Winning Share: $1,116,000
What a very tense final day at The Farmers Insurance Open – Scott Stallings stole a march on the field to pick up victory, pretty much from nowhere. It was gutting for us with Jason Day and Marc Leishman missing out, but what a weekend of drama that was!
What is exciting though; this drama doesn’t end there because this week the PGA Tour moves to Phoenix for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. BUT awaiting the entire field on the 16th tee is one of the greatest holes in world golf.
An amphitheatre of 20,000 fans surround the green on a par 3 where only the toughest of soles get through the other end in one piece – a sort of football meets WWE, meets Olympic Games. Superb.
We have seen some incredible scenes there before, a hole-in-one from the none other than Tiger Woods in 1997 and last year we saw respectable caddies lose their heads and take part in the now infamous ‘caddie races’ – as soon as their golfers hit their tee shots they ran to the green and the first there was the winner and received well, nothing! If one didn’t take part though, the boos of the crowd must have been unbearable.
As for the rest of the course, the aptly named Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale is a 7,216-yard par 71, which does offer birdies, but you still have to be on top of your game to find them.
In recent history the bigger hitters tend to prosper, mainly because of the reachable par 5s, driveable par 4 17th and the ability to attack pins further down the fairway. However, GIR will be vital, whilst scrambling and success out of the bunkers – which will be inevitable to every player, will ultimately separate the winner from the rest of the field.
In all honesty this is one of our favourite tournaments and we simply cannot wait to sit down for what will be a tense week of golf. We are sure you’ll enjoy it as much as us, let’s just hope we get a bit of money in return!
Bubba Watson (30/1 StanJames)
How could we not? At 30s we thought Bubba represented good value and is the sort of golfer who thrives off the big crowds that will flock through the gates. It would be too gutting to see one of our favourites up there not having backed him in the market.
By his own admission, the 2013 season was not a good year for the Floridian with only 2 top 10s in official strokeplay events to his name. At times his swing just didn’t look to be in any rhythm and we all know what happens when that swing doesn’t work. He needs flow and consistency and we must say it has started to look like something is clicking again. At the end of the day it’s only a matter of time for someone with his outstanding natural ability.
He started off with a T31 at the CIMB Classic, T8 at the final WGC event, T3 at the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge and then last week he finished T23. BUT what was impressive was how he was hitting his irons – something that will be so imperative this week. He finished joint 1st for GIR (alongside another one of our picks, who you will hear from later) and 1st in driving distance. That sort of combination could be crucial, especially when you think that he is one of the worlds finest and most imaginative scramblers in modern golf – currently 39th in scrambling and in and around the greens he has a knack of getting close – 1st for both GIR inside 75 yards and between 100-125 yards.
At the end of the day if there is anyone you would want pumping himself up before the crowds, then Bubba Watson would be your first choice. He is the epitome of the word showman, so you can expect great things this week. He really needs to properly kick start his form ahead of the big tournaments coming up.
Hideki Matsuyama (50/1 various)
One of the finest young talents in the game, yes Hideki Matsuyama has a big future but we (and many others) are certain that PGA Tour wins are not too far away.
Last season he arrived at the US Open unknown to many, finishing T10 before going on to show some incredibly consistent golf – his lowest finish was T25!
Obviously he has never played here before, so it will be interesting to see how the young Japanese star handles the pressure of the enormous crowd, but you cannot look much further than majors and 2 top 10s and a top 20 prove his mental toughness.
He is a long hitter – 5th in driving distance, a top scrambler and putter – 19th and 6th respectively, whilst his ability from the sand has always proven to be impressive – 9th. Although on the stats site it says he is over 100th in GIR, we have seen how incredible his irons are and all we can say is trust us that he can find greens with ease when he is in full flow.
Matsuyama is the sort of golfer that makes the game look so easy and what a way it would be to announce yourself to the world by winning such a big tournament.
Marc Leishman (50/1 BetVictor)
We obviously went for the Aussie last week and he sadly couldn’t capitalize on some superb golf to grab the win, but when we took out our own private disappointment, you have to realise that T2 was a solid performance. He was the other golfer to finish T1 for GIR, 1st for proximity to the hole and 16th in driving distance. It proves what shape his irons were in and when you get that sort of rhythm, you tend to carry it on for a while.
We do admit he doesn’t have the best history here, his best finish a T19 2 years ago, but we have been so impressed with him that when you think of his attributes, then it could be a dangerous combination.
45th in scrambling, 22nd strokes gained putting and 41st in sand save percentage. He really has all the tools to do something historic on this course.
Charley Hoffman (50/1 BetVictor)
Well we have gone with Charley Hoffman many times in the past and he has often let us down by putting like a 5-year old, but this time we have faith in the newer, trimmed version of The Hoff.
Firstly, back in 2009 he finished 2nd after losing by a shot in a playoff to Kenny Perry and although his performances since then has not been the best, at least he has proven his ability on the course.
He is also coming in the week in good form, having recorded 2 top 10s, including an impressive T7 last week, when he shot a faultless 67 on the Sunday. What was interesting was his putting looked better than usual, he still hits the ball far and finds greens for fun – 21st in driving distance, 45th GIR and 24th in scrambling.
The Hoff seems to be decent value considering his class tee to green and nothing will faze him in front of the crowd.
Justin Leonard (90/1 StanJames)
41-year old Justin Leonard has been there and done it all. A former major champion and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, in our opinion Leonard still has the game for more wins.
He is in good knick at the moment, finishing T28 last week (although he perhaps should have been higher) and T3 the week before. He has an inconsistent record here, with a couple of top 10s and a few missed cuts, but he will have knowledge of all the nooks and crannies that the course will throw at him and when you think of his attributes, barring distance off the tee, he could challenge the leaders come the weekend.
19th driving accuracy, 20th strokes gained putting, 20th sand save percentage and 3rd in scrambling all prove how the old-timer could get the youthful crowd buzzing!