Justin Thomas is the one to be on for the Waste Management Phoenix Open according to Ben Coley, who also has a 250/1 tip among his selections.
Waste Management Phoenix Open recommended bets
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The front of the market for the Waste Management Phoenix Open is close to an exact replica of the Official World Golf Rankings.
World number one Dustin Johnson isn't at TPC Scottsdale, but the next four in the list are and they're joined by number seven, too. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama make this an extremely good renewal of a tournament which acts as golf's Super Bowl party and has produced great drama in the past. Ten of the last 11 renewals have been decided by a shot or a play-off, and the other saw Phil Mickelson lip-out for a 59.
Choosing between those market leaders isn't easy, and a strong case can be made for each. Spieth has won better than one-in-seven over the last three years, which feels like a fair time span to judge him on if we allow him a couple of seasons to get his feet under the table. Anywhere he tees it up, the three-time major champion deserves to be vying for favouritism.
Matsuyama has form figures of 4-2-1-1 here, Rob Bolton revealing that he's beaten 517 players of the 524 he's lined up against in the event. Numbers like that explain numbers like 10/1 and he produced some encouraging golf at Torrey Pines last week. Again, there doesn't appear to be a major negative bar the fact that winning the same event three years running is extremely rare.
Rahm, well, what is there to say? He studied nearby, finished fifth in this event when the world's best amateur, and has since proved as prolific as expected. The Spaniard faltered last weekend but conditions here will be much more to his liking and fatigue shouldn't be an excuse at his age, mental or physical.
Fowler is the one who appears a little short to me at 14/1, although I understand why bookmakers wouldn't want to give too much of the place part away. He should've won this title two years ago and was unfortunate not to, but versus the other star names here has a bit to prove when it comes to winning. I'm a huge fan of his, but if he goes in at these odds in this field he'll do so without my money.
And then we come to Justin Thomas, the biggest price of the quintet despite having won six of his last 29 starts dating back 15 months. Last season saw him land a first major title in stunning fashion and, as with Spieth, he's a player who bookmakers can't keep up with. If you like your golf betting consistent and profitable, you can just back this pair every week and you'll win a little over time. That's the name of the game, right?
Obviously, I like to take a more speculative approach in general but I can't leave Thomas unbacked here at 16/1.
He won the CJ Cup as a 9/2 shot in October and while this is more competitive, he's a few ticks too big in my eyes. Were I to rank these players it'd be Spieth, Thomas, Rahm, Matsuyama, Fowler, and there's one name which is way out of line as a result.
The case for Thomas isn't built only around his strike-rate, of course. There's little point hanging your hat on numbers when the feeling is this course isn't for him, or he isn't playing well, or conditions will not suit.
However, while Thomas has missed two cuts at TPC Scottsdale, he contended all the way through on his 2015 debut having also shown up in the CareerBuilder Challenge, another desert test on the west coast, just a few weeks earlier.
It's no wonder he keeps on coming back and I expect much better than last year, when despite having swept the board in Hawaii, his assessment on the eve of this tournament was that his game was only 'okay'.
"It's not as good as I'd like it to be," said Thomas, who just three weeks earlier had carded an opening 59 en route to his second title in as many starts. Clearly, between Hawaii and Phoenix something had gone wrong and it continued through much of spring with two missed cuts close to his Florida home and a lacklustre effort at Riviera.
In other words, I do not believe his failure to perform here is evidence that Scottsdale does not suit, so it's a case of assessing his form this time around and here there are some positive signs, with the putter letting him down at the Sony Open where his approach play stepped up considerably from the Tournament of Champions. It was a similar improvement which helped forecast his PGA Championship win last August.
Even more convincing was the assessment Thomas gave as he signed off for the week, stating: "I easily, easily could have won this golf tournament by a pretty good amount of strokes." That's a pretty bold statement but precisely what we should expect from a player whose sights are locked on the top of the world rankings, one who knows therefore that this week's field gives him a fine opportunity to cut into DJ's lead.
Thomas fits the profile of recent winners of the event, in that he's an aggressive, big-hitting youngster whose iron play can be deadly, and it's only the strength of the opposition which prevents me from getting seriously stuck in. Instead, I just want to make sure we have Thomas on-side at the odds with a win-only bet to acknowledge his false position in the market.
It's tempting to weigh in with Thomas and Spieth and sit back in the expectation that both are in the running, with the latter having led the field in greens hit on both starts this year, and finished inside the top 10 in both visits to Phoenix.
He's bound to go well if work with the putter has paid off, but marginal preference is for Thomas on this occasion with his close friend Daniel Berger nominated as the best each-way bet.
Berger is absolutely going to be dragged along by the success of his former college sparring partners and is another whose attacking approach from the fairway is a really good fit for Scottsdale, perhaps more so since it was toughened up and greens were replaced prior to the 2015 renewal.
Like Thomas, Berger contended that year on his debut in the event and just his eighth start as a PGA Tour cardholder, eventually settling for 10th, and he's made the cut in both subsequent visits including when seventh last year as he seeks to repay organisers for handing him an invite when he was just starting out.
Course form can absolutely be overplayed (see Fowler's price after a missed cut last week) but with Berger, it's an invaluable predictor. His two wins so far both came in the same event, while he's also had two near-misses in the Travelers and twice finished fifth in Houston, which serves as a decent pointer towards Scottsdale.
