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Phoenix Open Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 01/31/2012

The Tour leaves California and heads to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, played at TPC Scottsdale. The event is back on Super Bowl weekend for the second straight year after a brief move to late February. This is the third year for sponsor Waste Management and the goal remains to be "Greatest Show on Grass". This is the most attended event on tour and the par three 16th hole rivals some of the best parties around and it has become very popular among the players.

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 77th anniversary and if history holds true, the course itself will turn into a small city with a population reaching 170,000 spectators on Saturday and Sunday.

Nine of the top ten players on the money list are in action as well as nine of the top ten in the FedEx Cup Standings. Only two players ranked in the OWGR top ten are playing, Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson, but there are nine past Phoenix Open winners in the field as well as 10 Major Championship winners. Notables include Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar. All-in-all, it is a very strong gathering and one that has great potential for a big Sunday finish.

Defending his championship will be Mark Wilson (+3,000) who won on the second playoff hole over Jason Dufner. Wilson is not only defending but he is coming off a win in his last event, the Humana Challenge played two weeks ago. He has won four times in January and February since 2009 so this has been his time to shine. He finished T9 here in 2008 and T14 in 2010 making TPC Scottsdale a favorite stop.

Phil Mickelson (+2,500) is a two-time champion in Scottsdale, winning in 1996 and 2005. His best finish over the last four years was a solo second in 2008 and he has followed that up with a MC, T24 and T29. His start to 2012 has not been good as he finished T49 at the Humana Challenge and missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines. Until we see some life from Lefty, he will be a pass.

The favorite this week is Webb Simpson (+1,500) who is making his third start of the season and his first since the Sony in Hawaii. He opened the year with a T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions but slipped to a T38 at Waialae after an opening round 66. He was spectacular last year with two wins and three solo runner-ups and his T8 here last year proves he can win at TPC Scottsdale.

Bill Haas (+2,500) opened with a 63 at Torrey Pines last week but played pretty average after that although he still finished T4. It made up for his T64 the previous week at the Humana so he is trending the right way. His overall record in Phoenix is spotty but his best finish is a T9 in 2008 and he was in contention last year but he wound up T29 last year no thanks to a final round 76.

Rickie Fowler (+2,500) has yet to win on tour but with 10 career top five finishes, you know it's only a matter of time. He played pretty consistent in his opening event last week at Torrey Pines and finished T13 and that is a good sign early in the year. He also finished T13 here last year but carded a tournament low 62 on Friday. This came after his solo second in 2010 so he definitely likes it here.

Gary Woodland (+4,000) is one of the biggest hitters on tour and while that does not give him a big edge here, he still has had past success. He played this event in 2009 when it was the FBR Open and he finished T60 and that was due to a final round 78. He did not play in 2010 but last year finished T5 with four sub-70 rounds. He has gotten off to a slow start in 2012 but this is a good spot for a breakthrough.

For a longshot this week, we will take a look at Cameron Tringale (+6,000). He was talked more about being Rickie Fowler's roommate last week than for his golf but that should change. He finished T4 at Torrey Pines which was his third career top five finish and while he did not fare well at Phoenix last year, he is a three-time All-American that certainly has the game to compete. The momentum is on his side.

Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (all for One Unit)

Webb Simpson (+1,500)

Bill Haas (+2,500)

Rickie Fowler (+2,500)

Gary Woodland (+4,000)

Cameron Tringale (+6,000)

Record to date after three events: +10 units

Sony Open -5 Units

Humana Challenge -6 Units

Farmers Insurance Open +21 units

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