Phoenix Open betting preview: Daniel Berger looks a tasty option
By Ben Coley
Last Updated: 03/02/16 12:10pm
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is this week's PGA Tour stop and a high-class field is in attendance at TPC Scottsdale. Ben Coley looks at those set to impress this week.
Bubba Watson, who has never shot over-par here and should have won the title more than once, is a worthy favourite and looks very likely to contend but there's enough strength behind him to look beyond the 11/1 price on offer for the powerful left-hander.
Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler and defending champion Brooks Koepka are all perfectly solid, but I fancy Daniel Berger to upstage the big names and win his first PGA Tour title.
Berger went close more than once in his debut season, notably losing a play-off to Padraig Harrington in Florida, and his 10th-placed finish in this event is a key pointer towards his chances.
The Rookie of the Year ranked seventh for distance and 10th for greens on his first competitive outing at Scottsdale, and his make-up is very much similar to Koepka - he's a modern-day powerhouse who is suited to these low-scoring conditions.
Berger missed the cut last week but that may prove a blessing in disguise, as the rest of the field had to battle Torrey Pines at its toughest. Playing in 40mph winds can knock anyone off their stride and in benign conditions, those who were involved into Monday may well be at a disadvantage.
Prior to that, Berger had produced four under-par rounds to start the year in the Sony Open and he can kick on with a strong performance with those fond memories to call upon from 2015.
Players with Arizona ties have done really well here and Phil Mickelson, who attended Arizona State, could replicate his 2013 win in which he came so close to shooting a magical 59 in the first round.
There were good and bad signs last week as he somehow missed the cut, but as mentioned that could turn out to be an advantage and the way he's been driving it, his brilliant wedge game will have the chance to shine.
Granted, Mickelson hasn't been the force of old for a while but having led the field in strokes-gained tee-to-green two weeks ago, his long game is really healthy and having won this title three times I envisage a strong title challenge this week.
He's preferred to Kevin Na, who really should go well and has the required wedge stats to make for a compelling case. Unfortunately, Na is hard to get over the line and on this occasion I'll leave him out.
Matt Jones is a much better bet as another Arizona resident whose recent form looks solid, dating right back to his victory in the Australian Open last December.
Jones opened 65-65 here in 2014 to show that he can score at the course where he practices, and his victory in the Shell Houston Open came at a similar layout.
Like Berger, he ranks very highly in the wedge proximity stats and it was that formula which led me to 2012 champion Kyle Stanley, so it's worth sticking with.
Finally, although Patton Kizzire, Kevin Streelman, Tony Finau and Jonas Blixt all merit close inspection, I'm heading back towards the top of the market to ride the hot hand with Jason Dufner.
Yes, it's rare for players to win two starts in a row but Dufner played beautifully to win the CareerBuilder Challenge, played on three resort-style, desert golf courses not dissimilar to Scottsdale.
Prior to that he'd bagged a pair of top-10s and this improvement can be traced back to the Franklin Templeton Shootout which he won alongside Snedeker last December.
Seeing Snedeker win can only boost Dufner further but the most compelling evidence for him going close is the fact he won twice in three starts when making his breakthrough in 2012.
Given that he's been a play-off loser here before and is a proven, top-class winner at his best, that makes Dufner a play at 33/1.
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