If you like your golf rowdy and raucous then you are in luck this week as the PGA Tour heads down to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the famous TPC Scottsdale course where the crowds are huge and the beers flow accordingly.
In this atmosphere players sink or swim. It all comes to a head on the 16th hole. A short par three with stadium sized grandstands all around. So raucous are the crowds on this hole that players once tried to keep them on side by throwing all sorts of goodies into the stands. That has been banned now so only good shots will keep the baying masses at ease.
Brooks Koepka tamed both the 16th hole and the exciting finish to win by a solitary shot here and he makes the first defence of a PGA Tour title this week. He is 20/1 to make a successful defence.
TPC Scottsdale underwent some renovations before last year’s tournament but in truth not a whole lot changed. The scoring was slightly lower and drives were a bit shorter but not too many other statistics stood out as a discernible change from previous layouts.
The course is a par 71 which measures 7,266 yards but we’re in the desert here so it doesn’t play every one of those yards. There is no real advantage in accuracy or length on this course. It tests all parts of a game. Usually the best player on the week wins. If there are anything traits to take note of then scrambling and putting might be the difference but a good all round game should go well here.
The finish to this course is particularly appealing. The 16th hole is a great par 3 in the intimidating atmosphere with the 17th hole a drivable par four with water in play and then the last hole is a really daunting par four with water all down the left hand side and no nice lies if you miss the fairway to the right so plenty of drama will take place down the stretch on Sunday.
Bubba Watson has a couple of runners up finishes in this tournament so he is probably a worthy favourite but he has chucked this event away before and while he seems to have matured since then he does still have his strange days. He’s 12/1 to win but there’s better value around for me.
Rickie Fowler is 16/1 to put last week’s missed cut behind him and win for the second time in three weeks while Brandt Snedeker is 18/1 to back up last week’s win with another one here. Koepka is 20/1 and then it is Hideki Matsuyama who is a 25/1 shot. It is 28/1 bar those in a competitive betting heat.
My first pick this week is a player I’ve been keen on for well over a year now and we are finally seeing why this season. That is Kevin Kisner.
Kisner arrives in Phoenix leading the FedEx Cup standings and that is no fluke. Not only has he won his first PGA Tour title at the RSM Classic prior to Christmas but he was runner up in the HSBC Champions in China and actually has four straight top nine finishes on tour this year.
Kisner ranks high in all the key statistics be it greens hit, strokes gained putting or his all-around game and while his form on this course might not be what he would like, never has he teed it up in the form he is in right now so I really fancy Kisner to go very close on Sunday.
My second pick has also won a tournament this season already and that is Jason Dufner. Dufner winning a tournament doesn’t necessarily surprise me but winning a shootout like the CareerBuilder Challenge did.
The immediate thing to jump out at that tournament was his putting and given the never in doubt, always solid and reliable tee to green game he possesses if he putts to that level this week he’s going to go very close.
Dufner is a confident animal at the minute and that confidence can see him roll back to the years and the sort of form that saw him to a runner up finish here in 2010 and another top 10 finish a year later.
The man who followed Dufner home in the CareerBuilder is of interest to me too. That is David Lingmerth, another really solid golfer. That tournament was the Swede’s fourth top 15 finish of the season so he is putting together yet another extremely competitive campaign.
Lingmerth is currently ninth in the all-around ranking on the PGA Tour and that really is a true reflection of the quality he has in his ball striking right now. He is also safely inside the top 30 in par 4 scoring which could be critical this week and with his long game in such good shape I’m expecting him to go close once again.
I’m not sure how much we can take out of the final round from last week because conditions in that were inferiorly more difficult than anything that will be experienced this week but there has to be some sort of significance in Robert Streb’s final round of level par on a day where scoring in the 80s was no disgrace.
At the very least it shows how in control of his golf ball he must have been and that is a big thing this week so I’m going to take the American here. He hits a lot of greens and holes a lot of putts which is an ideal combination for this golf course. What is more is he made the top 10 here on debut last year and looks like he is swinging it well enough to build on that this week.
Even if his final round last week means nothing this week he will have taken a lot of confidence from it and that is confidence he can use to his advantage over the four days of this event.
Back K.Kisner to win Waste Management Phoenix Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-7)
Back J.Dufner to win Waste Management Phoenix Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-7)
Back D.Lingmerth to win Waste Management Phoenix Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Stan James (1/4 1-6)
Back R.Streb to win Waste Management Phoenix Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-7)