It’s time to head to the PGA Tour this week, as the huge crowds at the Waste Management Phoenix Open trump the idyllic setting of the European Tour’s Maybank Championship.
This isn’t a tournament for golfers with self-confidence issues though, as the crowds let the players know when they’ve hit one that doesn’t come up to standard, especially in the amphitheatre atmosphere of the Par-3 16th Hole at the Stadium Course, TPC Scottsdale, Arizona.
The course isn’t the hardest at just over 7,200 Yards, but the Par-71 desert course is harder than it used to be after a remodel in 2015. Phil Mickleson ripped it up with a –28 under total in 2013, but the winning scores have been –15, -14 and –17 in the past three renewals.
The Greens are usually fast, and the final few holes are presenting an exciting risk and reward challenge with the par-5 15th and short par-4 17th surrounded by water.
Since the remodel, the event has been won by Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama (twice) which suggests this might be a layout that now suits the younger players who are perhaps still mentally in tune with the raucous crowds.
It’s no surprise to see Jordan Spieth as favourite, though finished of 7th and 9th here on his two appearances in the last three years don’t exactly scream back-me at single-figure odds, whilst he’s not quite at his best at the moment. Meanwhile, John Rahm may try too hard here in his bid to become world number one, and his form wobbled last week in finishing 29th after a run of form that saw him go 1/2/1.
Hideki Matsuyama makes plenty of appeal though, as his form here is 4/2/1/1, and he’s already proved that defending this title is no problem to him. He shouldn’t be far away if in the mood.
Rickie Fowler also looks worth including after going 2/4 here the last two years, and he really should have beaten Matsuyama in 2016. He did miss the cut last week, but can be forgiven that after three-weeks off, as he’d gone 2/1/4 in his previous three tournaments.
Daniel Berger also looks like another youngster worth including this week at a venue where he’s posted two top-10s in his last three visits. He’s also finished in the top-15 in his last three tournaments, and has proven that he often plays well at courses he’s played well at before.
Finally, I’m recommending 2 points on Brendan Steel for a Top-10 finish. He’s never finished worse than 26th here in his last 6 visits, with three top-10s, and his recent form of 29/20/29 suggests he too may enjoy a return to a challenge he’s relished in the past.