Graeme McDowell.

He looks a good match statistically too. Finding greens in regulation has been a key to success at Pebble Beach in recent years – Kuchar is ninth in the standings – and fourth place in strokes-gained putting suggests his flat stick is in good order too.

Other selections
Brandt Snedeker 40-1
Kevin Streelman 100-1
Brandt Snedeker has had his fair share of injury problems and is adjusting to life with new caddie Matt Hauser, but the signs are that an improvement in his fortunes may not be far around the corner.

He missed the cut on his reappearance at the CareerBuilder Challenge, but a finish of 23rd in Phoenix suggests he is making strides.

Snedeker loves this tournament, having won it twice and if things come together between tee and green, his putting ability can be relied upon to see him in the mix.

Kevin Streelman also has the potential to have a strong week at a treble-figure price with seven each-way places available.

The two-time US Tour winner is fourth in the greens-in-regulation standings and has been in consistent form since the FedEx playoffs, claiming six top-30 finishes in his last eight tournaments.

He has finished 14th and 17th in the last two Pebble Beach showdowns and was ninth in 2012.

Others to note
Dustin Johnson
DJ loves Pebble Beach and can be relied upon to make a bold bid, albeit at a short price.

Phil Mickelson
It's six years since his last success at Pebble Beach, but a decent performance at Phoenix last week means he goes into the tournament in fine fettle.

Patrick Reed
He has never finished worse than 29th in his five efforts at Pebble Beach and put up decent displays at the Farmers Insurance Open and in Phoenix last week.

Jordan Spieth
He admitted his game is not where he wants it to be after missing the cut last week and needs a quick fix to make a successful defence.

Gary Woodland
Last week's winner should be full of beans and finished fifth in the tournament last year after a six-year absence.

Staking plan
J Day
2pts each-way 11-1 Coral
M Kuchar
1pt each-way 35-1 bet365
B Snedeker
1pt each-way 40-1 Coral
K Streelman
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Coral, Sky Bet

The lowdown
Course Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Spyglass Hill Golf Club, Pebble Beach, California

Prize money $7.4m ($1.32m to the winner)
Length Pebble Beach 6,816 yards, Monterey Peninsula 6,958 yards,
Spyglass Hill 6,953 yards
Par Pebble and Spyglass both 72, Monterey 71 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 267 Brandt Snedeker (2013) 18 holes
Pebble 62 Tom Kite (1983), David Duval (1997) Monterey 60 Sung
Kang (2016) Spyglass 62 Phil Mickelson (2005), Luke Donald

Course winners taking part Peter Jacobsen, Phil Mickelson (four times), Vijay Singh, Dustin Johnson (twice), DA Points, Brandt Snedeker (twice), Jimmy Walker, Vaughn Taylor, Jordan Spieth, Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open).

When to bet By 4pm Thursday.
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf from 4pm Thursday.
Time difference California is eight hours behind the UK and

Last week – Phoenix Open 1 G Woodland (50-1), 2 C Reavie (100-1), T3 O Schniederjans (100-1), B Steele (66-1), T5 C Hadley (100-1), M Kuchar (50-1), B DeChambeau (150-1), P Mickelson (50-1)

Course overview This pro-am is always played over three different courses, with 36 holes of competition at the Pebble Beach Links and 18 apiece on the other two.

The set-up is considerably harder for Majors than the pro-am, where scoring averages at Pebble and Monterey are usually slightly under par.

Spyglass is the most difficult of the venues, nearly always averaging over par, so a good round there could give a competitor a significant advantage. Every professional is partnered with an amateur.

Story of last year Jordan Spieth eased to his ninth US Tour title. Having been second after round one, two 65s at Monterey and Spyglass put him firmly in control and he finished four shots ahead of his nearest challenger Kelly Kraft.

Weather forecast It should prove a dry week with temperatures in the mid-20s. Winds are expected to be light throughout.

Type of player suited to challenge Big hitters, accurate sorts and short-game specialists have all triumphed in the last decade or so, but the key is to take the birdie opportunities when they arrive on courses that are set up not to intimidate the amateurs and celebrities who share the limelight.

Key attribute Accuracy

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He has finished in the top 15 in six of his eight attempts in the tournament, so this is a format in which he can flourish
E.W. Terms
Sky bet