If you get the chance to go to just one golf tournament in person in your life – and the Masters at Augusta doesn’t count because that’s simply on a different plane than anywhere else in the USA – then this writer recommends taking in the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. This is easily the most raucous event on the annual PGA Tour schedule – one big party, especially at No. 16, each Super Bowl weekend.
It’s a bit of a watered-down field this year because big-name guys like world No. 1 and last week’s winner Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and some others are playing the European Tour’s big-money Saudi International. It’s the record 30th start here for Arizona State alum Phil Mickelson, and he’s always the fan favorite.
This year’s tournament is also the end of an era from a television perspective as it will be the last one for NBC analyst and Hall of Famer Johnny Miller. His final broadcast will be Saturday’s third round and the network will honor him during that. He has been NBC’s lead analyst since 1990. Paul Azinger will replace Miller as the network’s lead analyst and will take over for the final round.
TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium course is a par 71 measuring 7,261 yards. It has hosted since 1987 and it’s going to take double digits under par to win. The 72-hole tournament record is 256 by Mark Calcavecchia (2001) and Lefty (2013).
The Bovada betting favorite this week is Spaniard Jon Rahm (+750), like Mickelson an Arizona State alum. Rahm has made the cut all three times here and has one Top 10. He was T11 last year and T5 last week at Torrey Pines. Justin Thomas checks in at +1000 and is the highest-ranked player in the field. He has yet to finish Top 10 in four trips to TPC Scottsdale.
Hideki Matsuyama is +1400 and defending champion Gary Woodland +1800. Matsuyama won in 2016 in a playoff over Rickie Fowler and then repeated the next year, beating Webb Simpson in a playoff. Woodland and Chez Reavie finished 72 holes last year and 18 under and Woodland prevailed on the first hole of a playoff. It was his first victory since 2013.
Xander Schauffele is also +1800 with Fowler and Simpson each at +2000 on Bovada’s golf odds. Schauffele was T17 in his debut here a year ago. Fowler has three Top 10s in 10 visits including that 2016 runner-up and another in 2010. Simpson missed the cut last year but was runner-up to Matsuyama in 2017.
Winning Golf Pick
Recommend Top-10 bets on Matsuyama and Rahm, but Fowler is the winning choice as he’s hugely overdue to win here. He was in contention last year through 54 holes before a final-round 73. He tends to play well on Bermuda grass as well.