Waste Management Phoenix Open: Expert picks and best bets
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brian Mull is a former caddie who spent several years walking alongside the world’s best players inside the ropes on the PGA Tour. Throughout the 2019-20 season, he will be filing a gambling picks piece — as well as a weekly fantasy golf picks piece — applying the expert knowledge he’s acquired over the years by following the players and courses on Tour so closely.
The PGA Tour closes January at the Waste Management Open on the TPC Scottsdale layout where birdies are common and the crowds are rowdy.
Track record is important here. The same names seem to populate the leaderboard from year-to-year and many of the usual suspects arrive in Arizona in good form. The bentgrass greens are perfect and rolling around 12 on the Stimpmeter which should please the game’s best putters. Power is always an advantage on the par-71, 7,122 yard course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, and aggressive play is often rewarded but smart course management is also required on holes like 17 which change drastically from day-to-day depending on the hole location. As always, having a veteran caddie is an invaluable asset, especially when nerves can fray playing in front of the largest galleries on Tour on the finishing stretch.
Have fun and good luck.
Odds on the favorites (via golfodds.com):
Over / under winning score is 265.5 (-18.5 under) Par 71
Jon Rahm +700
Justin Thomas +900
Webb Simpson +1400
Hideki Matsuyama +1600
Rickie Fowler +1600
Xander Schauffele +1800
Matt Kuchar +2500
Gary Woodland +3000
Tony Finau +3000
Bryson DeChambeau +3000
Collin Morikawa +3000
Sungjae Im +3000
Bubba Watson +3000
Brandt Snedeker +4000
Viktor Hovland +4000
Branden Grace +4000
Expert picks and best bets
Webb Simpson (+1400). Four weeks into this column, I’ve picked four, top-10 finishers in this space. That’s respectable and all, but you don’t come here to be respectable. You come here, to quote the legendary Bandit, “For the good old American life. For the money, for the glory and for the fun. Mostly for the money.” I understand this and am working around-the-clock, studying every angle to put you on a winner. And while there’s a strong part inside that believes Jon Rahm and his man, Adam Hayes, are heading to a Sunday celebration, he’s the tournament favorite and that’s no fun at all. I’m returning to a player who fell one putt shy of a playoff when we picked him earlier this month at the Sony Open. And while we’d love to find better value here, we like Simpson for many of the same reasons we liked him in Hawaii, the most important being his overall performance this season (three top 10s in as many starts). The conditions are ripe for a shootout and he’s first on Tour in birdie average (5.67) and scoring average (67.619). He has four top 10s in nine starts at the Waste Management, including a 2017 playoff loss. His consistency is rewarded this week with a sixth PGA Tour victory and first since the 2018 Players Championship. Other value plays are Bubba Watson (+3000) and Scottie Scheffler (+5000).
Last week: Tiger Woods (+1600). Tied for ninth.
J.B. Holmes (+10000). The ultimate wildcard, Holmes showed signs of life last week, climbing into contention the first two days only to fight his driver on the weekend and spend entirely too much time hacking out of the Torrey Pines rough. He finished T-16th, his best of the season. The targets are wider at TPC Scottsdale and the penalty for a wayward tee shot is less severe. Holmes has only played four Tour events in 2019-20 and missed the cut in two. But with a week under his belt, returning to a place where he’s won twice (2006, 2008), Holmes presents tremendous value at such long odds. The grizzly veteran knows how to finish in front of the wild and woolly Waste Management galleries, so we’d suggest taking a shot on him this week.
Last Week: Harris English (+10000) Tied for 71st.
Jordan Spieth (+5000). It’s enticing and all, a three-time major champion and recent world No. 1 at such a good price. I mean, he had 26 top 3s worldwide from 2015 to 2017. And, he had a top 10 in the fall and showed signs of prosperity last week before dropping to a tie for 55th. I hope Spieth is on the comeback trail and soon doesn’t have to answer anymore questions about his prolonged slump. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a legitimate contender by the time the Masters rolls around. But it’s been so long since the young Texan has been in the hunt for a title we’re definitely going to have to see results first before we believe he can win again.
Last Week: Rickie Fowler (+2000) Abducted by turkey vultures. Also missed the cut.
Matt Kuchar (+115) vs. Gary Woodland (-135). It’s a brutally difficult week for head-to-head matchups at Golfodds.com as golf’s best oddsmaker Jeff Sherman has yet again found the right combinations to make a sharp heavily consider both sides. Both players have good track records here — Kuchar three consecutive top 10s and Woodland win in 2018 and T-7 last year — but we love a strong underdog and so we’re leaning toward Kuchar, who won the Singapore Open earlier this month.
Last week: Jon Rahm def. Rory McIlroy (W); Season: 2-2.