Waste Management Phoenix Open
It was a disappointing week for us at Torrey Pines. We were never in the hunt at any point and the only sniff of a place even came from Bradley on Sunday when he made three birdies early on.
Unfortunately for us he then faltered fairly quickly and that was the end of our week.
Still, that’s the nature of golf betting, inevitably you will get weeks like that from time to time and all you can do is take them on the chin and move on.
So, move on we shall and 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 33rd 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, nicknamed the Coliseum. This hole is basically an amphitheatre surrounded by 20,000 + fans who will boo you in unison if you hit a bad tee shot.
In addition the fact that the event traditionally falls on Super Bowl weekend adds to the overall party atmosphere.
The field from a betting perspective is headed up by Sun Devil Jon Rahm. Justin Thomas and course specialist Hideki Matsuyama.
These are then followed by defending champion Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele 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.
TPC Scottsdale is set in the Arizona desert and as such we should be looking this week at players with strong form in in other Desert events such as the Reno Tahoe Open, The Desert Classic and the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, as well as on the European Tour in Dubai.
In addition it is worth noting the event is played at altitude of approximately 1250ft above sea level.
As well as the Reno Tahoe Open and the Shriners other events played on the PGA Tour at altitude include the WGC Mexico and the CJ Cup.
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 will 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 Steele, Kuchar, Simpson, Spaun, Weekley & English all making the frame in the past three years alongside Hideki Matsuyama.
Undoubtedly bombing it off the tee is still an advantage but keeping it in play and finding the greens seems to have become more relevant.
The last ten winners of the event have been as follows;
2018 G Woodland
2017 H Matsuyama
2016 H Matsuyama
2015 B Koepka
2014 K Stadler
2013 P Mickelson
2012 K Stanley
2011 M Wilson
2010 H Mahan
2009 K Perry
Until his withdrawal with injury last year Hideki had been the dominant player in the event over a four year stretch with two wins, a second place and a fourth place to his name.
Three of the past ten winners here, Koepka, Stadler and Stanley were all notching their first PGA Tour victories.
Looking at these winners there is no real pattern that emerges in relation to current form coming in to the event, in that five of them had posted a top 10 finish on the tour already that season whilst five of them had not posted a top 20 between them!
If we look more closely at the previous form in desert events though this does offer up some more clues.
Last years winner Woodland had previously won the Reno Tahoe event and finished 5th here whilst the winner for the previous two years Matsuyama had come 2nd here in 2015 and 4th in 2014.
If we then dig deeper Koepka had finished 3rd in the Dubai Desert Classic the year before winning here whilst Stadler, who was born in Nevada, was something of a desert specialist, having previously finished 11th, 5th and 2nd in Reno as well as 11th here the year before winning.
Go back even further and Mickelson was a two time winner here prior to his win in 2013, as well as having previously tasted success in the Desert Classic. In addition of course Phil has strong ties with the area having attended college in Arizona.
2012 winner Kyle Stanley had finished 10th at the Shriners the year before and in addition came here in strong form having memorably lost the previous weeks tournament at Torrey Pines with a meltdown on the 18th hole.
2011 winner Mark Wilson had won two starts previously in Hawaii, in addition he had posted a 9th place and 11th place finish in this event over the previous three years as well as a top 10 in Reno and at the Shriners.
2010 winner Hunter Mahan had posted a previous top 10 finish here and to complete the picture 2009 winner Kenny Perry had two previous top 10s here, as well as a great previous history in the Desert Classic, including a win.
So there you have it then! To sum up every one of the past ten winners had posted previous top 10 finishes in Desert events, whilst eight of them had posted one either in this event or in Reno.
Over the last 5yrs the winning score has ranged from -14 to -18, which was Woodland’s total last year].
As you would always expect for this event the forecast is for a dry, predominantly sunny week with temperatures in the mid 70s.
Looking at the forecast though as we get to the weekend it looks like the sunshine will give way to cloud cover.
Wind does not look to be an issue with nothing more than 6-8mph in the forecast all week.
As I always say though this could all change!
In all honesty the top of the market looks very strong this week and I would not be surprised one bit if anyone of Rahm, Thomas or Matsuyama to name but three lift the trophy.
Therein however lies the problem in backing anyone of these guys, in that I am struggling to separate them.
As we saw with Adam Long only two weeks ago all of ‘these guys are good’ and if you throw all your eggs in to Rahm at 7-1 for example there is always a danger of one player beating him home.
