Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, January 31 at 2:30 PM EST.
WM Phoenix Open
There are all sorts of marketing slogans relating to the course and most are ‘party’ related, but look beyond that and you will find a fascinating test of golf that features one of the best finishes anywhere on the PGA TOUR. This is a fun event to watch given that combined crowds in excess of 500,000 line the fairways across the four days. The main area of concentration is at the 16th hole’s legendary amphitheater, which seats 20,000 and ensures a rowdy reception for the players.
It’s back to Bermuda grass this week at this 7,266 yard, Par 71 layout that was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf more than 30 years ago. Sitting 1500 feet above sea level, the track plays a lot shorter than the yardage prescribed, and the Par 4s in particular can be overpowered by the big hitters. The location is a factor too, with high winds typically a factor at this desert-based, Links-style assignment.
Generally, Scottsdale is an easy-ish course though, with four rounds of 60 compiled here in the past and a winning mark of -28 achieved on more than one occasion. The course underwent a refurb in 2014 with more than 100 yards added, new green complexes and bunkers added, and since then the winning scores have dipped to -15, 14 and -17. The obvious highlight is the last four holes, which have proven to be a graveyard for some down the years and a chance of redemption for others.
What we’re looking for this week:
For a number of years, the format at Scottsdale was simple: boom it miles off the tee and the putt well but that has changed somewhat in recent years – perhaps as a result of the 2014 course alterations – and now hitting plenty of greens is the key.
Hideki Matsuyama ranked first for GIR in 2016 and followed that up by ranking first for Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and second for SG: Approach last year. He was absolutely nowhere in the field for SG: Putting, and indeed only four of the top-10 for that metric would actually finish inside the top-10 of the leaderboard. Thus, it seems that dialing in the approach play and making regulation putts on the Bermuda is key this week.
This is a given, of course, but keep an eye out for those in form. Matsuyama’s form-line heading to Scottsdale 12 months ago read 2-1-1-2 after a fine time in the Asian Swing wraparound events, while Louie Oosthuizen and J.J. Spaun had recorded top-10s just prior to the trip.
Playing the Par 4s well has typically been key at Scottsdale, and while Matsuyama made hay on the Par 5s last year, his fellow play-off combatant, Webb Simpson, played the regulation holes in -8, so clearly doing the basics well here is essential. Whether incidental or not, former Scottsdale winners Brooks Koepka, Matsuyama and JB Holmes finished first, T2 and 12th at last year’s US Open at Erin Hills, while Brendan Steele – he of four top-20 finishes at Scottsdale in five trips – was T13. That may or may not be a useful ally. The WGC Bridgestone at Firestone last year was won by Matsuyama with top-20s for Koepka, Ricky Fowler and perennial Scottsdale performers Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Daniel Berger but once again we’re after guys that are going to pay off big for a small investment so hopefully one or more of the following will be on the first page of the leaderboards on Sunday:
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event.
Michael Kim 250-1
At the 54-hole stage of last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, Michael Kim was tied for third just two shots behind overnight leader Alex Noren. He would eventually fall to T23 on Sunday. In an alarming symmetry, Kim was also T3 after 54 holes at this very tournament 12 months ago – slipping to T24 after the final 18. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by his form at Torrey Pines – he was a member there during his college years, after all – but last year it proved the catalyst for a series of fine performances thereafter; not least his efforts at Scottsdale. The 24-year-old carded some interesting finishes in 2017, including T3 in the Safeway Open, T12 in the Houston Open and T17 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This young man is certainly one to keep an eye on this week and into the future and therefore must be played at this price. The risk is absolutely worth the reward (Risking 0.2 units to win 50 units).
