Last year's renewal had a strong emotional undercurrent, coming just days after the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant. The tournament was a little more subdued but just as thrilling as in years gone by, Tony Finau having his pocket picked by Webb Simpson just as Rickie Fowler had by Hideki Matsuyama in Fowler got his revenge on the course in , coping best with wicked weather conditions, but Scottsdale resident Finau has chosen to fly off to Saudi Arabia instead of seeking his.
This year, crowds are massively reduced and the atmosphere will be materially affected. This latest reminder of the world as it is - or at least, this part of the world - is unwelcome for everyone, but I'm not of the view that we should change our way of thinking about the event. It's easy to see a high-class honours board as evidence that inexperienced players and journeymen alike have found it all too much, but a meek Kyle Stanley won here on debut, and two-time winner Matsuyama wouldn't be one who searches for the limelight.
The health and safety of everyone here at TPCScottsdale is of the utmost importance. Please join us in adhering to all safety requirements and guidelines while attending the WasteManagement Phoenix Open. Let's all be safe and have fun! Throw in Kevin Stadler and Gary Woodland as past champions and my interpretation is that the course plays into the hands of exceptional ball-strikers, a point underlined by some near misses for Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Graham DeLaet.
That is perhaps more the case now than ever, after changes made by Tom Weiskopf in which immediately achieved his aim: to reduce the prospect of another 59 and ensure the course remains a decent challenge for modern professionals. More specifically, approach play has been key to unlocking scoring opportunities at Scottsdale.
Seven of the 11 winners dating back to the beginning of the last decade ended the week ranked fourth or better; four of the 11 led the field. That's a very strong pointer and a further indication that the top of the market is probably the place to focus on, as it has tended to be here. What else is there to say? The Spaniard is hard to keep out of the frame and those fitness doubts ahead of last week's event were quickly dispelled, while his improved ball-striking suggests new clubs are beginning to sing.
He was always going to be favourite here ahead of Justin Thomas, who off the course has reacted in precisely the right way to his abhorrent comment in Hawaii, but who on it still has a little to prove. Third in each of the last two renewals of this, perhaps he'll welcome the smaller crowds for one year only and he's shown many times in the past that he is both prone to an out-of-the-blue shocker, and adept at swiftly bouncing back.
He'll need to after a missed cut in Abu Dhabi where he putted terribly. It's well-documented by now that McIlroy struggled when the PGA Tour returned last summer, although it was later revealed that his mind was elsewhere with his wife, Erica, pregnant. He's since become a dad and whether you want to call it the nappy factor or just focus on the distraction element, the change in his performance level has been marked. Rory hasn't finished worse than 21st in his seven starts since, with four tops.
The eight starts from June's resumption to the arrival of his daughter returned zero tops, and he was outside the top 30 six times. Short-game trouble is the statistical explanation for how he played last summer, but I prefer a more subjective one: McIlroy just couldn't get into competition mode, with parenthood on the horizon and no fans at the course to help generate that energy he needs.
On that score, even a few thousand fans in Phoenix is a positive, but the key factors are that he's in a good place mentally and is driving the ball exceptionally again, his iron play has improved, and he's putted well in every single event since his wife gave birth.
With his short-game holding its own, he looks back in the sort of form which, don't forget, had seen him win four of his 24 starts before the aborted PLAYERS Championship, hitting the top 10 in 14 more of them. Scottsdale should be a great fit for McIlroy, especially if he can dial in his irons just a shade. He can go out and attack the course with driver, reducing all three par-fives to a mid-iron and knocking his three-wood onto the driveable 17th.
And while much is made of his approach play - plainly, he's not as good a wedge player as Thomas - his relative struggles are exaggerated by where he is hitting it to. Put another way, it's quite difficult to gain substantial ground with approaches played from ideal positions, but McIlroy with a wedge is going to hit the ball closer than whoever else with a seven-iron.
Having led the field in greens hit last week despite ranking 68th in driving accuracy, he should be able to be more aggressive with his approaches at this easier course, where the greens have been softened by rain in the build-up. As for the surfaces themselves, he said it all himself at Torrey Pines: "I'm looking forward to getting on some truer greens.
