Sport fans who don’t follow golf tend to think of it as a genteel sport where even the best of the action is met with polite applause. That way of thinking is blown out of the water by the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The tournament has steadily built to the point where around 600,000 fans pour through the gates at TPC Scottsdale and things get rowdy to say the least. This event may well have the worst name in golf (let’s just call it the Phoenix Open shall we?) but it certainly has the best atmosphere, unless perhaps you are a golfing traditionalist.
In places – most notably around the par three 16th hole – the atmosphere is more akin to a football stadium than a golf tournament. It’s not to every player’s liking, nor to every fan’s, but many of the stars of the PGA Tour thrive with the buzz of the Phoenix Open and make sure to include it in their itinerary every season. It also brings new fans to the game which can only be positive and it has produced some thrilling finishes over the years too.
Betting Tips for 10th to 13th February 2022
Professional golf is in a strange place at the moment with continued moves to fracture the sport at the top level with breakaway leagues. Predictably, some of those involved have claimed that their motives are to ‘grow the game’ but there are solutions to golf’s need to change and bring in more fans much closer to home than Saudi Arabia.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open has done superb work growing the game of golf in the locality of Scottsdale, Arizona and much further afield. The organisers have taken the original good idea of hosting a fan-friendly tournament at a stadium golf course and run with it.
The Phoenix Open now welcomes upwards of 700,000 fans during tournament week. Those fans are treated to some wonderful viewing areas, most notably around the tough closing stretch of holes from 15 onwards. The combination of a raucous atmosphere, a course that almost guarantees drama and some of the best golfers in the world makes this a truly unique event that is a long way from your run of the mill PGA Tour event.
Dealing with the huge numbers of fans and the sheer noise of a packed TPC Scottsdale is arguably the most important challenge that golfers must deal with to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Approach play is a very close second though with a host of elite ball strikers either winning the tournament or coming close in recent years. Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka have both won twice in Arizona while even surprise winners such as Kyle Stanley and Mark Wilson leaned heavily into their solid, reliable play from tee to green.
The top two in the betting for this year’s edition, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, are both among the best ball strikers in the world. Rahm and Thomas rank sixth and 14th respectively for strokes gained from tee to green on the PGA Tour this season and it is of little surprise they have been so well backed in Arizona.
Rahm has an emotional attachment to this tournament having played in it as an amateur while a student at Arizona State University but it’s Thomas who makes the most betting appeal at odds of 12/1. Even without his best golf, Thomas’s 2021-22 season finishes read T18-3-T5-T5-T20. In each of those five events he has gained strokes on the field with his approach play and he looked very much like a player on the verge of doing something special at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago. Thomas could have a very good 2022 ahead of him and this is the perfect place for him to get his first win of the year.
Thomas is one of the players that Viktor Hovland surely draws inspiration from. The Norwegian took to the PGA Tour with a certain level of confidence that he could compete at the top level and so it has proven to be. Hovland is a three-time PGA Tour winner and his recent win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship made it two victories on the DP World Tour. Like so many younger golfers, Hovland possesses great power and works hard on his athleticism but it’s his approach play that really sets him apart and may see him challenge at TPC Scottsdale at odds of 18/1.
|2022||TPC Scottsdale||Scottie Scheffler|
|2021||TPC Scottsdale||Brooks Koepka|
|2020||TPC Scottsdale||Webb Simpson|
|2019||TPC Scottsdale||Rickie Fowler|
|2018||TPC Scottsdale||Gary Woodland|
2022: Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler’s first PGA Tour victory was well worth the wait. By normal PGA Tour standards, the 25-year-old did not have to wait too long to break his duck at the top level but this is a player who could well end his career well into the double digits of wins so golf fans have been waiting for some time for him to get over the line. His golf over the last few years has been superb, including at the last Ryder Cup, and this win sees him climb to career-best of ninth in the world rankings.
As has very much become the norm for the WM Phoenix Open, he was forced beyond regulation play to finally seal the deal. Patrick Cantlay had a great chance to win the tournament but he fluffed his lines and so had to settle for a playoff. While Cantlay went into reverse it was the opposite for Scheffler. He was the least likely winner from the final group alongside defending champion Brooks Koepka and the impressive tournament invite Sahith Theegala for much of the round. But Scheffler put a bogey on the 12th hole firmly behind him to go on a charge as the back nine at TPC Scottsdale provided engrossing drama once more.
