Gdula's Golf Simulations: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

With Dustin Johnson withdrawing, which golfers are most likely to win at Pebble Beach this week?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to adjust for course fit very easily. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Patrick Cantlay9.9%45.3%83.7%+750
Daniel Berger8.7%47.5%86.4%+1400
Will Zalatoris3.9%29.2%77.9%+1900
Sam Burns3.3%23.8%71.0%+3700
Paul Casey3.2%22.1%69.5%+1800
Jason Day3.0%22.6%71.0%+2100
Si Woo Kim2.8%20.2%67.3%+3700
Jordan Spieth2.8%15.0%62.4%+2300
Cameron Davis2.5%20.6%69.3%+4100
Kevin Streelman2.4%19.7%67.2%+3800
Joel Dahmen2.0%17.0%63.5%+7500
Max Homa1.7%14.0%60.1%+3300
Rickie Fowler1.6%15.2%64.2%+4800
Brendan Steele1.6%15.1%62.3%+7500
Brian Harman1.5%17.8%69.4%+4300
Cameron Tringale1.5%16.1%68.5%+3500
Charley Hoffman1.4%14.9%63.9%+14000
Peter Malnati1.3%12.1%59.0%+8500
Harold Varner III1.3%17.8%65.7%+7000
Francesco Molinari1.2%9.9%56.3%+2300
Henrik Norlander1.2%13.5%64.3%+4300
Patton Kizzire1.1%11.5%58.6%+14000
James Hahn1.1%12.4%63.4%+8000
Rory Sabbatini1.1%11.8%59.5%+12000
Phil Mickelson1.0%8.5%51.9%+4700
Alex Noren0.9%11.6%60.4%+7500
Mark Hubbard0.9%11.2%59.6%+9500
Patrick Rodgers0.9%9.5%55.8%+17000
Doug Ghim0.8%9.9%58.8%+9000
Adam Long0.8%10.2%57.7%+10000
Matthew NeSmith0.8%10.0%57.4%+6500
Chris Kirk0.8%9.0%56.5%+8000
Chez Reavie0.8%9.1%55.7%+9000
Jhonattan Vegas0.8%9.6%54.2%+15000
Kristoffer Ventura0.7%9.6%56.8%+25000
Matt Jones0.7%9.6%58.9%+6500
Tyler Duncan0.7%8.4%54.4%+20000
Scott Piercy0.7%8.6%54.3%+14000
Jim Furyk0.6%8.4%54.6%+9000
Maverick McNealy0.6%8.3%53.7%+9000
Ryan Moore0.6%7.6%52.6%+10000
Tom Hoge0.6%8.9%57.0%+13000
Stewart Cink0.6%8.7%55.1%+15000
Tom Lewis0.6%7.0%49.3%+20000
Michael Thompson0.6%7.4%53.8%+9000
Akshay Bhatia0.5%7.1%48.9%+25000
Brandt Snedeker0.5%6.2%49.3%+9000
Bo Hoag0.5%7.0%53.1%+15000
Harry Higgs0.5%7.5%52.7%+15000
Chesson Hadley0.5%6.6%50.9%+18000
J.B. Holmes0.5%5.5%44.5%+18000
Scott Stallings0.5%7.5%55.7%+13000
William Gordon0.5%6.9%50.8%+15000
Nick Taylor0.5%6.4%52.5%+7500

With Dustin Johnson withdrawing, he frees up about 20% of the expected wins (both at his win odds of +400 and my model's expectation of a 20.2% win probability).

Patrick Cantlay rates out a little overvalued here, but the models again love Daniel Berger, who had a rough go last week with a missed cut. One week (and two rounds in this instance) isn't that predictive. He finished fifth here last year, so I'm warming up to going back to him this week.

Will Zalatoris pops here, as does Sam Burns at much better odds. Each had top-25 finishes last week, though Burns gained 10.9 strokes from putting, which isn't sustainable by any means.

Jordan Spieth is worth discussing. He entered the Avatar State on Saturday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and didn't hit the driver well at all. Spieth has, though, fared really well at this event with eight top-25 finishes and a win (2017). He's far from all the way back, but if he is back, then he'll get bogged down by the older data, even if it's weighted less heavily. He's now close to 3.0% of the expected wins, so he's a little overvalued at +2300.

Value has opened with Johnson out of the field. The best bets on a sheer value standpoint are Berger (+1400), Joel Dahmen (+7500), Burns (+3700), Charley Hoffman (+14000), and Brendan Steele (+7500).

My outrights so far are Berger, Burns, Cameron Davis, and Dahmen with top-10s on Brian Harman, Cameron Tringale, and Ryan Moore.