Byeong-Hun An 50-1
One player who does seem to thrive when playing in the southern half of the United States is Byeong-Hun An and the Korean appears to be in strong enough shape to contend once again. You may recall that An led this event through 54 holes last year, and while the outcome did not pan out as he wanted, that’s not a huge surprise for a player who is inexperienced when it comes to leading. That said, you don’t climb to the top of any leaderboard without playing well, and so clearly Scottsdale suits the arrow-straight hitting of this pro. Byeong-hun An is a player who has also delivered top-10 finishes at the AT&T Byron Nelson, the 2016 Zurich Classic (when it was still solo stroke play) and the Wells Fargo Championship, so this is a guy who seems to enjoy playing on the southern coastline. He arrives in Arizona in good form having finished T6 at the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic, where he ranked second for Total Driving and eighth for Greens in Regulation – better than Rory McIlroy and tournament winner Haotong Li. An ranks 2nd ON TOUR in Total Driving, 16th ON TOUR in SG: Approach and 37th ON TOUR in Greens in Regulation (Risking 0.2 units to win 10 units).
Emiliano Grillo 100-1
In among all of the key stats that emerged from Torrey Pines, the form of Emiliano Grillo immediately stood out. Ranking sixth for Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and 12th for SG: Approach is a handy insight when you consider the difficulty of the South Course at the resort, and that has to be taken as a sign of confidence and form on the part of the Argentine. He’s not the flashiest of players so it is easy to forget, but at the tender age of 25, Grillo has wrapped up his maiden PGA TOUR title, represented his country at the Olympics and recorded decent finishes in The Barclays (T2), the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T7), the TOUR Championship (T10) and THE PLAYERS Championship (T11), and while this is clearly a very different test this week, the above shows that Grillo is one classy performer and now in form again, too. Some of his key stats for this week are his 14th place ranking ON TOUR in Total Driving and his 42nd place ranking in both SG: Tee-to-Green and Scoring Average. The price makes him very worthy of getting behind (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Robert Garrigus 175-1
It’s one of those strange anomalies in golf in that over 78 rounds of golf in 2017, Robert Garrigus ranked fourth in the Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders metric. Yep, that’s correct -- Garrigus broke par more times on Par 4s than Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and co, and while that stat offers absolutely no insight into a player’s overall persona, it is still interesting to note what he could accomplish if he could iron out the rougher aspects of his game. Garrigus studied at Scottsdale Community College, and while his form at this track is mixed he does boast a pair of T11 finishes to his credit. If he shows a continuation of his fine form at Torrey Pines last week – a T8 finish and ranking second for SG: Tee-to-Green (scrambling), who says an improvement on that record wouldn’t be in the cards. Garrigus profiles as the kind of bomber that makes sense on occasion at TPC Scottsdale, just as long as his putter is cooperating. The 14th club has been both his bane and boon over the years but he checks off lots of boxes this week, the price is massive and you never know, he might just get there this week (Risking 0.2 units to win 35 units).
Zach Johnson 50-1
The former major champion has recorded five top-20 finishes in his last six starts dating back to the BMW Championship last season, and that is eye-opening indeed ahead of a trip to a course Johnson clearly loves. The Ryder Cupper has gone 12-14-10 at Scottsdale in the past three years, and the fact he skipped the trip to Torrey Pines last week in order to ready himself for the Arizonan test speaks volumes. The key area where his game has improved of late has been in his ball-striking with Johnson ranking 20th on Tour for SG: Tee-to-Green and 11th for SG: Approach. Those are the kinds of numbers which took him to the British Open title back in 2015, and so the sings are there to suggest his game is somewhere near its peak right now. Zach also ranks 14th ON TOUR in Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders. Incidentally, he’s a bargain in FANTASY (DFS) too. (Risking 0.2 units to win 10 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for the WM Phoenix Open
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for the WM Phoenix Open
