Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, January 30 at 3:45 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is January 24th at 9:00 AM EST.
2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open Course Preview:
Measuring 7,266 yards for its Par 71, this is a classic exposed desert landscape that tends to get buffeted by the wind, and plays at an altitude of around 1,500 feet above sea level. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, Scottsdale boasts average width fairways and slighter larger-than-the-norm Bermuda greens, which run at around 12 on the stimpmeter. They tend to be rock hard too, having been baked by the desert sun.
The layout also features one of the most exciting closing sections in world golf. The 15th is a Par 5 that can easily be reached in two; but mind the water that runs the entire length of the left-hand side of the fairway and green. The 16th is the infamous ‘Coliseum’; a 163-yard Par 3 which is wholly surrounded by a stadium holding some 20,000 patrons. For a pro golfer, the actual mechanics of the approach shot are straightforward enough; but the pressure of having the locals baying for your blood can get the knees knocking. It’s then risk and reward time on the 17th. This Par 4 can be driven, although there’s water left and sand right, and the scoring average was around 3.60 last year and it’s a similar case on the Par 4 to close, where players can take on sand and water left to earn the perfect angle into the green, or lay up short and right and clutch out the tough approach
What we’re looking for this week:
An absolute clinic of ball-striking was the foundation for Hideki Matsuyama’s back-to-back triumphs at Scottsdale, and you know that reigning champion Gary Woodland is no slouch in that department either. Indeed, he ranked third for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and fourth on Approach, and his driving stats – 318-yard average length with 60% of fairways found – were outstanding. Factor in a rare hot week with the putter for the big man, and the trap was set for a fantastic victory. Woodland, Matsuyama, 2015 winner Brooks Koepka….there’s a theme developing of players able to give it an almighty whack off the tee, and with that X Factor to shoot low numbers into the bargain. Scottsdale is your ultimate ‘bomb and gauge’ track, with minimal rough that can be played out of with relative ease. That said, it’s probably advisable to keep your ball in play, with Reavie and Woodland ranking second and third for SG: Tee-to-Green and Schneiderjans, who finished T3, ranking fourth for the same metric.
If you’re looking for course correlations, the hook-up between the Phoenix Open, Memorial Tournament and the Honda Classic doesn’t get much stronger. In no particular order….Woodland has won this and finished T2 at the Honda, Fowler has won the Honda and finished second here and at the Memorial. Matusyama, meanwhile, has won both the Phoenix and Memorial. Kyle Stanley has won here and finished second in the Memorial, while Jason Dufner won the Memorial and finished second here. Mark Wilson has won here and the Honda Classic, Ryan Palmer finished second in this event and the Honda, while Kenny Perry won here and at the Memorial. All those connections came in the past decade or so, too.
While we understand that there’s a great chance for the chalk to go back-to-back (Rose was 9-1 last week), betting those small odds are not in our wheelhouse. However, we’ll add our “HORSE FOR THE COURSE feature for fantasy players along with other notables in the “Fantasy” section at the bottom of this write-up.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event:
To Win outright:
Lucas Glover 100-1
Ever since he finished second at the Web.com Tour Championship, Lucas Glover has been in a rich vein of form. A top-10 at the Shriners has been sandwiched in-between a quartet of top-20 finishes: Safeway (T17), Sanderson Farms (T14), RSM Classic (T11) and the Desert Classic (T12). He is not a prolific winner by any means, but then neither are Matt Kuchar and Charles Howell III; that’s not stopped them from getting their hands on a trophy (or two) this season. Glover ranks 9th ON TOUR in SG: Tee-to-Green, 9th in Greens in Regulation and 19th in Total Driving (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Abraham Ancer 75-1
The Mexican has been kicked to the curb by the betting market after missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open but he missed a four-foot putt to reach the weekend. That misstep aside, Ancer is playing some excellent golf right now and has some excellent results to his name in similar conditions to Scottsdale. He won the Australian Open (think dry, hot, windy) in November, and as a youngster, went to Odessa College in Texas; winning numerous tournaments including one called the ‘Desert Shootout’. T4 in the Nevada desert for the Shriners a few months ago, Ancer figures to feel right at home in Scottsdale (Risking 0.2 units to win 15 units).
