This week, the PGA Tour moves from one of the toughest courses on its schedule, in the South Course at Torrey Pines, to the layout that ranked as one of the easiest last season – TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
This perhaps is the last chance that the “grip it and rip it” brigade will have to shine at this much loved Arizona venue, as next year’s renewal will see a revamped track at a reported cost of $15million.
What will remain is the infamous par-three, fully enclosed 16th that has become the signature hole of the tournament. The coliseum-like seating capacity at this one hole has grown to about 20,000, and the crowd for the entire event over the four days is always the biggest of the year. Being able to handle the boisterous galleries is a must for prospective champions.
Playing well the week before in San Diego is not a pre-requisite for going low in Phoenix, as only two of the last ten champions managed a top ten in the previous week ahead of their win, and three didn’t play at all.
The longer rough at the Farmers Insurance Open caught out many players and, this week, I’d rather go with three players who missed the action completely at La Jolla.
With 20 under or lower set to be the winners’ score in Phoenix, those that can go low are advised and given Ryan Palmer only found one too good at the last birdie-fest on the PGA Tour roster – the Human Challenge a fortnight ago – the Texan pro gets the headline selection at 25/1. His greens in regulation stats – key this week (three of the last four champions have topped the GIR rankings) – have been good recently and, as he finished with a 62 at Scottsdale 12 months ago to grab fifth place, he has the right mix of course and current form.
Ryan Moore has two top six finishes in his last five starts at this week’s venue, where after last year’s fourth place he exclaimed he ‘loved this event’, and four top tens, including victory in the CIMB Classic, in his last six appearances this term is another tick in the right box, also at 25/1.
Finally, Chris Kirk, at 33s, is back in action after claiming runners-up spot in the Sony Open and, given his November win in the McGladrey Classic came after a week’s rest, this classy iron player shouldn’t be left off any staking plan.
My three off the tee – Palmer, Moore and Kirk.