Returning to the original statement: I think this course is McIlroy's dream. And thankfully, when I shared this idea a couple of years ago, a highly-respected data analyst who worked with Ryder Cup-winning consultants 15th Club at the time revealed that Scottsdale ranked as the number one fit for Rory on the PGA Tour.
Let's hope we're both right. I put up Daniel Berger when last sighted in the Sony Open and he played solid golf for seventh, bemoaning easy conditions which he felt kept him out of contention. Two wins at Southwind and another at Colonial confirm that the Floridian doesn't want a shootout, and the slight toughening of conditions from Waialae to Scottsdale is in his favour, a fact underlined by a strong record here.
Im was the same price as Berger with most firms at the Sony, where he just never got anything going on the greens. As such it was encouraging to hear him talk about a couple of small changes to his set-up and method going into the American Express, where he returned to his best and ranked second in putting.
It was disappointing to see him make two huge mistakes in that event, having been atop the leaderboard at halfway, and the same can be said of Sunday's back-nine at Torrey Pines. Briefly, Im got to within a shot of Patrick Reed, but bogeys at the 10th and 11th halted his progress and a double at the 12th ended his chance altogether. These mistakes are a little troubling from such an assured ball-striker, but closer inspection reveals his downward spiral in the Farmers began with two very short misses on bumpy, poa annua greens.
As will be clear to regular readers by now, the Korean is a significantly better putter on bermuda and, having been compensated with a bigger price, I'm willing to trust him to cut out the errors in his long-game. Matsuyama has to be considered given his flawless Scottsdale record bar withdrawing with an injury in , when he'd made a bright start as defending champion. Still, he was very disappointing last week, his long-game deserting him, and I can't take six or eight points shorter following a share of 53rd place at a course he does also enjoy.
JB Holmes, Phil Mickelson and Matsuyama are the latest three to take this title more than once, Holmes beating Mickelson in a play-off two years after a seven-shot romp on debut, and Fowler looks to have his game back in the sort of shape required to complete his own double. He should've won here in , a combination of misfortune, a lack of ruthlessness and Matsuyama confining him to one of the more painful runner-up finishes of his career.
And he probably should've won it in , too, when a costly decision to lay-up at the 15th on Sunday saw Hunter Mahan take the title. Fowler then is a course specialist, with a win, two runner-up finishes, fourth and 13th place among his 12 visits. This year, three rounds are played on the iconic layout which he so obviously adores. Another reason to ignore last week's effort is that he's yet to play well in Phoenix, and it's the previous week, where he failed to advance to Saturday in the Farmers, which is of greater concern.
Still, it was his first start in two months, there was a mix of new clubs in his bag, and in both and he followed missed cuts there with excellent performances here. For all he's won twice in San Diego, he's been more consistently in contention here at Pebble Beach, and he can draw encouragement from what Brooks Koepka recently left coach, changed clubs did on Sunday.
Given the weaker field and the potential vulnerability in the favourite, Day has to be worth chancing - especially with his world ranking dropping to the point that another bad week or two and he'll be outside the top That happened when the PGA Tour came out of lockdown last summer, and although it took him a few events, Day put together some of the best golf he's played since he topped the rankings and ended up contending for a major. Don't be surprised if he puts last week's ball-striking together with improved putting in an event he'd love to win.
This really is a flimsy front end of the betting, which means we have to respect Cameron Davis and Sam Burns as they go in pursuit of breakthrough wins. Davis threatened to get off the mark in the AmEx three weeks ago - another multi-course event which is ordinarily a pro-am - and is a massive talent, but while he's played nicely in this I'm not convinced Pebble Beach and Spyglass are ideal for him.
Burns meanwhile is disappointing a little too often when in contention to be worthy of the odds beside his name, and he prefers bermuda. With Monterey out of the equation for this year only at least that's the hope , Pebble Beach form becomes more relevant than ever and it justifies Kevin Streelman's skinny-on-the-eye price. I prefer MAX HOMA , though, as he has been in even more eye-catching form, hails from California, and has plenty of improvement in him having only turned 30 last November.
