By Ron Patey

CBS Sports golf analyst Sir Nick Faldo discusses this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He also passes along his thoughts on the rise of 21-year-old Justin Thomas, the emergence of Brooks Koepka and the suddenly longer-hitting Charles Howell III.

Which player comes in as the favorite to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? 

The obvious one is Jimmy Walker. He’s playing so well, he’s winning or right there every week. (Walker placed second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January, had a nine-shot victory at the Sony Open the next week and checked in at T7 in last week’s Farmers Insurance Open. He leads the FedEx Cup standings with 1,039 points.)

Jason Day grinded it out to win the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff. How does he reboot from the emotional and physical effort with his recent injury to go back-to-back this week? 

The injury was his thumb and now it’s repaired, so he’s over it, and I hope he’s not thinking about it all. You can use up a lot of energy winning like he did last week, but Jason has the mentality to know how to regroup and prepare for the next event.

From what you’ve seen so far this season, which players have surprised?

The real surprise this season is Justin Thomas. While he weighs just 145 pounds; he has a powerful, whippy swing and great touch. (Thomas finished T4 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, T6 in the Sony Open, T7 at the Humana Challenge and T17 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.)

Another surprise has been Brooks Koepka. He’s strong and solid and believes that his wins (Turkish Airlines Open and Phoenix Open) are all part of the journey. He wasn’t a bit surprised he won because he’d been practicing hard and changed his putter. Brooks is not a flash in the pan. I think we’ll see that man on leaderboards quite a lot.

Who else has surprised? 

Charles Howell III is playing well and hitting it longer. I asked him why, and he said he didn’t know. Charles has found six more miles per hour in his swing speed, and that means he’s getting 18 to 24 more yards. He said it’s like getting an unexpected Christmas present.


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