Betting news, trends, odds and predictions for from various handicappers and websites for Wednesday 1/29/20
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Best Bets - Phoenix Open
January 28, 2020
By Matt Blunt
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Best Bets
It was the first real rough week for my golf selections in 2020 last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, but in a market like pre-tournament golf betting, there will be those times where you take a hit. Last week was also the first head-to-head matchup loss I've taken, as Justin Rose couldn't recover from a rough opening round, and Tiger showed no signs of rust as he's got the look of a guy that will do everything he can to qualify for the Olympics this year.
It's on to the Phoenix Open this week though, as this is one of my favorite non-Major events of the year because of the atmosphere and the big swings this course can have. And thankfully, for the first time in a couple of weeks, we get the same course for everyone for all four rounds.
Venue: TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course
Par-Yardage: 71, 7,260 yards
Not unlike many other weeks on the PGA Tour, TPC Scottsdale places a big emphasis on a golfer's second shot, as you'd better be finding a lot of greens in regulation here if you want to compete. Winning scores are routinely in the -15 or better range, so consistently going low and firing 67's or 68's each day has to be the goal for most. For the last five winners of this event – all big names with Brooks Koepka (2015), Hideki Matsuyama (2016 and 2017), Gary Woodland (2018), and Rickie Fowler (2019) – there were only three rounds worse then 68 by those guys en route to their victories (20 total rounds), so consistently going low is a must here.
To do that, you'd better be hitting greens for one, but you'd also better be able to avoid all the water that's on this track as well as knock down some putts on some slick greens. The Bermuda greens are relatively large, so hitting the right section of them is a must, but so is draining a few putts. They aren't the trickiest of greens in terms of slope, but if you don't have your speed right with the flatstick, chances of winning are going to go out the window rather quickly.
However, guys who start Sunday multiple shots back are never really out of it at TPC Scottsdale either. This is a course that's known for the Par 3 - 16th hole and it's rowdy amphitheatre setting, but the final four holes are where some serious swings can happen in both directions. Guys who make up plenty of ground relative to the field on those final four holes this week will be the ones you'll see in contention at the end.
Given the prestige of the recent past champions here, many will want to stay near the top of the odds list this week. Those past five winners I already mentioned were never worse then 40/1, so keep that in mind if you are looking at multiple long shots. This probably isn't the tournament to go that route, especially with all the names we do have the top.
Arizona State alum Jon Rahm enters as the favorite at 7/1, with Justin Thomas (9/1) right behind him. This has long been a favorite event of guys who played collegiate golf in the state, as even a guy like Chez Reavie (ASU alum) tends to get a bump in price here given his past results. Reavie enters at 60/1 this week after finishing 4th and 2nd here the past two years.
After Thomas comes a slew of great names though, as you've got Webb Simpson (14/1), Hideki Matusyama (16/1), Rickie Fowler (16/1) and Xander Schauffele (18/1) all below that 20/1 threshold. From there the field really starts to show its depth in the next range with names like Matt Kuchar (25/1), Gary Woodland (30/1) Tony Finau (30/1), Bubba Watson (30/1) and Bryson DeChambeau (30/1) right behind.
But there is no point in listing all the names off, as you can find that on your own, so let's get right to the guys I've already got in my pocket for the week.
Top 10 Betting Choices
Golfers to Watch
Jon Rahm 7/1
Justin Thomas 9/1
Webb Simpson 14/1
Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
Rickie Fowler 16/1
Xander Schauffele 18/1
Matt Kuchar 25/1
Gary Woodland 30/1
Tony Finau 30/1
Bryson Dechambeau 30/1
Favorite: Webb Simpson (14/1)
It was just a few weeks ago at the Sony Open that Webb found his name in this spot, and while he didn't get to the winner's circle, it's tough to be negative about his 3rd place finish that week. His last three competitive starts have all resulted in Top 10 finishes (two Top 3's), and that type of current form is hard to ignore.
All of Simpson's strengths should play well at TPC Scottsdale, as he's still one of the best ball strikers in the game, and now that he's seemingly figured out his putting issues over the past 12+ months, he's a guy that's got a complete game going. This year's Strokes Gained stats still shouldn't be weighed extremely heavy as it's still young in the season, but when Webb ranks 5th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Putting, and 1st in Strokes Gained: Total, those are numbers that are hard to ignore as well.
It's long courses that tend to be his bugaboo and that's just not a concern here. He's a guy that leads the Tour in birdie average this year (5.67), and with his scoring average per round this year being below 68 for all four rounds this year (again, it's a limited sample size), finding those consistent rounds of 67 or 68 this week shouldn't be a big issue for Simpson.
Finally, we can't leave out his course history at TPC Scottsdale. In eight starts here in the past 10 years, Simpson has two missed cuts and finished in the Top 20 the other six times (20th, 2nd, 14th, 10th, 8th, and 8th). That suggests to me that he's extremely comfortable making his way around TPC Scottsdale and bettors should expect nothing different from him this week.
Mid-Range: Viktor Hovland (40/1)
Hovland is one of the up-and-coming potential phenoms in this game, as his decorated collegiate career at Oklahoma State has translated well to the pros already. He's yet to find the winner's circle on the PGA Tour like some of his young cohorts have already, but it won't be long before this 22-year-old does, as he's got all the tools to do so.
Like Simpson, Hovland's strength is basically from the approach shot in, as he's put up great Strokes Gained: Total numbers in his short time on Tour. He's much longer then Simpson and length is never a negative, he's just got to be able he consistently finds the fairways this week to have a chance. He's never teed it up here so that will be a deterrent for some, but outside of that first time he hits his tee shot on the 16th, I'm not sure that will matter much here.
Hovland is like most of his young colleagues on Tour in that they love to be ultra-aggressive whenever they can be, and this is a track where you can get highly rewarded for that approach, especially on the closing stretch. As long as his approach game is where it usually is, this is a guy I expect to be among the leaders on the weekend.
I do believe 2020 will be the first time we see Hovland find his way to the winner's circle on Tour, and TPC Scottsdale sets up well for him to do so. At this price, he's tough to ignore.
Long Shot: Charley Hoffman (100/1)
At 43 years old, Hoffman's better days on Tour are likely behind him, but he's still a name I expect to pop up on leaderboards here and there this year. He has spent the early part of this 2019-20 wraparound season searching for his game, but after making his first cut in awhile two weeks ago and finishing 61st, and following that up with a 9th place finish last week, his game seems to be coming around. I saw a lot of positives from Hoffman a week ago, as his closing round 65 was one of those days that had to spark tremendous confidence in him.
This week, he returns to a place in TPC Scottsdale where he's been very consistent, making the cut here in each of the past six years, and spending the last three finishing 20th, 26th and 24th. A top-20 bet is probably the best way to go with him this week in terms of expected value, but taking a nibble at 100-1 shouldn't be out of the equation either.
72 Hole Matchup to Take: Gary Woodland (-110) over Matt Kuchar
Recent form/course history enthusiasts may not like this play at all, as Kuchar is coming off a win overseas two weeks ago and has three Top-10 finishes here (two in the Top 5) in the past three years. Kuchar's game is one that fits TPC Scottsdale quite well in general, but I'm just not sure he'll be able to keep up this pace this season.
Woodland may have missed the cut last week, but he probably already had one eye on this week's event as it holds a special place in his heart for multiple reasons since he won here two years ago. Finishes of 7th and 1st the past two seasons here suggests his course history is just as good, and the missed cut a week ago should only add fuel to the motivational fire Woodland should be starting this week. I would have made Woodland a slight favorite in this matchup, but at a pick'em price, I'll gladly back him this week.
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