Current FedEx Cup points leader Justin Thomas returns to the desert for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he’ll face a field full of the PGA TOUR’s big guns.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler is just one of the big names heading to Arizona along with U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, and two-time winner Hideki Matsuyama who won this tournament in 2016 and 2017.
Bryson DeChambeau will play his first PGA tour event of the 2020 calendar year while Bubba Watson, fresh off a solid showing at the Farmers Insurance Open, will make his second consecutive start in the calendar year and is 29.00* to be victorious here.
Farmers Insurance Open Recap
We got our second winner of the season when Marc Leishman got it done for us at 50-1 in a tournament that really delivered in terms of star power.
Jon Rahm led going into Sunday with both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods within striking distance, but when they all three bogeyed the first hole and continued to struggle through the front nine Leishman seized the opportunity and by the turn he was three shots clear of the chasers.
Leishman kept his cool on the back nine making several clutch par putts, but McIlroy and Rahm started to heat up and when they got to the 18th green Rahm had an 80-foot put to force a playoff.
The put ultimately came up 3 feet short and the Australian could celebrate his 5th PGA Tour win.
Course: Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale
Length: 7266 yards (Par 71)
Architect: Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm spearhead a pretty good field for the golf tournament/party in the outskirts of Phoenix, a field that also includes the three-headed rookie monster; Morikawa, Wolff and Hovland and defending champion Ricky Fowler.
The Stadium course got toughened in 2014 and since then the winning score has hovered around the -15 mark.
Despite the average length of drives being almost 15 yards longer than the average on tour, the course seems to benefit the shorter and straighter hitters just as much as the bombers as highlighted by both Matt Kuchar and Chez Reavie having back to back top 5s here the last two years.
The large Bermuda greens are flat and lead to the around-the-green game being less important this week while seven of the par 4s fall in the 450-500 yards range and all the par 5s are reachable and eagle friendly.
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
- Good drives
- Proximity 150-175 and 175-200 yards
- Par 4 scoring 450-500 yards
- Par 5 scoring
- Bermuda putting
2019/20 Season overview:
UnitsWon: 149.66 units
Result: + 73.66 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1 & Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1
JT should be the favourite but Jon Rahm’s good form combined with the 5 strokes JT lost putting to miss the cut at The Sony secures us a good value play here in my opinion.
In his last eight starts, Thomas has three wins and three other top 5 finishes. He had his best finish at this tournament last year with a solo 3rd.
His stats are of course elite with him ranking 1st in par 5 scoring, strokes gained approach and proximity from 150-175 yards over the last 24 rounds.
A wrist injury set him back for the first half of last year but there is a good case for that he has been the best golfer on the planet for the last six months.
The young Californian got paired with Tiger for the first-time last week in the first two rounds and proceeded to deliver a couple of solid rounds and headed into the weekend a shot better than the 15-time major champion.
A Saturday 74 took him out of contention, but a bounce-back Sunday 69 got him a T21. He has now gained strokes both off the tee and on approach in six straight tournaments and has yet to miss a cut as a professional.
Over the last 50 rounds he ranks 1st in approach and in the top 30 in every stat category I`m looking at this week.
Hovland took six weeks off over Christmas before he went to the middle east for a couple of European Tour events which resulted in a MC and a T23 hopefully he shook the rust off and he did look much better in the last tournament over there.
Both the atmosphere and the course here should set up perfect for the lively Norwegian. He ranks in the top 5 over the last 50 rounds in approach, good drives, GIRs gained and proximity from 175-200 yards.
There is the worry that he might need a tournament or two more to get competitive, but the slightest sign of life and we won’t see this kind of number outside of the majors for the rest of the season.
*Odds subject to change