You could of course make a strong case for just one meaty e/w bet on Rahm at 7s and based on his current form you would expect to at very least make a small profit via the e/w section and if this is your preferred strategy I wouldn’t try and put you off.
For the purposes of this column however it would not be much of a read if I simply put up Rahm at 5pts e/w, so, as always I have gone in search of the e/w value elsewhere, which I believe is to be found.
As a result I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
BYEONG HUN AN – 50-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 20th
First up for us this week is Korean Ben An.
An has been on everyone’s radar for a while now as a PGA Tour winner in waiting and he came close to delivering that first victory in Canada last summer when we were on board.
Sadly it wasn’t quite to be that week, however it was another strong result in a really solid season in the States, which saw him notch two 2nd place finishes and miss no cuts from early June onwards.
An has shown over recent years that he is a big fan of desert golf by notching four consecutive top 15 finishes in the Dubai Desert Classic, the latest of which came over the weekend.
As well as performing well in Dubai over the years many of you will I’m sure remember that Ben had the 2017 edition of the WM Phoenix Open in his grasp when he lead through three rounds.
On that occasion Ben found the pressure too much on the Sunday as he limped home with a round of 73 to fall back in to 6th place, however it was another strong indicator that Ben enjoys his time in the desert.
My one slight concern around the 27yr old this week is that he will be arriving in Phoenix off the back of his week in Dubai and that of course is quite a change of time zones.
I did however take the plunge on Ben in Canada last summer when he was coming straight from the Open and that proved to be the right move, so on that basis I am happy to risk that Ben will be able to handle the different time zone this week.
All in all in a week when the market leaders look strong I am happy to take a chance at the e/w price on offer that this class act can rise to the occasion on a course that suits his game.
MATT KUCHAR – 33-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 4th
Heading back towards the top of the market and the player that appeals to me most at the prices on offer is Matt Kuchar.
As those of you who follow my twitter account will know I have got in to a few heated debates over the recent weeks with regards to whether a player has been ‘value’, and whether they are priced correctly compared to those around them in the market.
Well, this week yet again I find myself trying to fathom a players price in my head compared to others.
Lets look at the facts, we have a player who has always been considered one of the games strongest performers, has delivered high finishes week in week out and who has come close to winning majors.
The one criticism of course has been that he has struggled to get over the line and win. All this though has now changed emphatically and Smiley Matt has delivered two trophy’s in his last three starts.
Then we look at his record on the course and since the redesign he has posted two top 10 finishes here in three visits.
So to sum up, we have a world class player in the form of his life and on a course that he likes and on that basis I was fully expecting him to be 20-1 to 25-1 at best and the only reason I can see for him being priced as he is, is a layers assumption that “he surely cant win again can he?!”
Well, we have seen examples of players over the years for whom the winning habit really clicked once they turned 40, with the most notable ones being Kenny Perry and VJ Singh.
Now that Matt has passed this milestone and he has found the winning knack it is quite possible that the floodgates will open for him in a similar way and at the prices on offer I am more than happy to have him on side this week.
MARTIN LAIRD – 90-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 26th
Based on my comments above re the past ten winners of this event it would appear logical that our attention should be focused this week on desert specialists and there aren’t many players who fit that category more than Scotsman Martin Laird.
Laird attended college in Colorado and has for many years made his home in Scottsdale so it is not surprising that he should be such a good exponent of desert golf.
Martin has finished in the top 10 in this event three times over the past four years whilst his last three visits to Reno have seen him finish 15th, 7th & 6th.
Finally his first PGA Tour win came almost 10yrs ago now in the Shriners in Vegas so his form in the desert is plainly there for us all to see.
The 36yr old has three PGA Tour wins to his name in total, however it has been nearly six years since he last tasted victory at the Valero Texas Open. With this in mind one must acknowledge that Laird can be infuriatingly hard to ‘catch right’ as he often pops up with a decent finish when you least expect it.
If we look at Laird’s last two seasons on tour though his best results/most consistent patches of golf seem to have come in the ‘wrap around’ part of the schedule. In other words either in the fall events or in the early West Coast events of the following year.
This again seems to be the pattern Martin is setting for 18/19 as after notching nothing better than his 15th place at the Barracuda between April and the end of the 17/18 season, he posted a 7th place finish at the Sanderson Farms in the fall.
