Riding alongside the NFL Playoffs on the sports calendar, it is now three straight tournament wins on The PGA Tour that too have been decided in a playoff. We’re down to the final two teams in the NFL and it might as well be Super Week in golf as well as The Tour bus stops in the desert for the annual SuperBowl Pregame Show held at The Waste Management Open in Phoenix for the greatest show on grass.
Golf in 2018 really kicked into gear last week at Torrey Pines with the perfectly difficult and stunningly beautiful venue, Tiger Woods drawing massive galleries and treating them to a Top 25 finish, and our third straight thrilling playoff finish. With Football having now built to its crescendo, the timing feels perfect for golf to ride its own wave, again in tandem, into Phoenix for what is the sports’ biggest party.
TPC Scottsdale is the host course for The Waste Management Open and is in its 30th year of doing so. The annual golf gathering in Arizona has long been a birdie fest with individual rounds in the low 60’s and tournament winning scores better than 20-under par. But the birdie barrage has been tempered in the last few years. Just as Tom Weiskoph was brought in to stiffen the test on The North Course at Torrey Pines, he was assigned the task of remodeling the greens here at TPC Scottsdale prior to the 2015 edition. Since then winning scores have dipped below the 20-mark and been in the mid teens under par.
Hideki Matsuyama has taken quite a liking to Weiskoph’s Bermuda Grass greens as he is your two-time defending champion. Matsuyama has gotten it done in Phoenix by hitting greens in regulation and scoring on the Par 4’s. But scoring on the famous Par 3, 16th hole is where all the fun is, the most raucous and entertaining hole in all of golf.
Jordan Spieth (+8.96 Pinnacle) The number 3 player in the world makes his first return to action since playing the first two weeks of 2018 in Hawaii where he recorded solid finishes of 9th and 18th. Spieth has been excellent here at TPC Scottsdale with a 9th and a 7th in his only two appearances.
Hideki Matsuyama (+10.46 Pinnacle) Two-time defending champion may be all one needs to know about Hideki and this event but it is worth noting that he also had an excellent week last week at The Farmers, finishing 12th.
Rickie Fowler (+14.1 Pinnacle) The Farmers Insurance spokesman hasn’t fared so well at their title event, missing the cut last week at Torrey Pines for the 4th time in five years.. but he’s been much sharper here in the dry desert air with a 4th and a 2nd the last two years.
Daniel Berger (+4000 5Dimes) The Bermuda Grass putting specialist is on many people’s radar this week and rightly so. He has two Top 10 finishes here in the last three years.
Webb Simpson (+3500 5Dimes) Simpson has been very successful in the desert swing, winning in Las Vegas in 2014 and recording four Top 10 finishes here in Phoenix in the last five visits.
Alex Noren (+4000 Bookmaker) Primarily a European Tour player, it was great to see all of Noren’s talent on display last week in La Jolla. Still in search of his first PGA Tour win, the 16th ranked player in the world looks to be in fine form coming in.
The Long Shots
Harris English (+70.15 Pinnacle) After missing five straight cuts to close out 2017, English has logged two straight Top 10 finishes to begin 2018.. and he’s been very solid here at The Waste Management with two Top 10’s in the last four years.
Scott Piercy (+6600 Bookmaker) Another fan of desert golf, The Las Vegas native hasn’t taken so kindly to TPC Scottsdale since Weiskoph’s tweaks but prior to that he had three Top 10’s in six tries. Two weeks ago in Palm Desert, Piercy took 6th at The Career Builder Challenge.
J.B. Holmes (+48.83 Pinnacle) The big hitter has won this event twice and two years ago he finished 6th. A horse for the course indeed as he is at Torrey Pines, where he took 4th last week.
Ryan Palmer (+6600 5Dimes) Palmer played inspired golf last week at Torrey Pines after having a rough go of it for the last year and half with a medical extension and his wife going through breast cancer. He took advantage of it all the way to a 2nd place finish after being the first man out in a three-way playoff. I believe he takes that momentum over into this week – to a venue he’s enjoyed plenty of success at over the years. He has three Top 5 finishes here including a 2nd place in 2015, the first year of the redesign. And he’s shown a real liking for desert golf, finishing 20th two weeks ago at The Career Builder, a place he’s recorded four Top 10’s in the last seven years. This result in La Quinta also allowed Palmer to secure his Tour card for the rest of this season for which he said, “knowing I’m fully exempt frees you up a little bit more.”
With the way he is feeling, thinking, and playing – and now on a course that in his comfort zone, the price is too good to pass up.
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