The Waste Management Phoenix Open
Dates: February 1-4, 2018
Course: TPC Scottsdale – Scottsdale, Arizona
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, PGA Betting Analyst, Predictem.com
There is a big game this weekend and there is little oxygen left in the room for any other sports but the most highly attended sporting event takes place this weekend somewhere other than Minnesota. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is next up on the PGA Tour schedule and TPC Scottsdale will welcome over 500,000 spectators during the week. Roughly 80,000 will watch the par-3, 16th hole alone and that coliseum is the most energetic single spot on Tour every year. Hideki Matsuyama will be looking to make it three Scottsdale wins in a row after successfully defending his 2016 title in a playoff last season. He aims to join three time Phoenix winner Phil Mickelson who is also in the field this week. Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth round out the whos who at the top of the field in this player favorite stop.
The Phoenix Open has PGA roots back to the 1930s, making this one of oldest stops on Tour but the TPC at Scottsdale certainly has one of the more modern feels given the fan-friendly and laid-back atmosphere. The 7,260 yard, par-71 course is desert golf at its best and watch for low scores as the course record of 60 has been shot on four occasions. 28-under par is the tournament record and no winner has failed to reach at least 14-under since 1999. We were treated to a Monday playoff that saw Jason Day return to the winners circle last week and a playoff is a distinct possibility here as five of the last ten Phoenix editions needed extra holes. There has been a trend that appears to favor the long hitters on Tour with many recent winners firmly considered in the bomber category. There really isnt anything specific to the TPC that would suggest that other than the simple math that says most desert courses can be played very aggressively and sometimes are prone to being overpowered. Anyone with a hot putter can win this week but make sure you have a few long ball players spread through your overall bets.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head to head matches that can be found at MyBookie. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Phoenix Open.
Justin Thomas (14 to 1 odds to win)
Matsuyama and Spieth dominate the top of the board at 9 to 1 but there is better value with Thomas, especially considering he has been one of the hottest players over the last 12 months. He has vaulted all the way to #4 in the OWGR and cruised to a T14 at the Sony a couple of weeks ago. That Hawaii stop should have been good to shake off any rust and get JT back in the swing of things, no pun intended. He could own Scottsdale as a top-10 distance player and he adds enough with the irons and the putter to have finished in the top-3 in both birdies and scoring in 2017. He is a solid scrambler and finished last season as the 7th best overall putter. Length on the front end and a solid flatstick on the back is a great recipe to do well on a week-in and week-out basis. He has found the confidence that comes with winning and is rightly in that second tier of favorites in Phoenix.
Webb Simpson (33 to 1)
Simpson is probably THE value on the board if you are comparing Scottsdale records. Simpson was the man who fell to Matsuyama in extras last season and has five other top-15 finishes here going back to the 2011 season. He has started 2018 well with a T4 at the Sony that featured a 63/65 weekend. The best stat on Webbs sheet is his proximity range with the irons. He finished last season ranked 10th in that category so he simply hits it closer to the hole than just about everyone on Tour. You really cant overemphasize how important that stat is to scoring. Shorter birdie putts are an obvious result of that proximity prowess but when you can dial-in, even your misses may still find the green. Even when Webb does miss the green, he saves par well behind the 5th best scrambling rate. An underrated putter rounds out the stat sheet and helps net a top-20 scoring average. A win is right there on paper for Simpson, he just needs to put it all together.
Gary Woodland (55 to 1)
Woodland definitely falls in the bomber category with the 13th longest driving average on Tour but he adds the second component to the bomb-and-gouge methodology as well with the 11th best GIR%. In fact, most of Garys ball striking stats are Tour average at worst but it is that always tricky putter that most often spoils it. Woodland is outside the top-150 in both GIR putting and overall putting. That inflates his scoring average and leaves him susceptible to bogey runs as his par-save rate suffers from a lack of clutch putting. He is off to a nice start with a T7 at the Sony and a T12 last week. He has had success on Poa Annua and bent greens in those events so I think he is rolling it well enough to look his way as a longshot.
Head to Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Rickie Fowler v. Marc Leishman (pick to win: Leishman)
The golf betting sites dont often make big mistakes when they do their head to head pairings but this one a small mistake, especially as I have found Leishman as a firm underdog to the popular Fowler. These players are separated by single digit rank positions in greens hit, driving distance, scoring and overall tee-to-green performance, making for a near coin-flip from a statistical perspective. Getting better than even money on a coin flip is a good bet always. Fowler is a more accurate driver and a bit better scrambler but it can be argued that he is actually more mistake prone given those advantages for Rickie only got him one spot clear of Marc in scoring average. Leishman would have won this matchup last week so cover up the names and take the better value.
J.B. Holmes v. Brendan Steele (pick to win: Holmes)
Holmes is a two time winner of this event and one of those wins was a 7-stroke run away so give the man credit for knowing how to get around Scottsdale. Steele is a much more measured and consistent player than Holmes but he has been on a mediocre run since winning the Safeway back in October. This will only by J.B.s 4th start of the year but he was in fine form last week with a solo 4th at the Farmers. This course simply sets up for Holmes. He can use his top-15 driving distance to attack the layout and net some shorter approaches than just about everyone else. That covers up for some of his less-than-accurate moments and those short iron in hand often lead to quality birdie looks. Both men scored about the same in 2017 but Steele is the higher floor, lower ceiling option this week. Brendan is the guy you want at a tough event like the Memorial or even at an Open venue but the scoring friendly TPC is more up Holmes alley.
Good luck! May all your golf predictions be winners!