Alex Noren – 55-1
The Swede has been wholly written off the market after missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open last week, but we’re happy to roll with the punches. Noren opened up with a round of 76, and that was always going to count against him. Indeed, he had to miss out on the weekend; but not before shooting a morale-raising 68 on Friday. Otherwise, his form has been good. The world number 21 finished inside the top-10 at both the Hero World Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai’s desert; a handy insight for this week. Last year, he sandwiched two average rounds at Scottsdale around fantastic efforts of 68 and 65, which highlights his suitability for the layout. To up the ante, Noren also finished solo third in one of our correlating events in 2018: the Honda Classic (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Talor Gooch 90-1
It’s always slightly dangerous to follow an unproven player in week after week, but sports bettors with the each way option would have banked considerable profit courtesy of Talor Gooch recently. He followed solo fourth at the Desert Classic with T4 at the Farmers, and those two events could not be any different: the former a birdie-fest, the latter playing three rounds at the tough Torrey Pines South Course. That suggests Gooch is a versatile player who can hang in any conditions, so there’s no reason why he can’t go well again. Ranking first for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and second for Approach this season, the 27-year-old may well be an elite talent in the making. He’s no stranger to this section either, as we’ve been following him since he turned pro and some guys take longer than others to emerge. Coming of age at this level right before our eyes, we’ll lean on his terrific fit for TPC Scottsdale, his surge of confidence and the fact that he's still chasing his first victory (Risking 0.2 units to win 18 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for The WM Phoenix Open
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS below are for 72 holes:
#7026 Byeong Hun An -112 over Tyrrell Hatton
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 in 2017 and while the outcome did not pan out as he wanted, that’s not a huge surprise for a player who was inexperienced when it comes to leading. Thing is, you don’t climb to the top of any leaderboard without playing well, and so clearly Scottsdale suits the arrow-straight hitting of the Korean.
We need not worry about jet lag either, as the world number 52 played this sequence last year, finishing T6 in Dubai before ending up T23 in this event. “Benny” also banked a top-five in the Honda Classic and lost in a play-off at the Memorial Tournament and should have no trouble finishing ahead of Hatton.
Even if Hatton was in better form, he'd probably be worth fading because he's a first-timer with inflated value in both this head-to-head and fantasy. He’s also went MC-T38 to open the Desert Swing on the European Tour, so he's not ringing the bell for recency bias either. Sometimes a pro just shows up and slays a course without warning and if Hatton does that, good on him but the more likely scenario is that he’ll be far behind our guy and frankly, we can’t find a single reason not to bet this one (Risking 2.24 units to win 2).
#7048 Sungjae Im -107 over Kyle Stanley
Kyle Stanley has a fondness and good memories of this course, as TPC Scottsdale rewarded him with his maiden title as a first-timer in 2012. However, since his maiden victory here, he is just 3-for-6 since without a top-35 finish so it’s not like he slayed this course. Dude is coming off a short week at Torrey Pines where he missed the cut by eight strokes and his numbers suggest regression. Stanley ranks 91st in SG: Off the Tee, 104th in SG: Approach the Green, 105th in SG: Around the Green, 112th in SG: Putting and 79th in Driving Distance. This course may have given him his maiden victory but it doesn’t look suitable for him to us.
Meanwhile, Sungjae Im will play in his ninth event this year. The Korean has shown a fondness for golf on the West Coast, and whether that’s a coincidence or a sign of something more concrete we’ll have to wait and see. Im finished T4 at the Safeway Open (Napa Valley), T15 at the Shriners (Summerlin) and then T12 at the Desert Classic in La Quinta. Last week, he finished T52 at the Farmers Insurance. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised: the 20-year-old won twice on the Web.com Tour last season, with one of those victories coming in Portland, Oregon. As an excellent driver (he ranks 17th for Total Driving), there is surely plenty of upside in backing him. Some of Im’s key stats show that he ranks 7th ON TOUR in Total Driving, 34th ON TOUR in Par 4 Scoring Average and 25th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders (Risking 2.14 units to win 2).
#7002 Scott Piercy -119 over J.B. Holmes
We regretfully bet J.B. Holmes to beat Brandon Grace last week but in this sport, we cannot choose who a pro is matched up against in head-to-head competition. The bet was more a fade against Grace and sure enough, Grace indeed missed the cut. Holmes looked like a lock to beat him after Day 1 but on Day 2, Holmes went 7 over par, missed the cut and finished two strokes behind Grace. Holmes shot a 69 on Day 1 and then shot a 79 on Day 2. This week, we’re thrilled to fade J.B.
Holmes has played five events this year and finished 9th, 13th, 23rd, 48th and MC (missed cut) respectively. Do you see a trend there because we sure do. He’s been regressing since that 9th place finish. Last year, he missed the cut here. This year, Holmes ranks 192nd in GIR (Greens in Regulation) and 161st in Driving Accuracy and 123rd in SG: Putting. Yeah, he can drive it, but so what, his putting and accuracy or lack thereof gets him into plenty of trouble while our guy stays out of trouble.
It may surprise you to learn that Scott Piercy ranks 1st ON TOUR in GIR and 10th ON TOUR in Driving Accuracy. He’s played eight events this year and has made the cut in seven and now sits 18th ON TOUR in money earned this season. At the Desert Classic two weeks ago (he skipped the Farmers). Piercy shot -11 after a below average first day. 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. Born and bred in Nevada, Piercy is also well accomplished when playing at altitude. Aside from that, he has every advantage over JB other than driving distance but the advantages he has are by a very wide margin (Risking 2.38 units to win 2).
