Phoenix Open Tips & Betting Preview
Our golf expert looks ahead to the next tournament on the PGA calendar.
A far cry from the controversy in Saudi Arabia the desert track at Scottsdale offers up this weeks action from the States and as per usual is one of the events the fans love to flock to and punt in. Since the redesign by Weiskopf in 2015 the track has certainly proved a bit tougher and those who possess a solid tee to green game usually flourish here. Those with good records around classical designs where it's necessary to keep the ball in play will be my focus when narrowing down the field to a potential winner. Links and Desert form is never far from my mind either.
Matsuyama comes in hot after an eyecatching 3rd at Torrey Pines last week. A lively sort I expected to go well as he was on my shortlist as I mentioned last week in the preview. His shot to the 72nd hole on Sunday was spectacular and an ominous sign that the former world no2 is on the verge of something special again. Rahm makes little appeal to me and I was disappointed with his effort last weekend. Sometimes he just seems to play himself out of events for no apparent reason. His boldness putting sometimes doesn't help either and there's no doubt he needs to do some work on controlling his emotions. Makes little appeal to me around the $8 mark.
We landed MATT KUCHAR (best price $29) a few weeks ago and I don't think we are stretching things hoping that the same name will fulfill our first two wins of the year. Kuchar has shot two 64s on this course in 2018 and 2017 on way to two top ten finishes and arrives in Arizona this time a golfer who is possibly in the throws of the best form of his career. Forever someone who was thought of for not winning enough he has done an awful lot to shake that tag with two wins in the past few months. Both those wins require tee to green accuracy and if you can get that part of the game right here this week you give yourself a solid chance to score and contend. Combine that with a WGC Matchplay win here in this state in 2013 over Hunter Mahan, Kuchar looks like the best bet in the field.
There is a fair chance XANDER SCHAUFFELE (best price $19) could be talked about among the top three golfers in the world come the end of this year and arguably could be next to Thomas as the best golfer in this field. Rahm of course holds that title now but has a lot of learning to do before he may get on that Major ladder. Schauffele on the other hand went mighty close at last years Open and looks ready to win the biggest events in golf. He looks lightyears better than the guys (Fowler, Woodland, Finau) around him in the betting and could be seen as value just on the face of looking at the market.
Two wins in his last five starts have hoisted him to 7th in the world and he only looks like rising. The Greenbrier, Sawgrass, East Lake and Carnoustie have all been the scenes of some his best performances and there's no doubt he goes best on tracks that test the long game. That's where he gains his advantage and I find it impossible to leave him off the staking plan.
WEBB SIMPSON (best price $23) is another tee to green merchant who has done nothing wrong of late and must be backed to go well this week. His last 5 results read 6-4-15-3-8 and looks primed for another great that year that has seen him rise into the worlds top 20.
Simpson missed the cut here last year just before he hit a purple patch for the year but previous to that his last five attempts here resulted in finishes no worse than 14th. This place is made for his accurate game and he's not too shabby in the proximity to the hole stat. Holes putts with ease these days in regularity and must have every chance going close.
BRANDEN GRACE (best price $81) is a late entry into this weeks event and thus maybe his chances considered an afterthought for most odds compilers. He arrives here off the back of a missed cut at Torrey but that course can stretch him and he will be more at home here in the Desert where his ball will be flying that extra few yards. Tee to green he is solid with his only win stateside at Harbour Town, a place that requires the same skill set as to what Scottsdale has the past few years.
With this desert course having a linksy feel to it also his results in the Dunhill Links (win) and Scottish Open (2nd) are noted as well as two wins in Doha, a desert track exposed to win in Qatar. He has the skills to tame this course on debut and can't be overlooked given you won't get a whole pile bigger price for him in this years four majors.
SUNGJAE IM (best price $81) made the cut last week at Torrey and thus tucks away another little learning curve in his short career to date. Time could tell us that it will be best leaving punting this lad until we see a bit more of him in the heat of action but this week could be one where he excels.
He heads to Bermuda greens with this Bermuda performance on tour thus far reading 12-16-37-MC-4. That is not all bad for a rookie and he could be expected to notch another good result here at Phoenix. His game looks built on a solid tee to green game so for me he is worth chancing.
Finally I'll take a small chance on TALOR GOOCH (best price $91). The Oklahoma native has burst onto our screens the past two weeks finishing 4th in the Desert Classic then 3rd last week at Torrey Pines. This a hugely impressive run of results and I was encouraged by what I seen over the weekend in California. Gooch won back on the web.com tour in 2017 and although he had a few respectable results in his rookie season last year he didn't set the world alight.
The last few weeks have been different and I can't help but get behind him giving how well he was swinging it last weekend. It looked like the birth of a pga tour winner to me at the weekend and given his results the past few weeks he could ride that wave to another surprise Desert winner just like Adam Long a few weeks ago.