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25th April 2024 4:11 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

THE PGA TOUR: Waste Management Phoenix Open

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From the classical Pebble Beach courses in North California, we head off to the Arizona desert for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at Scottsdale. Played out in front of the most raucous (700,000ish) bunch of fans over the four days, this event provides a different set of challenges to those played to date this year.

Players have to embrace the differences of shot-making in the thinner air that prevails in playing at high altitudes – Scottsdale is 1,250 feet above sea level. Then there’s the hugely intimidating Par 3 Stadium hole, where golfers enter through a tunnel to a cacophony of noise from the well-oiled crowd. It’s a tournament that usually produces a top-class winner – 7 of the last eight winners were inside the top 20 of the Official World Golf Rankings.

Big-hitting ball-strikers who can consistently hit greens in regulation are favoured. Scottie Scheffler, the OWGR #1, has illustrated how well he fits the requirements by winning in each of the last two years. This is reflected in his skinny price; however, I am not convinced that his putting this year has settled down as yet.

With all this in mind and still basking in the glow of picking Wyndham Clark at 80/1 in California last week, here are my Big 5 selections for the tournament: Name, Current Price and (OWGR rankings).

You’ll note that three of my selections are not in the OWGR top 20, but I consider them upwardly mobile.

  • Justin Thomas, 11/1 (12): JT has been getting closer to a breakthrough 2024 win in recent weeks. He has an excellent course record and ticks an unprecedented seventeen of my 20 stats boxes for this tournament.
  • Byeong-Hun Yan, 33/1 (42): Brought home the place money for us at big odds in Kapalua, this rising star has played well here in the past and fits many of the required stats.
  • Cameron Young, 45/1 (24): Must have an outstanding chance of breaking his PGA Tour duck this week. A brilliant third to Rory in the Dubai Desert Classic recently, this course will play to the strengths of Young, who finished 7th in last year’s Masters and 8th in The Open.
  • Kevin Yu, 80/1 (113): Rising rapidly through the ranks, the Arizona State University graduate has been in flying form this year and is extremely strong on the stats. He is being backed, and he will be 66/1 before the gun, I think.
  • Sam Burns, 25/1 (5): Like JT, he looks like a winner waiting to happen and will be anxious to atone for his late collapse in the Amex Championship.

Throw in Wyndham Clark, 28/1, who lives in Scottsdale and is perfectly capable of securing back-to-back victories, and bet 1 point each way on all. Add a 3-point win only on JT, and keep your fingers crossed.

Look out after 54 holes for Jordan Spieth, 20/1, a big fan of Scottsdale, who would have been on the above list had he not become so difficult to predict.

Good Luck – Sandy Lane

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