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Phoenix Open Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 02/24/2010

Some changes have been made to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, played at TPC Scottsdale. First off, it is a later start than normal as this even used to take place Super Bowl week and who can forget the environment last year when the crowd was decked out in Cardinals gear on Super Bowl Sunday. Also, a new sponsor is in place as FBR was replaced by the Waste Management people but the goal remains to be “Greatest Show on Grass”. This is the most attended even on tour and the par three 16th hole rivals some of the best parties around.

Falling a week after the first World Golf Championship event, two weeks before the second WGC, and during a dark week in Europe, the WMPO has drawn an above-average field. Six of the top ten on the money list are here as are four of the top ten in OWGR (Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer). There are 11 past Phoenix Open winners in the field as well as 14 Major Championship winners so all-in-all, it is a very strong gathering and one that has great potential for a big Sunday finish.

You might think this tournament is just another filler on the tour schedule but it is far from that. This event is older than the Masters and former winners include Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. And, of course, there was Tiger Woods’ famous hole-in-one in 1997, which drew an uproarious response as Tiger fist-pumped his way toward the green. This year marks the 75th anniversary and if history holds true, the course itself will turn into a small city with a population reaching 170,000 on Saturday and Sunday.

Last year it was Kenny Perry (+3000) who took home the prize in a playoff over Charley Hoffman. Perry has been quiet so far this season mainly because he isn’t playing. He said he was scaling back this year quite a bit and he has been true to his word. His one stroke play event resulted in a T6 at the SBC Championship way back in early January and last week, he lost in the first round to Brian Gay at the Accenture. Still, this price is filled with value.

Mickelson (+800) is the favorite once again and he will continue to play that role until we have our first Tiger sighting. Mickelson did not play in the match play last week as he had a family vacation planned and family is his number one priority at this point. A lot was expected early this season with no Woods around and a new putting confidence but all he has accomplished is one top ten in three events. He is a two-time champion here.

Geoff Ogilvy (+1500) was a pretty big disappointment last week at the Accenture after he bowed out in the second round to Camilo Villegas. The two-time match play champion looked to once again be in prime form but one bad break did him in. He has played in this event eight times in his career and has made the cut in only half of those with his best finish coming last year with a T17. I think the disappointment last week will carry over into this week.

Poulter (+2000) is coming off his first ever win in the U.S. and it was well deserved and well over due. Clad in all pink, he took out last year’s runner up and fellow countryman Paul Casey 4 and 2. A letdown for some, I think that win just makes Poulter that much hungrier. The problem is he has never played in this event and experience on these greens is always a bonus.

J.B. Holmes (+2500) missed the cut last year after winning this even in 2008 as well as two years prior to that in 2006. He has gotten off to a solid start this year as he followed up a T27 at the Farmers with back-to-back top threes, T3 at the Northern Trust and a T2 at Pebble. His accuracy has been a spot on this year and he is a big hitter who can once again eat up this course.

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