With both men having missed chances to win the tournament outright, the playoff had the feel of a shot at redemption. Scheffler and Cantlay both did all they could to ensure this chance would not slip through their hands and the playoff went to three holes. Then Scheffler came up with another moment of magic, hitting his approach shot into the 18th green to 26 feet and promptly holing the putt for a birdie that Cantlay was unable to match.
2021: Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka once remarked that he found it easier to win major championships than regular PGA Tour events. Part of the reason for that is that he can struggle for motivation at the run of the mill events but motivation was not an issue at the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open. A troubling knee injury plagued him for most of 2020 and even led to existential concerns about his game. “There was a period maybe for about two months where I just questioned whether I was ever going to be the same,” he said after proving that the worst fears were unfounded with a dramatic win at TPC Scottsdale.
Koepka started his final round in seventh place, five shots behind the leader Xander Schauffele. He ambled along nicely enough in the early part of his round but as things really began to happen for him you could sense that old competitive fire had been lit. Koepka was five under for his last six holes. That included the defining moment of the tournament where he chipped in for eagle at the par four 17th.
Just being vaguely in contention on Sunday was a win for Koepka who had missed three cuts in a row coming into the tournament. Stringing together three good rounds showed his game and body were holding up well enough to launch an attack and attack he did in devastating fashion for his second Phoenix Open title. The list of winners here shows two things about the Phoenix Open: hitting the ball a long way certainly helps and this is a tournament that attracts a top class field.
2020: Webb Simpson
For the fourth time in five years, two players could not be separated by 72 holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This time around it was Webb Simpson and big-hitting Tony Finau who made it through to a playoff.
Finau was the beneficiary of a lot of vocal support from the galleries who were keen to see him finally win for the second time on the PGA Tour. The popular Finau was in pole position with a two shot lead with just two holes to go but Simpson is the sort of character who never gives up. He secured the two birdies that he needed on 17 and 18 to make it into the playoff and then made another birdie to finish the job on the first playoff hole, sinking a 10 foot putt to consign Finau to a near miss once again.
Simpson’s attitude was rightly credited by many as the main reason for his win. It’s important not to overlook the physical and technical work that he put in, in the months before this win. He overhauled his training regime in the gym and overcame the belly putter ban to revamp his game. On the basis of this he’ll be a threat in big tournaments for some time to come.
2019: Rickie Fowler
It is said that one of the keys to success is doing things in the present that your future self will be thankful for. Rickie Fowler can testament to the importance of setting sound foundations after overcoming a very shaky final round to win the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Decked in his traditional bright orange Sunday colours and with the support of the majority of the vast crowds at TPC Scottsdale, Fowler looked a picture of confidence as he began his final round. Those fans were almost stunned into silence at what they watching as Fowler made a triple bogey seven at the 11th hole. “Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong,” said Fowler afterwards.
There was a strong sense of déjà vu for Fowler and his family who were watching on inside the ropes. He missed golden chances to win this tournament in 2010 and 2016 and it was happening again. Somehow though, he managed to do enough to finally hoist the trophy. While his father suggested that the nature of the win made it even more special, Fowler’s take was rather different, saying, “I hope I never have to go through that again.” He ended on 267, 17 under, very much a par sort of score for the winner here given victors have shot between –14 and –19 every year from 2014 to 2021.
2018: Gary Woodland
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is known for providing the most raucous atmosphere in golf. The 2018 edition, however, will be remembered for a moment of quiet reflection. That belonged to Gary Woodland who looked to the sky after seeing off the challenge of Chez Reavie in a playoff. “Yeah, that was just kind of a tribute to last year,” said a tearful Woodland, referring to the devastating loss he and his wife suffered of one of their unborn twins. “Just wanted her to know that I still love her.”
At the time, Woodland took a break of around four months off before returning to work. Making it to the Tour Championship took a huge amount of grit and doing so reminded him that he remains one of the best golfers in the world. That belief is greater than ever now after finishing on top of a stellar field in one of the PGA Tour’s most popular tournaments.
Woodland is another guy who hits a huge ball from the tee but it was his high class play from tee to green that saw him deliver the goods. Coupled with one of his best putting weeks for some time the American got the job done and will have been very pleased from a technical perspective. Mentally, he is now nicely settled and has an improved demeanour according to his caddie, Brendan Little. His happiness was obvious when his wife and son Jaxson ran out to celebrate with him after the playoff.