Prize Fund – $6,300,000
Winner’s Share – $1,134,000
Course – TPC Scottsdale (7,216 yards par 71)
Our 2014 Picks – Bubba Watson (T2), Hideki Matsuyama (T4), Marc Leishman (MC), Charley Hoffman (T61), Justin Leonard (MC)
It’s been another crazy week in the world of golf. Revelations about Robert Allenby’s ‘kidnapping’ ordeal, John Daly and his smoking, diet coking fitness regime and Bill Haas showing us all he could have been a decent baseball player. Gotta love it.
From a betting perspective, we’ve been unlucky again, missing out by a shot with Webb Simpson, whilst Oliver Fisher and George Coetzee couldn’t sustain their challenge in Europe. So, we’re moving on with great confidence in that luck turning around in what is one of our absolute favourite tournaments in golf.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open captures the imagination every year mainly due to the wonderful host course that is the aptly named Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. The only proper ‘stadium’ hole in the sport will face every player on the par 3 16th – cue madness, 20,000 fans screaming, caddie running and well, just downright ridiculousness.
The par 71 plays at 7,216 yards and ultimately tests every part of your game. 8 of the last 10 winners averaged in and around 300 yards off the tee, which shows the bigger hitters tend to do well here. In fact only 1 of the top 11 averaged less than 300 yards last year. There are reachable par 5s, the drivable par 4 17th and simply a greater opportunity for birdies when further down the fairway because the pins are far easier to attack.
However, GIR and all-round play near the greens will ultimately be the difference, as proven by Kevin Stadler in his victory last year. His stats were ridiculously consistent across the board – 27th driving distance, 10th accuracy, 10th GIR and 17th putting average.
Scrambling and bunker play will come into it, we have seen it so often at Scottsdale, so no matter how consistent you are tee to green, there could be that 1 or 2 shot swing from the sand that makes the difference.
It will also be useful to look at birdie and general putting stats because the average winning score since the turn of the millennium is -18, which shows you do need to go low in order to compete here.
All in all, it’s a great showcase for the game, bringing it to a new audience and dramatising it in a completely different way, so it undeniably sits inside our top 5 favourite tournaments. Sit back, enjoy and hopefully win some money!
DON’T FORGET – Our weekly competition with renowned magazine Golf Monthly continues, take a peak at the end of our selections to see how our stakes have been distributed this time.
You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Ryan Palmer (33/1 various)
Now, we have to admit the dilemmas we had over the number 1 berth in our plans. We were so tempted by Phil Mickelson at 28s with Coral (he has since dropped though…) but we just didn’t know what to make of his form and early season tendencies. It felt more of a decision ruled with heart over head. So, we went with head.
That brought us over to Ryan Palmer. He was simply an option that could not be ignored and he hasn’t ever really produced for us when staking, so that shows how good we think his chances are here this week.
Firstly, he has shown some superb glimpses of stellar golf in recent outings. He hasn’t finished outside the top 22 in his last 4 starts and has shot a couple of very low scores. We know the Franklin Templeton shootout isn’t classed as a Tour event, but he did record a 59 there, he then shot a 63 in Hawaii a couple of weeks back, moving onto the Humana Challenge where he went as low as 61 in his second round eventually going on to finish T10.
You might ask, well why hasn’t he won anything then and that is a question we’ve had to ponder. His other rounds aren’t full of duffs and horribly high scores, but they haven’t quite matched up to the one round of genius. But looking at his progressions over those 4 tournaments, they’re getting better, tighter and ultimately closer to a significant challenge for victory.
He will be coming onto a course where he’s played very well before, with a T5 and 2nd place finish in the past and it is a place that should suit his style. He’s long off the tee, a cracking iron player, good around and on the greens and loves going low when in the mood.
The perfect player we talked about earlier – last year he was 23rd driving distance, 46th GIR, 35th strokes gained putting, 9th birdie average, 15th scoring average and 45th sand save percentage.