The quality of talent at this level is getting better every year and there are literally between 45 and 50 golfers every event that have a truly legit chance to win but we can’t bet them all. To pick a winner outright is a big time challenge but the real money in these events is in the head-to-head challenges and that’s where our bread and butter will be earned. We may post daily head-to-heads as well so keep your eye out for those. In the meantime, the H2H below are for 72 holes:
Webb Simpson +100 over Alex Noren (AT BET365)
We like Alex Noren and previewed and played him last week in our head-to-head matchups but one has to wonder how he’ll respond this week after being so close last week. That event could’ve been both mentally and physically challenging, especially considering he had to return on Monday for a playoff. Secondly, Pinnacle Sports has Simpson at -126 in this same matchup and we get him at even money at BET365. Even if Noren is in decent form, Simpson still has a great chance to beat him, as his course form of 2-14-10-8-8 simply cannot be questioned and, Hideki aside, cannot be rivaled. Factor in some decent form, and Webb Simpson is a live contender this week. Simpson finished T36 in his last start at the CareerBuilder Challenge, but we’re willing to overlook that: the CareerBuilder is a chaotic tournament played across three courses, and you wouldn’t necessarily suggest it’s a good measure of form. Prior to that and Simpson was T4 at the Sony Open, and that caps a run of seven top-20 finishes in 10 starts – and one of the anomalies was when he withdrew from the RSM Classic at -7 to be with his ill father. A surprising feature of the four-time PGA TOUR winner’s season has been his excellence with the putter: he ranks 18th for Strokes Gained: Putting. Otherwise, it is business as usual for this straight-shooter and everything points to him defeating Noren over 72 holes (Risking 2 units to win 2 units).
#7020 Chase Hadley +113 over Brandt Snedeker
Snedeker, 37, is coming off a season marred by a sternum injury that sidelined him for five months. Although he qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs, he was not well enough to compete. Snedeker has also parted with his caddie, Scott Vail. Snedeker and Vail were a team for 12 years, joining forces for all eight of Snedeker’s PGA TOUR wins and reaching their absolute high point with Snedeker hoisting the 2012 TOUR Championship and FedExCup trophies. Snedeker’s new caddie is Matt Hauser, who had been working for Johnson Wagner. He hasn’t looked sharp lately either. After playing in the low-stress QBE in mid-December, he flew halfway around the world to the Indonesian Masters in Jakarta, but played poorly in the first round and withdrew. He missed the cut at the CareerBuilder Challenge two weeks ago and last week he finished a pedestrian T45 after shooting rounds of 72, 71, 74 and 71.
It just goes to show how quickly the world of golf moves that Chesson Hadley has gone from genuine title contender to also-ran in a matter of weeks; in the eyes of the sportsbooks anyway. It wasn’t that long ago that the 30-year-old was connecting a trio of top-five finishes during the wraparound season, before a bout of food poisoning at the OHL Classic completely derailed his momentum. But Hadley showed signs of coming back strongly last week, ranking 22nd for SG: Tee-to-Green and sixth for SG: Approach on his way to a T23 finish. With Scottsdale testing the precision of one’s approach play, Hadley might just be a sleeper pick to cherish in Arizona at 100-1 but we’re going to confidently get behind him to finish ahead of Snedeker, as he ranks 6th ON TOUR in SG: Approach, 10th in SG: Tee to Green and 24th in Birdie or Better Percentage (Risking 2 units to win 2.26 units).
#7022 Byeong Hun An +185 over Tony Finau
Pinnacle Sports is not in the habit of giving away money. Last week at Torrey Pines, in the first weekend without since late August, Finau was on the leaderboard most of the weekend and even held the lead for a good portion of the event. The point is that without football, lots of eyes were on the PGA with the return of Tiger Woods and therefore Finau was on your screen often. He was highly exposed all weekend, his long-ball hitting skills are well documented and he’s a far more well-known pro than Byeong Hun An is. Playing Finau this week against An to the unsuspecting looks like easy money but it’s not. Finau has missed plenty of cuts before, especially early in the year and he missed the cut at this event last season too. Meanwhile, we highlighted An above in our picks to win it and if we like him to win, we also have to like him to beat Finau but we think matters not. That Pinnacle Sports even features this match-up seals the deal for us and we’re on it. You should be too (Risking 2 units to win 3.7 units).