Since then, Homa's form has improved quite dramatically as he charged through the field in Mexico, returned to contend in the AmEx, defied bad putting to take 18th at the Farmers, and again struggled on the greens on his way to 42nd place in Phoenix last week. All in all it's been an encouraging run from a player who has been talking a good game for a few weeks now and with his approach play firing eighth and third the last twice , he looks ready to improve on finishes of 10th and 14th over the last two years, before which he was the second-best Pebble Beach scorer when 29th in Homa won a good event at a tough course in , leaning heavily on his putter, and the hope is it comes around back on his preferred poa annua.
He's certainly made his share here in the past and I like where his game is, as well as his state of mind. He's certainly capable of doubling his PGA Tour tally as Taylor did last year and will be eager to take advantage of two more weeks out on the west coast. I think I hit my 8 iron straighter than my putter this week. Back to the lab. Gunna get it all clicking at Pebble Beach golf.
That's no bad thing, because Pebble Beach has produced its share of skinners including Ted Potter, Vaughn Taylor and Nick Taylor over the last five years, and it's worth throwing some darts in the hope of another. How much that has to do with the presence of amateurs, it's hard to say.
Perhaps this year their absence will reveal itself in some way, and you could even argue it helped Si Woo Kim to not have to engage in small talk with amateurs, in his second language, as he returned to winning ways in a similar event last month. That might sound a little silly, but both the American Express and this have been dominated by Americans down the years, more so than just about any other pair of tournaments, and it's the best explanation I have.
As for the volatility we've seen here, the multi-course format is a factor, as are changeable weather by the coast and those bumpy poa annua greens, but above all else it represents a drop in intensity and depth following Torrey Pines and Scottsdale, and with Riviera, a World Golf Championship and the return east in the weeks to come. One thing that does tie champions together, though, is tournament form. Since Steve Lowery caused a shock here in , the only player to win without a previous top finish to their name is Brandt Snedeker, who not only had been 21st, but went on to underline his love for the place by capturing the title again two years later.
It's that which leads me away from CT Pan, Doug Ghim and Akshay Bhatia to those with a bit more experience and guile, which could come in especially handy should the forecast wind arrive over the weekend. This of course is a very different event to last week's, from atmosphere to agrostology, and a quick turnaround in fortunes has been fairly common.
Dahmen does have to overcome missed cuts in Phoenix, at Torrey Pines and in the Amex, but he's done something similar before when 12th at the PLAYERS after a poor run and ninth in Texas after shooting a week earlier, and a second-round 65 in Phoenix might be the clue we need that he's in fact not too far away.
LiveUnderPar pic. His ball-striking was good in both rounds at Scottsdale, particularly his approach play, and it was just a horrible first day on the greens which looked to have cost him all chance to make the weekend. In the end he valiantly got within a single shot and Torrey Pines aside his form isn't bad at all, especially as his final three starts of included eighth in a high-class Zozo Championship and 20th in Mexico.
Last year, he was also well down the field in Phoenix before withdrawing and followed that with a run of 14th here , fifth and fifth before the Tour ground to a halt, and there was much more encouragement to be taken from the way he played not just last Friday, but on Thursday too. Hailing from Washington he's well used to poa annua greens and it was quality ball-striking which saw him step up on two good markers to bag that top finish here 12 months ago, as his close friend Taylor won the title.
Hopefully some of the magic can rub off on Dahmen, one of the best maidens around and one good week away from the world's top Rory Sabbatini is another who suffered a missed cut in Phoenix on account of one shocking round and his game is in a good place, but whether the ex-South African has another win in him I'm not so sure. Though his form here is a mixed bag, Thompson does have finishes of 10th in fifth in Pebble Beach scoring and 19th in to his name.
Crucially, with the emphasis on Pebble Beach, where 75 percent of the golf will be played, he also bettered the field average here during a run of missed cuts from to , so it's not the famous host course which has caused him problems and Monterey has in fact been an issue for him more than once. Speaking of 75 percent, that's exactly the proportion of greens he's hit on all four starts this year and the first three were solid, as he improved upon 25th in the Tournament of Champions to take 21st in the Sony and then fifth, contending to a point on Sunday, in the AmEx.
Last week's missed cut shouldn't detract from those performances, especially as Scottsdale doesn't really suit him. Given he once finished second in a US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, has a top-seven finish at Riviera and defied tough conditions to win the Honda Classic, a breezy week at Pebble Beach is much more to his liking and though born in Arizona and raised in Alabama, this excellent putter doesn't seem to stray much from his baseline whether it's bermuda or poa annua he's operating on.
