30 Jan - 2nd February
The Phoenix Open is nicknamed the “Greatest show on grass” due to the huge crowds and raucous atmosphere in which some golfers thrive and some don’t. But host course TPC Scottsdale is the perfect fit for an event that is amongst the most popular on the PGA Tour.
This is especially true of the 16th hole, a par-3 surrounded by a 20,000-capacity grandstand that’s normally filled with beer-fueled hecklers waiting to jeer any shot that misses the green. But to be fair, they do also cheer the good shots.
Waste Management took over the sponsorship of the Phoenix Open in 2010 and their generosity has been rewarded with high-profile winners such as Phil Mickelson, Garry Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rickie Fowler. Brooks Koepka also got his name on the trophy in 2015 and used the event as a springboard to several majors and number one in the world.
John Rahm heads the market for the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Spaniard will be furious about blowing a great opportunity to win at Torrey Pines last week. He led going into the final round but dropped three shots in his first three holes before shooting –5 under for the rest of his final round to finish one shot and one place behind the winner Marc Leishman.
That means Rahm’s run of form reads 1/2/10/2 in his last four events and there’s every reason to think he’ll go close here in his current form. His form figures at TPC Scottsdale are solid 5/16/11/10 but, as there’s a chance he may have left too much of himself at Torrey Pines last week, the 13/2 (7.50) makes no great appeal.
Second favourite Justin Thomas has been in great form since returning from injury just before last year’s Open Championship and he’s already a winner this season. He missed the cut the week after that win but has had two weeks to freshen up as he bids to go two places better than last year. The downside is last year’s performance at the 2019 Phoenix Open was his best by far and he’d finished no better than 17th in four previous attempts.
Third favourite Webb Simpson is another player that seems to have always been on the leaderboard of late and he comes here with form figures of 2/10/3. He’s also had a three-week break since he last played, and he’s posted four top-10s in his last nine visits to TPC Scottsdale. But he was only 20th last year after missing the cut in 2018, and he may have bigger targets he’s looking to peak for.
Hideki Matsuyama has underachieved in the last couple of seasons for a player of his talents, but he’s finished 4/2/1/1 on his first four visits to TPC Scottsdale. He had to withdraw the following year but still managed to finish 15th last year when not in the best of form. He was only 45th last week but, having been 8th and 12th in his two previous events, he’s fancied to mount a challenge this week and is the first of our 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open free tips.
Another player that has put together an excellent run of form here, 2/4/11/1, is Rickie Fowler and he seems to relish playing in front of the vocal crowds. Defending a title isn’t easy but he recorded three consecutive top10s before missing the cut last week. Missing the weekend at Torrey Pines could also be a positive as he comes into this week fresher than those that did play the weekend. That means Fowler is the second of our free tips for the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
It’s impossible to rule out the likes of Xander Schauffele and Bryson Dechambeau, and these two world-class players look fairly-priced at 18/1 and 25/1. DeChambeau, especially, looks set to return to the winner’s enclosure soon and was fifth here two years ago.
But Branden Grace looks even more interesting at prices of 45/1 (46.00) or bigger. The South African notably plays consistently well at courses that suit his game and, after a poor season last year, he’s dedicated himself to climbing back up the world rankings. He’s already won in South Africa this season and 17th place in his following event was no mean feat on the back of the celebrations that surely followed that win. At number 74 in the world, Grace’s best chance of making the US Masters in April looks to be winning a PGA Tour event. He was second in the 2019 Phoenix Open on his first look at the course, and he’s in much better form now.