The West Coast Swing rumbles on for the PGA Tour and this week it takes the traditional kink in-land from California to the desert of Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
The highlight of the week? The raucous crowds which regularly reach mind-boggling numbers.
There were over 200,000 there in one day in 2016, over 618,000 throughout the week and the 16th hole, an enclosed stadium par-3, holds 20,000 alone (remember that the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth gets crowds of about that per day).
TPC Scottsdale is a classic of its type. A resort style layout that favours aggressive lines and bold shot-making, typified by a closing stretch which features par-5s at the 13th and 15th, the famous short 16th and the driveable par-4 17th.
A new year means new additions and fan experiences! #thepeoplesopen Tournament Chairman, @ChanceCozby takes you through them all! @PGATOUR@WasteManagement@tpcscottsdale#WMPO#RESPECT#GreenestShowpic.twitter.com/CJyjxLrNcM— WM Phoenix Open (@WMPhoenixOpen) January 29, 2019
Perhaps because the track is so set up for risk and reward countless winners here have consistently ranked high in the seasonal Going for the Green stats – the likes of Gary Woodland, Brooks Koepka, Kyle Stanley, plus double winners Hideki Matsuyama and JB Holmes.
Even Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Kevin Stadler did well in that particular category.
Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau – it’s not surprise these guys top the market, nor is there any shock in how they rank. It’s a head of the market that looks more or less right so let’s look elsewhere for value.
Ryan Palmer likes to take aim at a distant target and has proved it by popping up in the Going for the Green rankings down the years.
He was ranking sixth this year until a poor week in that regard at Torrey Pines when he tumbled to 35th, but with few numbers to grapple with this season those rankings are currently volatile. Trust that he’s performed over the long term.
We can also trust that when he is on his game he can prosper at TPC Scottsdale because he’s twice finished second (in 2006 and 2015) and was fifth in 2013 (when he opened with a 64 and closed with a 62).
The form which saw him collect four top tens late in 2018 was also reawakened last week at Torrey Pines. He might have slipped when Going for the Green, but he posted a pair of 67s early on to head into the weekend T3rd.
His 75 on Saturday will have hurt, but he responded with a 68 for T13th and can maintain that form this week at a favoured location. He’s 80/1 with Unibet (six places).
Last year Luke List topped those Going for the Green seasonal stats and he’s up there again so far this campaign (fourth).
His first three visits to the tournament were limp affairs, missing the cut on each occasion but a 66 to sign off in 2017 hinted that he was getting to grips with the examination and he broke par every lap last year when T26th (he was also seventh for Greens in Regulation and the last four winners here all landed a lot of putting surfaces).
He had eight top tens last year, two of them in the early part of the 2018/19 season and he seems to enjoy putting on Bermuda grass – five of those good weeks were played on grainy greens.
Rookie Cameron Champ’s introduction to the PGA Tour was fairly sensational, taking in victory in just his second start and never outside the top 30 in his first six starts.
But he missed the weekend in the Sony Open and fell foul of the cut again at Torrey Pines last week.
However, this might be the week to get him back onside. A big hitter who has shown himself useful in those Going for the Green stats, this rather more straightforward test should require less experience.
Those spots which tripped him up are both tricky, the one being narrow and tight, the other windy with frustrating greens.
There’s no doubt he hit a rich vein of putting form before Christmas and the stats suggest he’s lost that mojo a little, but there is good cause to think this course will be far more to his liking and favour his long game too. Unibet offer him at 66/1 (six places).
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