For Fantasy Players:
Hideki Matsuyama is our “HORSE for the COURSE. It feels slightly crazy to basically suggest we are backing a player to complete a three-peat – as statistically-likely as finding life on another planet, but the manner in which Hideki Matsuyama has tamed TPC Scottsdale in recent years means we simply have to jump on the train once again. A winner here in 2016 and ’17, we mustn’t forget that the Japanese ace was just one stroke behind winner Brooks Koepka in 2015 as well: it’s no exaggeration to suggest that he has almost conquered this layout completely. Can we have confidence that Matsuyama can enter the record books with a third consecutive victory? Well, we can say this with some confidence: he is certainly playing well enough. Top-fives in two of his last three stroke-play starts were attention-grabbing enough ahead of the Farmers Insurance Open, and his T12 at Torrey Pines was supplemented by a final round of 69: nobody shot lower on Sunday in the tough conditions. Jon Rahm’s capitulation at Torrey Pines, Rickie Fowler’s missed weekend in Cali, Justin Thomas’ pair of missed cuts at Scottsdale….there’s enough evidence to swerve some of the other big players this week. Matsuyama, on the other hand, has a rather strong case to his name.
Other players to consider for DFS or to win outright are:
Gary Woodland 50-1
The T12 finish of Gary Woodland at Torrey Pines will have largely gone unnoticed due to the thrilling finish, but shrewd gamers will have noted that all aspects of his game were in fine fettle. Typically an outstanding tee-to-green player, the 33-year-old also ranked seventh for Strokes Gained: Putting, and for guys like Woodland that is usually an indicator that more good form is to follow. The two-time PGA TOUR winner finished T7 on his previous start at the Sony Open, so the upward trend is obvious for a player that has gone six-for-eight at Scottsdale with one top-five finish.
Scott Piercy 66-1
A winner of three PGA TOUR titles and a top-five finisher in a pair of majors, injury and a crippling lack of confidence threatened to derail Scott Piercy’s career in 2017. The good news is that he is back and playing as well as ever. He is striking his irons beautifully at present, and that was the main factor behind his T6 finish last time out at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Piercy has a habit of playing well on the south coast, with top-20s last season at the Dean & Deluca and Byron Nelson rare highlights of a tawdry campaign. Born and bred in Nevada, Piercy is also well accomplished when playing at altitude….TPC Summerlin was his affiliated course for a while, and he won the Reno-Tahoe Open in the state back in 2011
Keegan Bradley 66-1
Quality ball striking, as standard, propelled Keegan Bradley to yet another top-five finish at Torrey Pines, and with a number of tee-to-green tests upcoming now is the good time to support the 31-year-old. It is often argued that Bradley hasn’t won enough tournaments to justify his undoubted ability, and indeed it is some six years since he last entered the winner’s circle at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. But it is easy to forget that this is a major winner we’re talking – he claimed the 2011 PGA Championship over his good friend Jason Dufner, and there is that old saying that form is temporary, class is permanent. There is a sense of satisfaction in Bradley’s personal life after becoming a father in November, and as we know that can often manifest itself in enhanced performances. With a decent record at Scottsdale, there’s no reason why Bradley can’t wind back the hands of time and re-enter the winner’s circle.
The total risk for this event is 7 units and we’ll update it when the results are official.
5 golfers at 0.2 units each = -1 unit
Webb Simpson +100 over Alex Noren = - 2 units
#7020 Chase Hadley +113 over Brandt Snedeker = +2.26 units
#7022 Byeong Hun An +185 over Tony Finau + 3.70 units
Therefore 5.96 units in wins minus 3 units in losses = a total net prifit of 2.96 units for this event.
Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
WM Phoenix Open (Risking 7 units - To Win: 0.00)