WMPO betting preview
Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 31/01/13 7:55pm
Imagine Stifler from the American Pie movies. And then imagine 20,000 of him, all a bit tipsy, flanking the fairway and surrounding the green of a 162-yard par three.
That pretty much describes the scene each year at TPC Scottsdale's 16th, a hole which has become famous for being the noisiest in golf.
Almost ridiculously, Tiger Woods once made a hole-in-one there, causing the Stiflers from Arizona State to virtually explode.
Money changes hand like crazy in the galleries as they wager on tee-shots hitting or missing the green and those that don't make the putting surface are roundly booed.
In short, the raucous atmosphere needs to be handled. Shrinking voilets won't cut it and maybe it's no surprise that 20 of the last 24 winners have been home American players.
Birdies are certainly a big requirement and the winning score over the last nine years has been between -14 and -21.
As usual, Sky Sports have live coverage of all four days.
Back in the late 80s, Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish were commissioned by the PGA Tour to build a course that would play host every year to the Phoenix Open and the result was The Stadium Course. Set in the rugged Sonoran Desert and surrounded by the stunning McDowell Mountains (a shame Graeme isn't playing this week), the course measures 7,216 yards and just one front nine par five means it plays to a par of 71. There have been eight holes in one at the 16th since the tournament started in 1987, with the most recent by Aussie Jarrod Lyle in 2011.
Conditions, as you'd imagine, will be sunny although it's worth bearing in mind that early mornings in the desert can be cold so an early tee-time isn't the advantage it can sometimes be.
Last year - Kyle Stanley
After blowing victory in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines by taking a triple bogey at the last before losing a play-off, Stanley showed amazing powers of recovery to go out and win the very next week. His victory here was achieved after coming from eight shots back while the agony this time belonged to Spencer Levin, who had started the final round with a six-shot lead. Levin's hopes went up in smoke after a closing 75.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
(Arizona form takes into account Match Play e.g. L16 means reached last 16)
Nick Watney (14/1): It's a battle for favouritism this week but Watney just about deserves to be one of the co-market leaders after a fine fourth place in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. The only week part of his game was his putting so he'll hope to fare better on these bermuda greens. On his last appearance in this event two years ago he shot middle rounds of 66-65 on the way to a fifth place finish while in each of his previous two appearances he'd carded a second round 63.
2013 form: 4-13
Course form: 5-24-12-34
Arizona form: L16-L16-5-24
World ranking: 19
Jason Dufner (14/1): One of golf's quiet men secretly enjoys the noise here and he also showed his liking for raucous crowds with a fine display in the Ryder Cup. Dufner has played here three times and in 2011 finished runner-up when having a great chance to win. He was also eighth the following year. He arrives back in the States after a two-week jaunt in the Middle East where he finished ninth in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar. His putting wasn't quite sharp enough in either but he's performed well on the greens here in the past and that could make all the difference.
2013 form: 9-9
Course form: 8-2-62
Arizona form: L64-8-2-MC
World ranking: 10
Brandt Snedeker (14/1): The other co-favourite of three also comes here on the back of a top 10, in fact a runner-ups finish after a closing pair of 69s at Torrey Pines. Last season's FedEx Cup jackpot winner was also third in the season-opener at Kapalua so he's in excellent nick at the moment and already has $1m in the bank. This is his seventh start at TPC Scottsdale, with his best finishes being top 10s in 2008 and 2011. However, it's also worth nothing that he was the third round leader in 2010 before tumbling all the way back to third after a closing 78.
2013 form: 2-23-3
Course form: 50-8-43-MC
Arizona form: L16-50-8-43
World ranking: 7
Rickie Fowler (16/1): The Californian was 154th after round one of last week's Farmers Insurance Open so it was a superb effort to recover from that and go on and finish sixth. TPC Scottsdale is a great venue for him as the course suits and he thrives amongst the boistersous crowds. It so nearly gave him his first Tour win back in 2010 when he finished runner-up while he also shot a 62 (equalled back nine best of 29) in round two to be fifth at halfway the following year before eventually finishing 13th. "The fans out here are awesome. I love playing 16. It's one of my favorite tournaments," says Fowler and he'd be a hugely popular winner.
2013 form: 6-6
Course form: 26-13-2-58
Arizona form: L64-26-L16-13
World ranking: 31
Bubba Watson (18/1): Bubba loves the crowd and the crowd loves Bubba. So, at 16, will we see a repeat of his Ryder Cup first-tee flamboyance when he ordered the spectators to cheers through his tee-shot. Clearly something special will happen on 16 and he's even asked Twitter fans for ideas! Illness kept him out of Farmers Insurance Open but he tweeted on Monday: "Feeling rested & lookin forward 2 a big wk @WMPhoenixOpen!" Bubba was eighth on his debut in this event in 2007 while his best finish was last year's fifth place when he started Sunday in third place.