With regards to his performance at Torrey Pines Martin faded slightly on Sunday however this should not detract from the fact that he performed very well for the first three days showing his game ‘is close’.
The one area in particular that hugely encouraged me was Martin’s long game stats over the week.
This is an area he has struggled in over the past couple of seasons particularly. In 2017/18 he ranked 76th in DA and 110th in GIR, whilst so far this season he ranks 190th & 125th respectively in these areas.
At Torrey Pines however he ranked 1st for GIR through the first three rounds and on Saturday he hit all 18 greens in regulation.
I’ve noted above that GIR has become a more important stat in this event over this past few years so if the Scotsman can keep up this really strong iron play this week, on a course he is clearly really comfortable on, I can see him coming very close to making a long overdue return to the winners enclosure.
ANDREW PUTNAM – 60-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
I have mentioned above that form in the Barracuda Championship which is played at altitude in Reno is an incredibly huge pointer to success this week, and on that basis I like the chances of Andrew Putnam joining Gary Woodland in completing the Barracuda/Phoenix double.
This will be the third time we have had Putnam onside in five events this calendar year and I make no excuses for this, particularly as he gave us a nice place return at the Sony Open.
Putnam will be making his debut at TPC Scottsdale this week so we have no course form to go on, however he now resides in Scottsdale so one must assume that he will be very familiar with the course this week and will be very much ‘up’ for what will basically be a home game for him.
It’s also worth noting that In addition to his win in Reno last August the 30yr old has played well in his two other stops in the desert over the past year at the Desert Classic, so clearly Desert golf agrees with him.
Putnam has not missed a cut on tour since last July and with two top 4 starts in his last four events he is clearly riding the crest of awave at the moment. He also currently ranks No 1 for SGP on the 18/19 season.
It is not uncommon when a Tour player lands their first PGA Tour win for then to experience a slump in form for a while, however this is clearly not the case with Andrew and I can see him making a big push for his second PGA Tour win this week.
JJ SPAUN – 125-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 50th
For our final selection this week I am going with California native JJ Spaun.
I backed JJ in this event last year only for him to withdraw during his first round with an injury.
On that basis it may be considered brave for me to get stuck in to him again this year, however there are sound reasons for thinking this could be the event that he lands his first PGA Tour victory in.
John Michael Spaun Jnr to give him his full name has been knocking on the door of that first victory for a while now and in his 2 and a bit full years on the tour he has posted five top 5 finishes.
One of the main reasons for liking the look of JJ this week is that two of those top 5s have come in desert events, one here when he finished 4th a couple of years ago and one when he finished 3rd at the Barracuda last August.
After a strong start to the 18/19 season last fall the newly engaged 28yr old has started the 2019 calendar year slowly with a 51st place finish in the Desert Classic and a MC at Torrey Pines.
As already established though based on history current form is not nearly as key this week as previous form in desert events.
In addition JJ has shown with his top 3 finishes at the Byron Nelson and The Barracuda last year that he can find a big result out of nowhere.
The strength of Spaun’s game is undoubtedly his iron play and as mentioned earlier this is certainly more of a factor at TPC Scottsdale since the redesign in 2014.
Spaun is certainly a winner waiting to happen on the tour and at the prices on offer this week I am happy to have him on side to complete our team.
UPDATED 29th JANUARY
TRADER JOEL DAHMEN FINISHED MC - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 190
For this weeks trader pick I have chosen to go with local Scottsdale resident Joel Dahmen.
Dahmen emabarked on his third full season on the PGA Tour last fall and he is currently on an incfredibly consistent run of form.
In this run he has made the cut in each of the eight events that he has tee'd it up in so far in this campaign.
For those that like to follow progressive form figures it is also worth noting that his last 6 events have seen him finish 69 41 37 22 9.
The 9th place finish came on his most recent start last weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open so the 31yr old should be arriving back in Scottsdale for his home town game in fine spirits.
We have seen with Dahmen in his short time on tour that he tends to follow one good result with another.
This can be seen by the fact that his only two top 20 finishes in his first year on tour came in back to back weeks, whilst last season he posted two consecutive top 20s in May and four more consecutive top 20s in July, which included three top 10s.
In fact only once in his two and a bit seasons on the tour has Joel not followed an initial top 20 finish with another.
Looking at this it is clear to me that Joel is what we would refer to as a 'streak player' and I would expect him to follow his good performance last week with another strong showing this week and on this basis I am keen to hace him onside as our trader selection.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 200