PHOENIX OPEN: The perfectly-named Waste Management Phoenix Open gets underway on Thursday, and several big names have spurned the Saudi Arabian appearance fee money to instead spend the week with the boisterous crowds of Phoenix. This is probably the only tournament in the world of professional golf where the crowd is the headliner, and all the drunk, noisy enthusiasm is really centered on one hole– the par-3 16th, a stadium setting where those getting wasted will surely be in need of some management (hehe).
But while the rowdy 16th may be the headline attraction, TPC Scottsdale offers up plenty of other chances for excitement. A par-71 that measures just under 7,300 yards, it’s a “grip it and rip it” type of course that tempts the longer players to challenge fairway bunkers and the native desert vegetation. If the longer guys are swinging the driver well, this turns into a wedge-fest, so we always see lots of low numbers here. Rickie Fowler reached 17-under last year, and though Fowler isn’t necessarily known as a bomber, the previous four editions were won by Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama (’18 and ’17), and Brooks Koepka, so you get the idea: the ability to hit it long and straight off the tee is richly rewarded at TPC Scottsdale.
Not surprisingly, a pair of guys who are known for hitting it long and straight– Jon Rahm (8.4) and Justin Thomas (9.9)— head BETDAQ’s Win Market, but if you think their prices are bit short, there are plenty of interesting options a bit further down the board, as the field is deep and full of guys with lots of course experience. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Bubba Watson (32.0)- Bubba had a quiet 2019 season as he struggled a bit with his health, logging just three top-10s in 19 starts and failing to contend in any of the majors. But one of those top-10s came in this event, where he shot 12-under and finished 4th, continuing a long line of successes he’s enjoyed at TPC Scottsdale. Despite insulting tournament organizers a couple of years ago by saying that he only plays this event for his sponsors, Watson has thrived here, missing the cut only twice in 13 career appearances and finding the top-5 four times. He started playing a bit better last fall, and he seemed to be firing on all cylinders at Torrey Pines last week in his first action of 2020, finishing 6th despite a 2nd-round 73. Since he hasn’t won in awhile it feels like Bubba is flying under the radar a bit this week, but this is a great spot for him, and his game looked ready at Torrey Pines. He’s a nice value at better than 30/1.
Jordan Spieth (64.0)- By now, we’re used to seeing Spieth with prices next to his name that would’ve seemed unfathomable a couple of years ago, as the whole world knows that he’s been struggling to regain the form that produced 3 major wins and propelled him to the top of the world rankings. His 2020 debut came last week, and he didn’t excite anybody with his T55 at the Farmers. But the truth is Torrey Pines will never be a good track for him– it’s just too long– and Spieth said all the right things afterwards about being really close with his ball-striking. The putting– which deserted him for a stretch in 2018– is back to an elite level, and there are very few players who can match Spieth’s magic around the greens, as he currently ranks 3rd on Tour in Strokes Gained Around the Green. He has a nice history at TPC Scottsdale, finding the top-10 twice in three career appearances at this event, and the perfect bermuda greens have always lended themselves to great putting rounds. We haven’t seen enough of Spieth over the last 3 months to definitively say that he’s still struggling, so I’m going to take him at his word that he likes where he’s at with his game, and take a chance on him at 64.0. We certainly know that he’s very capable of winning this week.
Brendan Steele (126.0)- I wouldn’t worry too much about his missed cut at the Farmers last week, as Torrey Pines is a bit long for a player like Steele. TPC Scottsdale, on the other hand, is right in his wheelhouse, and Steele has made a small fortune in this event over the years, finishing 6th or better 4 times in his last 8 appearances, including a T3 in 2018. That means he should be plenty comfortable and confident this week, and he’s played some great golf in the not-too-distant past, finishing runner-up in the Sony Open three weeks ago. So here we have a guy that nearly won earlier this month, contends at this tournament nearly every year, and ranks in the top-15 on Tour in Total Driving, a stat which has proven to be very predictive at TPC Scottsdale. At a price like 126.0, what more could you ask for? Steele is an absolute bargain this week.