The biggest party in golf, known as "The Greatest Show on Grass," takes place this week at TPC Scottsdale as once again the Waste Management Phoenix Open kicks off Super Bowl weekend with a bang and a bunch of birdies.
It has become quite a tradition: the massively attended golf tournament in the Sonoran desert at TPC Scottsdale, serving as the pre-party for Super Bowl Sunday. In 2016, a record 618,365 fans turned out for the Waste Management Phoenix Open to watch Hideki Matsuyama win in a playoff over Rickie Fowler. The signature party spot for this golf gala is the par-3 16th hole. Grandstands and corporate hospitality suites nearly surround the entire hole and throngs of fans cheer and jeer with every shot. "Golf claps" are a rarity at the Phoenix Open. Rather it is more like a soccer match with roars, heckling and libations a plenty. It is quite an event and very entertaining to see a golf tournament take on this kind of vibe.
Inside the ropes, this tournament can also be a party of birdies. Like other desert golf tournaments, scores are often low, and here in Phoenix they have regularly been better than 20-under-par. Tom Weiskopf and Jay Moorish designed TPC Scottsdale and came back for a makeover just a few years ago. The changes were not colossal, but the winning scores have dipped into the teens since Phil Mickelson won here at 28-under-par in 2013. So sub-60 rounds and birdies in bunches are in play this week.
As far as winning a few sports bets this week, aside from what one may do with the Super Bowl, you will want to look at golfers who can go low and fire birdies -- and to stay ahead of the field, one will need to do it on the Par 4s. Greens In Regulation is always an important stat week-to-week, but it has proven to be monumental here in Phoenix most recently with the majority of your tournament winners and Top-10 finishers all ranking inside the Top 10 in that category for the week.
Jordan Spieth (10-1 via BookMaker): Spieth won the Australian Open last fall and started off the New Year in Hawaii with two straight 3rd-place finishes yet he has dropped to No. 6 in the world rankings. He finished 7th here in 2015 in his only appearance. Spieth is currently No. 1 on Tour in Greens In Regulation.
Hideki Matsuyama (10-1): Matsuyama had been on an incredible run the last few months before finally finishing 27th at the Sony and 33rd last week in San Diego. But let's not sleep on him here as in his only three trips to the event he has finished 1st (last year), 2nd (2015), and 4th (2014).
Justin Thomas (15-1): Thomas took the baton from Matsuyama as far as golfers on quite a run when he won in back-to-back weeks in Hawaii the first two weeks of January and shot a 59 in the process. Thomas missed the cut in Phoenix last year and took 17th in his rookie visit in 2015.
Jon Rahm (20-1 via 5Dimes):The young and super-talented Spaniard put it all together last week in La Jolla and made Torrey Pines home to his first PGA Tour victory. Rahm has been knocking on the door for a while now and has only missed the cut twice in the 17 Tour events he's played in his young career. He went to Arizona State so he is no stranger to TPC Scottsdale. In his only other appearance here, he finished 5th in 2015 as an amateur
Phil Mickelson (26-1): Lefty has won this event three times and holds both the course and tournament scoring records. Like Rahm, Mickelson also went to ASU and is extremely familiar with this course. After sports hernia surgery in the offseason, Phil has been playing great golf in his return to action with a 21st at the CareerBuilder and a 14th last week at Torrey Pines. Phil has not won a tournament since the 2013 British Open.
Ryan Moore (35-1): As a US Amateur Champion, we expected Moore to burst onto the scene quickly but it is really just now, years later, that he is becoming a serious player in a very crowded golf market. He was a hero at the Ryder Cup, finished 3rd at Kapalua to start his 2017 season and has finished 11-17-6-4 here in Scottsdale the last four trips to town. As an aside, Moore is also one who has gone on record saying he absolutely loves the raucous crowds at this tournament.
The Long Shots
Gary Woodland (42-1): Woodland made our column as a long shot last week as well and he finished 20th. This is indicative of the way this guy has been climbing for the past couple of seasons, on his way very soon possibly to becoming a regular in the "Contender" category. He only has one Top 10 here in Phoenix, but he's also only missed one cut.
Tony Finau (50-1): Big-hitting Finau is off to a great start in 2017 with three Top-20 finishes in three events, including a 4th last week at the Farmers. He was cut in this event last year but took 22nd in his rookie appearance. He is very strong in the stats -- except with the putter. He'll need that to convert his high finishes into wins.
Scott Piercy: The Las Vegas native has a very good track record in Phoenix, and on desert courses for that matter. Piercy has three Top 10s and two Top 15s at TPC Scottsdale. The bad news is since Weiskopf's tweaks, he's finished cut and 45th. He has three Top 10s this season, all coming back in the fall.
Keegan Bradley (66-1): The former PGA Championship winner struggled mightily the last couple of years on Tour, but since being recently married seems to have found his comfort zone on the golf course once again. Bradley finished 7th at the Shriners in Las Vegas back in November, another desert golf course were birdies rule. He was 25th two weeks ago at another desert venue at the CareerBuilder and posted a very impressive 4th last week at Torrey Pines. He's always been a very good driver of the golf ball and now he's converting it into scores. With four Top-25 finishes here in five visits, I'm going to give Bradley a shot this week and see if we can cash a big ticket.