Waste Management Phoenix Open
It was a disappointing end to the week for us at Torrey Pines with Hossler fading away on Sunday having been in a great position going in to round 4 and Harris English falling one shot shy of the place money.
Moving on after two weeks in California the PGA tour heads back in to the desert to TPC Scottsdale in Arizona located North East of downtown Phoenix. This will be the 32nd consecutive year the event has been played at this venue.
The event has become known for its raucous crowds and record attendances. The four-day attendance of the tournament is usually around a half million; the best-attended event in golf. In 2016, it set a PGA Tour single day attendance record with 201,003 fans attending on the Saturday, and set a tournament week attendance record of 618,365 people.
There’s no doubt that a certain type of temperament is required to handle the atmosphere this week with the noise reaching a crescendo at the par 3 16th hole, which is basically an amphitheatre surrounded by 20,000 + fans who will boo you in unison if you hit a bad tee shot.
The field from a betting perspective is headed up by former Sun Devil Jon Rahm. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas double defending champion Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler.
TPC Scottsdale is a par 71 playing to just over 7250 yards. The course features 3 par 5s and 4 par 3s. Undoubtedly the back 9 is the more scoreable 9 on the course with the real birdie opportunities coming on a 5 hole stretch from 13 through to 17, which features 2 par 5s and the driveable par 4 17th.
The greens are TiffEagle Bermuda.
The original course designers were Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The course then underwent a renovation in 2014 under the guidance again of Tom Weiskopf.
Over the last 4 yrs the winning score has ranged from -14 to -17 [Hideki’s total last year] so after the tougher test of Torrey Pines where for much of the time par was your friend we are back to birdies being the order of the day.
Whilst you still need to go low there is a definite feel that the course has toughened up a bit since the redesign in 2014 and it is unlikely for the foreseeable future we’ll be seeing a winning score like the -24 Phil Mickelson posted in 2013.
It’s also worth noting that the type of player peppering the leaderboard since the redesign seems to have shifted slightly with solid tee to green players Simpson, Spaun, Weekley & English all making the frame in the past two years alongside Hideki Matsuyama.
Undoubtedly bombing it off the tee is still an advantage but keeping it in play seems to have become more relevant.
Whilst Hideki has dominated the event for the last 3yrs with two wins and a second place there is also some precedent for first time winners here, with Koepka, Stadler and Stanley all getting their maiden PGA tour wins in the event over recent years.
As is pretty much always the case wall to wall sunshine for the week is the order of the day. As I type wind doesn’t look to be an issue for the most. although Sunday does have the possibility of 20mph + gusts, which could make things interesting if they come to fruition.
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
RICKIE FOWLER – 14-1 – 2pts Win FINISHED 11th
Whilst off course strong cases can be made for Rahm, Matsuyama and the other market leaders of those heading up the betting I like Rickie the most at the price.
As much as Fowler has shown a dislike for Torrey Pines over recent years he has very much shown a liking for TPC Scottsdale and he undoubtedly has unfinished business here following his agonising loss in a play off to Hideki a couple of years ago.
Take away the missed cut last week and Rickie has been in fantastic form since the back end of 2017.
Whilst you wouldn’t think the layers would take too much notice in it the M/C at Torrey Pines has hopefully helped eek us out another points or two on the price and it certainly wont have done him any harm to have avoided having his swing battered around in the wind on Sunday.
HARRIS ENGLISH – 66-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED M/C
Having sided with English at Torrey Pines last week I have decided to give him another go this week.
The logic in running with him last week was that he may well have ‘found something’ in his final round at the CareerBuilder which led to his 11th place finish.
Roll forward 7 days and whilst it was agonisingly frustrating that Harris finished one shot shy of rewarding us with a share of a 125-1 place, there is further cause for encouragement.
What was encouraging at Torrey Pines is in addition to his normal tee to green strengths Harris actually topped the scrambling stats for the week and if he can keep these numbers going whilst getting one or two more putts to drop another big finish is on the cards.
Finally further encouragement is given in English’s recent record at TPC Scottsdale which includes two top 10s in the past 4yrs.
SCOTT PIERCY – 66-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED M/C
Unsurprisingly for a man who spent his college days at UNLV Piercy is something of a desert golf specialist and any time he comes in to a desert event in any kind of form he is one for the short list.
Over the years Scott has notched up 5 top 15 finishes in 8 starts at Scottsdale. In addition his maiden PGA tour win came in the desert in Reno.
Most recently Piercy notched up a 6th place finish in the California desert a couple of weeks ago and whilst he showed some ‘contention rust’ on the Sunday he’ll be all the better for having experienced again being back in the hunt.
Finally Scott has shown several times over the recent years that he is a ‘streak’ player and often follows up one decent finish with another, most noticeably in 2016 when he came 2nd in back to back events at the US Open and WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
JJ SPAUN – 100-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED W/D INJURY
As I mentioned above ‘ball strikers’ have performed noticeably well at TPC Scottsdale over recent years and one such performance came from JJ Spaun last year.
JJ finished 4th on his debut at TPC Scottsdale last year. Since then he has notched a 10th place finish on his only other trip to the desert at the Shriners Open in Vegas.
In this event JJ was tied for the lead going in to the final round and was right in the hunt for his maiden PGA tour victory untill a calamitous collapse over the last few holes.
Undoubtedly JJ will have learnt from this experience of being in contention and after a solid 23rd place at Torrey Pines I can see him being in contention again on his return to the desert this week.
SUNG KANG – 200-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED M/C
For my final pick this week I am going to go slightly off the radar and finish with a 200-1 shot in the form of Sung Kang.
One of my reasons for picking Kang this week could be considered somewhat spurious to say the least, but, as I said to someone on twitter only the other day, Page 1, Rule 1 of the Golf Betting Handbook underlined in big bold writing is ‘Follow your Hunches’!
My leftfield hunch here is to do with a certain Tiger Woods. Now, I can’t claim to know much at all about Kang’s upbringing or introduction to the game of golf but I would be very surprised if he didn’t idolise Tiger’s play back in his heyday and therefore I’m sure was delighted to have been in Tiger’s company for his 3rd round at Torrey Pines at the weekend.
Whilst I have no names to hand I have noticed over the years that when lesser known players have happened to get the opportunity to play with Tiger there has on occasions been a bounce in there game the following week.
Now to throw our hard earned cash at Sung purely because he got 18 holes in Tiger’s company might be stretching it a bit but on top of this we have a 12th place finish at TPC Scottsdale last year to throw in to the mix.
This finish came on the back of 3 missed cuts he had to start the year, so in comparison two cuts made in his last two events is a step up to where he was this time last year on arriving at TPC Scottsdale.
The final piece of the jigsaw for me is that we are getting 200-1 on a player who has been knocking on the door for his first PGA tour win for a while now and who has had 5 place money finishes in less than 30 PGA tour starts since this time last year, so basically he has made the frame on average once in just under every six starts.
UPDATED 30th JAN
TRADER PICK - HUNTER MAHAN FINISHED M/C
Those who read my blog before Christmas on players to follow for 2018 will know that I put forward Hunter Mahan as my pick for 2018 Comeback Player of the year.
A couple of outings in to the new calendar year Hunter hasn't exactly pulled up any trees but he has made both cuts and he played very nicely for the first two days at Torrey Pines before fading over the weekend.
My hope now is that Hunter can continue to build on the good signs he showed over the first two rounds at Torrey on another course he has had great success on in the past, including a win in 2010.
Currently trading at 320+