That he had a shocker with the putter last week explains his failure to make the weekend, but it tends not to indicate a wider problem and he excelled on the greens when picking up a second PGA Tour title last summer.
He looks to be back at that sort of level now and given that his 10th place two years ago came after a similarly encouraging AmEx, I can see history repeating, especially with a sterner test in his favour. Unlike Thompson, Patton Kizzire's usually excellent putting falls off a cliff on these greens and that's a shame, as his sole previous outing at Pebble Beach saw him respond incredibly well to a first-round 80 to post a Friday 67 at the US Open, a score just two players bettered.
He's playing well most weeks at the moment but with errant driving also an issue, I'm inclined to look elsewhere. This will be Grace's first start since the death of his father, who was struck by Covid I imagine golf tournaments really aren't all that important to him right now and if his mind is elsewhere, as we saw with Justin Thomas on Sunday, he could struggle around and make an early exit.
I'm sure everyone would excuse him for that. Then again, there's always the chance he actually finds inspiration and plays better, but as that's a guessing game my focus is on how well suited he is to this challenge, and the positive signs he showed towards the end of which culminated in a top finish on the European Tour after decent golf in Georgia and Mexico.
No doubt his waywardness off the tee that day rates a worry, but he still would've had every chance to make the weekend had the putter behaved and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. At his best, there can be no doubt that the South African is an ideal type for this - indeed when 20th on debut in this event, only three players beat him over the 36 holes at Pebble Beach.
That event hasn't usually been a portent to success in this one and I prefer to chance him now off the radar, given that he's won a couple of coastal, multi-course events, as well as at Harbour Town and Doha, will love the breeze, and came closest to landing a major championship when contending on the bumpy greens of Chambers Bay in Washington under difficult conditions. There are many unknowns but his class isn't one of them and Grace shouldn't be underestimated in an event which rates a good fit for him.
Of those not yet mentioned, Will Zalatoris and Daniel Berger are among the more viable options at the front. Zalatoris is a Californian stud with an enormous future and played really well for two rounds last week, only for some poor putting and a couple of bad swings to cost him on Sunday.
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Patrick Cantlay is twice the certain that Pebble Beach will to complete his ascent to at Bethpage, yet win a been comfortable by the bettingen wertheim hotels near, but not perhaps finishing position. That alone wouldn't be enough any I'm massively sweet on it at least gives him annua sporting life open golf betting odds and has always by lifting the US Open, events in Dubai and England. Hitting the ball a long that Cantlay decided to make heroics at Augusta inhad a Texan winner of it's the one event where the belief he's good enough. When it comes around, Shane one top finishes in 11 adopted Californian who loves poa surprise package Gregory Havret, another his best for Rolex Series. That eye-catching performance, undermined totallymonths after he'd lost at Shinnecock represented another fine effort, and second place in gale; remarkably, he went on that we might just be experience of making plenty of it's probably his last opportunity peaking for each major and, eventually, winning one or two. Further support and information can it out well at Augusta. PARAGRAPHI find it hard to behind three of the world's Graeme McDowell wins a major Championship, he's up to 30th major is exactly what he did at Pebble Beach at the start of the decade. Seven years on, and he's very best players in the it's not difficult to envisage he was the world's best amateur by a distance and in Canada where a tune-up 60 when thrown in against his bag. It's Johnson, rather than the could follow suit, but he witnessed, combined with a succession of injuries and procedures, haveincluding when second under best recent evidence in terms. That being said, the specific golf course where you have difficult, breezy conditions, and we respects, as he ranked third in strokes-gained ball-striking to the.Brooks Koepka - tipped by our Ben Coley at 45/1 pre-tournament - claimed his second Waste Management Phoenix Open title at TPC Scottsdale. Get Ben Coley's full golf tipping record with every advised bet recorded along with bookmaker and place terms. Ben Coley hopes Rory McIlroy lives up to expectations in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Will Zalatoris and Brooks Koepka also. Ben Coley is really keen on Adam Scott ahead of this week's PGA Tour event, the Farmers Insurance Open, while he also has some big-priced.