Our golf scribe takes a look at the betting for the 2017 Waste Managment Phoenix Open, which gets underway this Thursday.
Bizarrely dubbed ‘The Greatest Show on Grass’, the Waste Management Phoenix Open - I know, sexy right - has a reputation for being one of the most raucous events on tour, with crowds almost encouraged to abandon the dogmatic decorum that is seen at most events. A strong field tees it up this week with Jordan Spieth currently leading most markets. Defending champion Matsuyama will no doubt have something to say about that while Justin Thomas returns to try make it a hat-trick of victories.
Originally known as the Arizona Open in 1932, this is one of the oldest tournaments on the tour. It has a barnstorming finish, with the barmy atmosphere of the signature par 3-16th a feature of the event. But there’s also the reachable par 5-15th, with water in play, as well as the drivable par 4-17th. So the final swing of the course has all the ingredients for high theatre. Ricky Fowler found that out to his detriment last year at the 17th.
Perhaps the key stat this week is greens in regulation. Matsuyama ranked top of the tree for that stat last season, while four of the top five ranked inside the top 8. Brooks Koepka ranked 4th en route to victory the previous season. But the carnival atmosphere and specific course dimensions give this course a character that almost defies categorization. Only Phil Mickelson - in recent years - has been able to navigate the final round travails successfully after leading round three, showing how much of an elephant’s graveyard this course can be.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open | Thursday 2 February - Sunday 5 February | TPC Scottsdale, Arizona
2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-14)*playoff | 2015: Brooks Koepka (-15) | 2014: Kevin Stadler (-16)
2013: Phil Mickelson (-28) | 2012: Kyle Stanley (-15)
To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 7/1 | Justin Thomas 9/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 11/1 | Jon Rahm 20/1 | Phil Mickelson 25/1
Bubba Watson – To Win 33/1 & To Place 7/1
Amongst the most polarising figures in world golf, Watson famously enraged segments of the Arizona faithful last year by stating that he wasn’t a huge fan of the course. He was booed raucously on Saturday at the 16th, but recovered to shoot a 66 in the final round, with the crowd giving him a rousing reception on Sunday. The comment was taken out of a context as Watson was just alluding to some of the recent changes to the course. He has finished inside the top 15 for the last four years, finishing runner-up in both 2014 and 2015. The course is built for him and the big hitters, so at 33/1 I would say this is a decent price.
Brendan Steele -To Win 40/1 & To Place 17/2
While I’m not entirely convinced that the 2-time PGA Tour winner will be victorious this week, I think he has pretty good value for a place. He has kept his form pretty well since winning the Safeway Open in October, with two 6th placed finishes at both the Tournament of Champions and the Career Builder Challenge. His course form figures of 5-6-6-26-17 indicate that he also has a fairly decent record at TPC Scottsdale.
Scott Piercy - To Win 70/1 & To Place 15/1
Once quoted as saying in regards to TPC Scottsdale “I just feel comfortable on it. I don’t know, it’s just one of those golf courses, magic kind of comes around a little bit.” The Las Vegas resident - there again a desert connection - has teed it up in this event eight times, finishing inside the top 15 five times. In 2013, the American was sitting T38 at the halfway mark, but finished 3rd after shooting a 64 on Saturday and a stunning 61 on Sunday. He hasn’t enjoyed the greatest start to the season, with his putting letting him down thus far. But he knows these Bermuda greens and at least the price is attractive.
The Man to Beat - Ryan Moore To Win 33/1 & To Place 7/1
Despite being one of the more ostensibly introverted players on tour, Moore seems to relish playing in front of voracious galleries, as evidence at last year’s Ryder Cup. Moore had a fantastic season last wear, with three top 10’s in the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs, finishing runner-up behind Rory at the Tour Championship. He then kicked off 2017 with a top three at the Tournament of Champions. He also has a brilliant form at the course, with three top 6 finishes and a further three top 20 finishes in his last 8 visits. I think Moore will relish his new-found cult status as the huge galleries should galvanise him this week.