FANTASY or DFS
There are dozens of DFS/Fantasy Golf sites that will try and aid you with picks but the problem is that every SINGLE one of them spurts out the same crap. They will all make between and 5 and 10 suggestions and none of them step out of line and pick someone above 80-1. It’s all usually the same 30 golfers week after week after week. Just like the NFL panels on TV, these idiots can’t wrap their heads around a guy like J.J. Spaun for instance (100-1 this week) to win an event. We try and go off the grid because that’s where the money is in DFS. No point of having the same five guys as everyone else and do you really need to read this if we were giving out Matsuyama, JT, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele or the other top 15 guys? Of course they can win and of course they will likely make the cut but we’re giving you guys with low ownership % that you can add as your fourth and fifth guys.
In this section, we’ll continue to provide you with pros that nobody else will but we will include one popular choice or our HORSE FOR THE COURSE:
Horse for the Course:
Many gamers will opt for Hideki Matsuyama, given his fine course form at Scottsdale and how well he played at Torrey Pines last week but one swallow doesn’t make a summer, as the old saying goes, and it’s possible that the Japanese star’s bad habits – he finished outside the top-20 in five of his previous six ‘proper’ starts -could return if he gets off to a bad start. Thus, we’re much more inclined to side with Jon Rahm, the Spaniard who has been in fine form of late. The Arizona State graduate would love nothing more than to win on home soil, as he still lives in the state. Sometimes playing at ‘home’ can be a distraction for a player, but Rahm’s record at Scottsdale – 11-16, with a T5 as an amateur – is encouraging. Rahmbo has been in fantastic form lately with a quartet of top-10 finishes, and he’ll be looking to tick off this trophy from his golfing bucket list this week.
SG: Tee-to-Green – 14th
Birdie Average – 23rd
Total Driving – 24th
Others to consider:
Michael Kim – 300-1
At the 54-hole stage of the Farmers Insurance Open last year, Michael Kim was tied in T3 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 24 months ago – slipping to T24 after the final 18.
Kim was a member at Torrey Pines during his college years, after all but in 2017, it proved the catalyst for a series of fine performances thereafter; not least his efforts at Scottsdale. The 25-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. Kim lost his way in 2018 and has missed three cuts in a row this year but it only takes one good round to wake up. What we know for sure is he can putt (ranks 25th) and he can drive it (ranks 32nd) and those two key categories gives him a puncher’s chance to make the cut and maybe even finish top-10. Dude is just 26 years old.
Trey Mullinax 150-1
It was a good week for Mullinax at Torrey Pines last time out. He won’t be splashing out on a mansion with his check from a T25 finish, but he ranked third for SG: Approach and sixth for SG: Tee-to-Green which is an excellent display of ball-striking. There were rounds of 65 and 67 at the Desert Classic too, so there is a certain amount of upward trending in his game. Other notable performances – T2 at the Texas Open, T6 at the St Jude Classic last year – hint at a fondness for golf in windy, dry conditions; not surprising, perhaps, for an Alabamian. .
Martin Laird 90-1
Growing up in Scotland, it’s not a huge surprise that Martin Laird is comfortable playing in the breeze. A three-time PGA TOUR winner, one of those triumphs came in Texas and another at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, also played in the desert in Nevada. Laird lives in Arizona, and has banked three top-10s in the last four years of the Phoenix Open. Having missed two cuts in a row, the Scot finally made a weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open, and a return of 73-66-69-75 hints at another strong showing at Scottsdale.
Chesson Hadley 200-1
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 months in the eyes of the market. Hadley was 80-1 to win this event last year and now he’s 200-1. 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. Hadley has missed three cuts in a row and is therefore off the radar but what a great buy-low opportunity we have here. Hadley ranks 21st on TOUR in Total Driving, 16th in Eagles and 40th in Driving Accuracy. With Scottsdale testing the precision of one’s approach play, Hadley might just be a sleeper pick to cherish in Arizona.
Sung Kang 150-1
While he’s not a player we’d normally be racing out to be backing, Sung Kang does have some credentials this week. The Korean has plenty of form to his name, finishing T20 at the Farmers last week (including a round of 66) after a T10 return from the Sony Open, where he finished 67-65-64. T12 here in 2017, Kang also has top-10s to his name at the Honda Classic and the Texas Open, another blustery, bone dry challenge.
The total amount risked on this event is 7.76 units and we’ll update the results after the results are official.
4 golfers to win outright at 0.2 units each = -0.8 units
Scott Piercy -119 over J.B. Holmes = +2 units
Sungjae Im -107 over Kyle Stanley = + 2 units
Byeong Hun An -112 over Tyrrell Hatton = -2.24 units
Therefore 4 units in win -3.04 units in losses = a net profit for this event of 0.96 units
Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports
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WM Phoenix Open (Risking 7.76 units - To Win: 0.00)