Berger closed with a round of 64 for 14th in the Sony Open last time having also fared well at Kapalua on his return to action, so his preparation for this has been much stronger than a year ago when he'd struggled for the most part in Hawaii before taking a pounding from Torrey Pines.
At 12th in strokes-gained: approach shots last year, Berger is an ideal candidate for this event and rates a solid option at 40/1.
The profile of winners at Scottsdale leaves little room for doubt: to absolutely thrive at the course, you really need to be one of the best ball-strikers on the circuit. Examples include just about every recent winner, including relative shocks Kevin Stadler and Kyle Stanley, plus nearly-men Graham DeLaet, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner.
Last year saw Webb Simpson almost get the better of Matsuyama, with Louis Oosthuizen and JJ Spaun close behind, and the leader in greens hit has won two of the last five with only one failing to hit the frame.
With that in mind, Kevin Chappell has to be worth chancing despite what at first appears to be a terrible record in the event.
Certainly, a return of zero top-20 finishes does raise some concerns but dig a little deeper and there's evidence that Chappell can score at Scottsdale, such as when he put together back-to-back 65s in 2015 or sat on the fringes throughout on his way to 24th in 2013.
Interestingly, he's never arrived on the back of what you'd call a solid preparation and it's that which leads me to believe we could see a considerable upturn. Chappell's starts in preparation this event read MC-66-58-MC-52 and on the other occasion he's teed up here, it was his first start in three months.
This time, he can look to build on sixth place in the CareerBuilder Challenge, whose Stadium Course looks to me to be a good pointer to this Phoenix namesake. Chappell was best in the field over 36 holes there in his native California, shooting 64-67 with just one bogey, and for a change didn't even struggle that badly with the putter.
Having won his first PGA Tour title last year, Chappell also made his Tournament of Champions debut prior to the CareerBuilder which means he's had eight rounds to prime himself for an event which really does look made for him on paper.
Tellingly, that Texas Open breakthrough came one start and two weeks after he'd finished seventh in the Masters, so sixth on his latest start a fortnight ago might be the biggest clue of all. That he beat former Phoenix winner Brooks Koepka and has always produced his best golf when taking on the world's best players makes him well worth a bet at 66/1.
Those looking for a three-figure punt should consider Kevin Streelman, who striped it again last week and has the odd good round here. Streelman comes out best if you combine greens hit and bogey avoidance charts this year, a policy which makes some sense given the make-up of recent Phoenix leaderboards, but hand on heart this probably isn't quite his course.
William McGirt has a blemish-free record here despite being a player whose best form elsewhere has come under more classical conditions, and his form over the last three months is very similar to that which preceded his victory at The Memorial Tournament. Interestingly, Matsuyama has also won that event, as has former Phoenix play-off loser Jason Dufner, and while Muifield Village looks a whole lot different it requires a similar winning score and favours ball-strikers.
I put up Russell Knox on his first start of the year having felt he might be ready to return to his best and he's confirmed that impression with three good performances, so having been 15th on his debut here is another to consider, while Adam Hadwin has some nice desert and Tom Weiskopf form and Keegan Bradley has hit the frame twice in five starts this season as he returns to something like his best.
Bradley's best bud Brendan Steele loves it here and will spy an opportunity to take his second title of the year, Sung Kang was undone by just one bad round on his event debut and nearly won at the aforementioned Houston, and there's also a case of sorts for the likes of Hudson Swafford and the returning Ryan Moore, who almost always shows up nicely in these parts.
However, my final outright vote goes to Zach Johnson after a highly encouraging start to the year.
This prolific winner will no doubt have been frustrated not to keep up the gallop having been second at halfway in the Sony and fourth at the CareerBuilder, but the bigger picture is that he's played well week-in, week-out since signing off the Playoffs with a round of 64 up around his neck of the woods.
So many of his victories down the years have been preceded by form similar to that which he's displaying now, including that famous Masters success in 2007 which came a fortnight after he sat third at halfway in the CA Championship only to fade slightly on the weekend.
Here in the Phoenix Open, he's managed six top-25 finishes in eight appearances and it's interesting that he's returned since the greens were relaid, having given up on the event in 2010 despite some fair form figures to that point.
"I think it's a good golf course for me," he said when second entering the final round in 2015 and at seventh in bogey avoidance and 11th in approach shots so far this season, he's doing all the right things when it comes to tackling the redesign.
Granted, his lack of power is slightly concerning but Johnson has been defying that handicap for 15 years and there are more titles to be won with a player who has been practicing with JT of late and will be desperate to compete with his younger rivals.
Last and definitely least, Matt Every is worth a small bet to maintain his fine record of starting fast on day one.
The two-time PGA Tour winner has been struggling with his game for a while now, but there have been some signs of encouragement over the last six months including when he led after the first round of both the Canadian Open and the Wyndham Championship in the autumn.
First-round leads are a running theme with Every, who has seven of them at this level, and he nearly bagged one in this event when opening with a round of 63 in 2010 before returning to shoot 65 in 2013.
So far in 2018, he's broken 70 in all three first rounds, sitting no worse than 15th, and with three first-round leads in his last 20-odd starts to go with an encouraging record here, there's plenty to suggest that throwing some loose change at 250/1 might just pay off.