Guess who’s back? Back again. Tiger’s back. Can he win? Well probably not, but Tiger Woods playing the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open brings back memories of his famous ace there and is something most golf fans would love to witness. Tiger aside there is a stellar field turning up to TPC Scottsdale including three-time winner Phil Mickelson who has included this event in his carefully managed run-up to Augusta.
The 7,152 yard, par 71 Stadium Course was renovated in 2014 with over 250 trees added, a number of challenging bunkers introduced and the relaying of all the greens. The co-designer of the course, Tom Weiskopf, was drafted in with the brief of making the course challenging for the PGA Tour stars but also playable for the average golfer as it is open to the public throughout the year. To that end, the changes may throw the more experienced players briefly but you can still expect plenty of good scoring especially as the tournament progresses. The course is perhaps best known for the raucous atmosphere of the 16th hole. As the players walk from tee to green it has become tradition for them to throw goodies to the 20,000 fans who are packed in all around the hole.
A quick look at the outright market shows that there is no clear favourite. The bookies are torn between Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson for favourite status. Under those two Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Big Phil are expected to have good weeks. Bubba finished runner-up last year after he was caught by eventual winner Kevin Stadler. This is Stadler’s home course and without him in the field this year, Bubba could well go one better. The two-time Masters winner plays his own game and ‘Bubba golf’ has all the elements needed for success this week. He can be backed at 16/1 with Totesport and is worth each-way consideration.
Hunter Mahan won the 2010 version of this tournament and at 40/1 generally his game appeals. The stats shows he is second in greens hit this season and in terms of strokes gained tee-to-green he’s 28th. Those are good indicators of a strong showing at the Phoenix Open. It’s a big price for someone who invariably finishes in the top 10 at this event so get involved, even if on each-way terms.
Finally, let’s try and nail a long-odds selection. Step up to the plate Francesco Molinari. The Italian had a poor season by his high standards last year but along with coach Denis Pugh he put in a great deal of work over the summer and his game has shown signs of improvement. Molinari finished tied for 10th at last week’s Humana Challenge and at 66/1 with Ladbrokes he is an interesting small stakes option. The same firm also go 5/1 that Molinari will fare at least as well as last week and finish within the top 10 places.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open attracts the most fans of any event on the regular PGA Tour. Who will send the fans wild on the 16th and will anyone hit a shot poor enough to deserve a chorus of boos? If the players tipped above perform though, it will be us cheering come Sunday night, that’s for sure.