2013 form: 4
Course form: 5-29-36-25
Arizona form: L32-5-4-29
World ranking: 9
Martin Kaymer (22/1): This isn't actually an away game for the German as Scottsdale has been his US base for a number of years. He put that local Arizona knowledge to good use when finishing runner-up in the World Match Play in 2011 although he's only played in this tournament once and missed the cut in 2010. Kaymer arrives back in the US after a ninth in Qatar and a sixth in Abu Dhabi so the former world number one's game will certainly be attuned to desert golf.
2013 form: 9-6
Course form: MC
Arizona form: L16-2-MC-L32
World ranking: 27
Phil Mickelson (25/1): For years, Mickelson was the automatic favourite here but his inconsistency and the rise of his younger compatriots sees him only joint seventh in the betting this week. Having spent his college days here, he remains the tournament's biggest draw card and true fan favourite and, to the delight of the crowds, he's twice put his name on the trophy (1996 and 2005). He's not got the results he wanted from his two opening tournaments of the year but we've seen before how Mickelson can suddenly turn it on, especially in one of these West Coast events. His price certainly jumps off the page.
2013 form: 51-37
Course form: 26-29-24-MC
Arizona form: 26-L32-29-24
World ranking: 22
Hunter Mahan (25/1): Mahan produced two superb closing 65s to win this tournament two years ago and, after a poor season-opener, he rounded into some form with a 15th at Torrey Pines last week. As well as his 2010 victory, Mahan also won last year's WGC-Match Play Championship in this neck of the woods so he's taken away the trophy in two of his last four starts in Arizona. Missing the Ryder Cup took him out of the limelight a little so he'll be determined to prove his worth again here.
2013 form: 15-26
Course form: 29-1-35-MC
Arizona form: 1-L16-29-1
World ranking: 28
Best of the rest
Charles Howell (30/1): The American has gone 3-2-9 on the West Coast Swing and isn't done with yet. He absolutely loves this run of tournaments and a fourth place here in 2010 suggests he can keep his hotstreak going. He's up against some proven winners though so his age-old problem of finding one or two too good may haunt him again.
Jason Day (35/1): The Aussie had a poor 2012 although becoming a young father clearly was part of the reason why he lost some focus. However, a fourth place in Vegas (also desert conditions) was a nice way to finish and he's started 2013 with a highly encouraging ninth in the Farmers Insurance. He's taken immediately to a new driver and new ball so will be looking to kick on again here and challenge for the title.
Russell Henley (50/1): The youngster was a brilliant winner of the Sony Open a few weeks ago and was then backed to follow up straight away in the Humana Challenge where, despite an opening 64, he finished out with the washing. However, going back to last season his form figures read 56-1-6-1-3-1 so he's clearly a special talent. Young players have done really well in this event and Henley ticks the boxes to succeed on this course.
It's another week where plenty of the frontrunners are asking to be backed but the price which strikes me most is the 25s about Phil Mickelson.
On his native West Coast, Lefty's wins usually come out of nowhere and his last four wins there have come on the back of finishes reading 26-55-MC-MC.
That suggests his modest 51st at Torrey Pines shouldn't concern us one little bit.
It tends to be feast or famine with Phil so go win only at 25s.
Unlike Mickelson, Rickie Fowler advertised his win at last year's Wells Fargo Championship with a top 10 the previous week.
So having raced through the field to finish sixth at Torrey Pines, Fowler looks ready to strike here.
This tournament is made for him so back him to go one better than he did in 2010.
Russell Henley has quickly drifted back out to a decent price (50/1) after his superb Sony Open win.
His ability to hole putts and make birdies will stand him in great stead on this course as scoring should be low.
Although it's early days, Henley is top of Strokes Gained - Putting, All-Around ranking, Par Breakers, Scoring Average, Ball Striking, Bounce Back, Par 4 Performance and Putting from inside 5 feet so he's taken to the PGA Tour like a duck to water.
Mark Wilson won Sony and Phoenix in the space of a few weeks two years ago. Maybe Henley can do the same.
Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Nick Watney all have obvious chances but I'll end with an each-way punt on Jason Day.
Smashing it long and holing putts works well at TPC Scottsdale and that perfectly describes Day's game.
He was 20th on his debut here back in 2008 and it, remember, it was only two years ago that he finished runner-up in both The Masters and the US Open.
2pts win Phil Mickelson at 25/1
2pts e.w. Rickie Fowler at 16/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Russell Henley at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Jason Day at 35/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5).