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Preview & Tips

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Phoenix Open
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The strongest field in memory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open gathers at TPC Scottsdale this week.

Lured by a $20m purse, the vast majority of the world’s top 20 are present, including Nos 1, 2 and 3 - Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler is the defending champion after a victory in this event last year kick-started an incredible run of form that hit a crescendo with his win at the US Masters a couple of months later.

TPC Scottsdale is a par 71 of modest length at 7,261 yards. With Arizona at altitude, the ball flies a little further too.

Not surprisingly, birdies and eagles are needed at a fair rate to become champion and the last six winning totals are all between 16-under and 19-under inclusive. 

Americans tend to dominate and Hideki Matsuyama (twice) is the only non-US player to have hoisted the trophy here since 2007.

Perhaps that’s because the desert event is the most attended and noisiest event on the PGA Tour. 

The biggest whoops and hollers come at the famous stadium par-3 16th hole when boozed-up punters trade side bets on nearest the hole or who might hit or miss the green.

The short par-4 17th is pivotal too. Eagles are possible but so are double bogeys with water lurking.

The course was designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and features sizable Bermuda greens. We should be in for pleasant conditions, with temps in the 70s.

Angles to consider

1/ Course form

Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes, Vijay Singh and Mark Calcavecchia are all multiple champions in modern memory, with Mickelson and Calc winning three times. Both Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson had finished runner-up before winning in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Past course form is a great pointer.  

2/ SG: Approach

Scheffler did it with short game last year but generally the most reliable metric is approach play. Five of the previous six Phoenix champions were ranked in the top four for SG: Approach when winning.

3/ Par 4 Scoring 

Scheffler did however back up another strong trend, Par 4 Scoring. Three of the last six Phoenix winners had ranked 1st in that category and Scheffler made it four in seven last year by playing those holes in 11-under, two better than anyone else. There’s some logic given that the course has one extra Par 4.

Selections

The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players are selected.

Tony Finau

Finau finished runner-up here in 2020, one of the many gut-wrenching losses he suffered at the time. But three wins in 2022 show he’s a completely different animal now and ninth place at Torrey Pines on his last start suggests Finau is ready to add another ‘W’. He ranks 5th in Par 4 Scoring this season and 9th for SG: Approach so everything looks in place for a big challenge.     

Hideki Matsuyama

The Japanese star has an amazing bank of course form. Before his back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017 he’d finished second and fourth while he added top 16s in 2019 and 2020 before taking 8th last year. He was in the top 10 for Par 4 Scoring when 9th at Torrey Pines last time out and 7th on Approach at the Sony Open two tournaments ago.         

Rickie Fowler

Fowler, like Matsuyama, is another former winner here, his 2019 victory the highlight of a course record that also shows two seconds and a fourth. The American is 4th for Par 4 Scoring this season and 17th for SG: Approach. His recent reunion with coach Butch Harmon is clearly having a big effect as shown by finishes of 2nd, 6th and 11th in six starts this season.       

Tips

1.25pts e.w. Tony Finau at 20/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)

1pt e.w. Hideki Matsuyama at 30/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)

0.75pts e.w. Rickie Fowler at 55/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)