A real cracking prospect.
Harris English (40/1 various)
Not one of the most obvious mid-range bets, but Harris English offers a lot considering what’s needed for this tournament. He is one of the most consistent all-round players in the game, especially tee-to-green and this is the sort of track that should suit.
He finished T9 last year, but had a serious chance going into the final day. Just 3 behind, he played some fine golf to get into the T3 position, but just like several others around him (the famous Bubba moment…) he had a pretty horrible Sunday shooting a 71.
A rare poor round, but over the course of the year, we feel he’s really improved as top golfer, so much so he nearly squeezed into a Ryder Cup place.
He’s been in fine form as well recently – a solid T30 finish last week, nothing spectacular, but the T3 and T2 finished that preceded it show it all. A cracking performance in Hawaii, with 4 rounds in the 60’s. He also shot a 57 and 62 at the shootout before Christmas, so he is in fine, fine fettle.
He’s 41st in driving distance, 13th GIR, 28th total putting, 8th scoring average and 15th scrambling. The complete package.
Robert Streb (70/1 StanJames)
Now to be fair, 70/1 is a cracking price for a player who is actually currently 2nd in the FedEx Cup rankings. That’s how well Robert Streb has been playing and how under the radar it’s been.
He’s played in 7 of the early tournaments, with the worst finish of T37, a win at the McGladrey Classic and 3 other top 10s. That is some going.
On his last outing in Hawaii he finished T17, but showed his scoring prowess with an opening round of 63 and that will hold him in cracking stead for Scottsdale. Admittedly he hasn’t played here before, but when you look at his all-round game, you can’t help but think he could be up there.
47th driving distance, 41st GIR, 14th strokes gained putting, 16th birdie average, 3rd scoring average, 16th sand-save percentage and 31st scrambling for 2015. You can’t get better all-round stats than that.
Shawn Stefani (80/1 various)
Whenever we’ve seen Shawn Stefani playing well, he is frighteningly long and straight off the tee – it sets up for the most attacking and potentially devastating style for courses like Scottsdale – last year was 6th for total driving (31st distance and 53rd accuracy.)
Much like Streb, he has had a fine start to the season, currently finding himself 11th in the FedEx Cup rankings. 2nd at Mayakoba, T6 in Hawaii and T15 at the Humana Challenge. That’s some form. He was inside the top 32 for distance and accuracy in all 3 tournaments, whilst he didn’t drop out the top 11 for GIR.
He is hitting the ball magnificently and we cannot tell you how dangerous he is when he’s in this sort of form. He may have only played here once, going on to miss the cut, but we just have a sneaky feeling about him for this.
Kevin Na (100/1 Coral) and Rory Sabbatini (125/1 Coral)
Two very cheeky outsiders this week in the form of Kevin Na and Rory Sabbatini.
Firstly, Na who hasn’t been playing particularly well to start off 2015, however you cannot look past that form he has here. 4 top 5’s in his last 9 outings and rarely does he play badly here.
Bizarre considering his lack of length off the tee, but he is a fine, fine player tee-to-green and around the greens.
Secondly, Rory Sabbatini has played here many times and not really penetrated the top 10, but he is squeaking into a bit of form and could challenge here. He finished T7 at the shootout, recording a low round of 60 and on his way to a T6 at the Sony Open he shot a 64 and 64, which should have meant he challenged, but a 74 on the Friday put pay to that.
Even last week he finished T24, shooting a 63 and if he can get 4 rounds together, then you never know.
Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£2 e/w on Ryan Palmer at 33/1
£1.40 e/w on Harris English at 40/1
£1.10 e/w on Robert Streb at 66/1
£0.50 e/w on Shawn Stefani at 80/1
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 5 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power
Find the Golf Monthly Preview and their £10 picks here – (Link to be published)
Current Standings after 2 weeks
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £-13 European Tour: £-10
PGA Tour: £-17.88 PGA Tour: £64
Total: £-30.88 Total: £54