Phoenix Open: Steve Palmer's betting preview, lowdown & TV details
Powerful Kevin Tway should make hay at Scottsdale
TV: Sky Sports Golf, 2.30pm Thursday
Jon Rahm found Justin Rose too hot to handle in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, but the Spaniard is clear favourite for the Phoenix Open in his home city of Scottsdale.
Rahm is a hero in Phoenix, where he has finished fifth, 16th and 11th in three starts, and he relishes desert golf. Fifth place in the Farmers was his fifth consecutive top-eight, a streak which included a four-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.
Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time Phoenix champ who can boast a Scottsdale scoring average of 67.41 and finished third in the Farmers, are obvious choices this week who bookmakers have kept prohibitively priced. Former world number one Justin Thomas, who has much weaker course credentials, has also been chalked up at unattractive odds.
Palmer's top tip
Kevin Tway 100-1
TPC Scottsdale is a straightforward track which is vulnerable to low scores in fine weather and a birdiefest looks in store for the hordes of noisy Phoenix Open spectators over the next four days.
Powerful players should overwhelm Scottsdale and Kevin Tway can make a mockery of his fancy odds by building on what has been an excellent few months.
Tway, a winner on the Web.com Tour in 2013, was expected to make his US Tour breakthrough soon after, but turning 30 seemed to be the catalyst he needed to finally get the job done. With famous golfing father Bob watching on anxiously, Tway junior courageously beat Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore in a playoff for the Safeway Open in October.
From May onwards last year, Tway looked like a winner waiting to happen, finishing ninth in the AT&T Byron Nelson, fifth in the Fort Worth Invitational and sixth in the Travelers Championship. He made eight cuts in a row prior to teeing up in the Safeway, where he produced borderline perfection in the playoff, making birdie at each of the three extra holes he needed to see off Snedeker and Moore.
That gutsy triumph has given the Oklahoman an enormous injection of self-belief, which was evident on his opening outing of this year. Despite labouring badly with an ear and sinus infection which caused him to withdraw after five holes of the Sentry Tournament of Champions pro-am, Tway carded an opening round of 66 to leave the rest of the elite field in his wake.
The virus took its toll eventually and Tway finished the Sentry in 11th spot, missing the cut on the mark in the Sony Open the following week, but he was fit again for 43rd place at Torrey Pines last week and should get fully back into his stride in Phoenix.
Driving is the strength of Tway – he has length on tap – and he can lay a strong foundation to attack TPC Scottsdale. For his two previous visits, he has been 293rd and 197th in the world rankings, a missed cut and a share of 57th resulting, but this time he is 84th in the world and a US Tour champion who knows his future is assured. The course suits and he looks a massive price.
Jason Kokrak 125-1
Rahm and Matsuyama must be respected, but preference for this week's staking plan is a three-pronged each-way attack at giant prices. At similar odds to Tway, Jason Kokrak can muscle his way into the thick of things.
Kokrak is a 33-year-old bomber who won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2011 before finishing second in the Frys.com Open on the US Tour in 2012. Five more top-four finishes have followed on the toughest tour of them all, including an agonising one-shot defeat to Bubba Watson in the 2016 Northern Trust.
Third place in the Greenbrier in July seemed to restore confidence to the maiden and he is on a streak of 11 consecutive cuts made, a superb effort for an attacking slugger who takes plenty of risks. He has been performing nicely in elite company – 19th place in the US PGA was followed by the same position in the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup playoffs – and he has opened his 2019 campaign with a pair of top-20s. Four under-par rounds and a closing trio of 69s was impressive consistency from Kokrak at Torrey Pines last week.
TPC Scottsdale lends itself to Kokrak's natural style of play and, like Tway, he was not good enough to take advantage early in his career. A tie for 15th in 2014 is Kokrak's best Phoenix finish, but better can be expected this time with cuts being made and dollars flowing into his bank account.
Peter Uihlein 175-1
Nobody has been world number one amateur for longer than Phoenix favourite Rahm – a total of 60 weeks – but the player who lies third in the list of all-time amateur top dogs is a million miles below him in the Scottsdale betting.
Peter Uihlein was number one amateur for 49 weeks, a colossus of the unpaid ranks in 2010 and 2011 and expected to become a superstar professional. His best mate Brooks Koepka has since shone instead, but Uihlein is only 29 and still has plenty of time to make the impact his early promise suggested.
Uihlein won on the European Tour in 2013, then the Web.com Tour in 2017, and some brilliant golf has followed on the US Tour, including fifth place in the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions, fifth in the 2018 Wells Fargo and fifth in the 2018 Memorial.
Uihlein has a bank of desert experience to draw upon from his European Tour days, and much of it is positive, including his last two visits in 2017 – fifth place in the Dubai Desert Classic and tenth in the DP World Tour Championship. His Phoenix Open debut last year yielded 52nd spot and he should come on for that run. The course plays to his strengths.
Two 2019 spins have resulted in missed cuts at less suitable venues, but he was on the mark in the Farmers last Friday and will not be panicking. Uihlein conjured a final-round 63 for seventh place in his final tournament of last year – the RSM Classic – and there is every chance he produces similar fireworks at healthy odds in Phoenix.
Others to note
Phil The Thrill opened with a round of 60 in the Desert Classic last time out, before losing by a shot to a 1,000-1 chance. The three-time Scottsdale champion will fancy his chances of a fourth title.
The reigning Phoenix champion came within a whisker of winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions in his first outing of this year, beaten only by a sensational Xander Schauffele 62, and a stout defence seems likely.
The big-hitting Californian has four top-six finishes to his name in the Phoenix Open and should threaten the places again.
The rising star has been presented with a course he could destroy, but a Phoenix Open debut is a daunting prospect for any youngster.
The giant Utah man, runner-up five times since his maiden US Tour victory in 2016, continues to strike his ball superbly. He has missed his last three Phoenix cuts.
The power-packed desert lover is a good fit for Scottsdale. He was 15th on his Phoenix debut in 2006, sixth on his next visit in 2009, then eighth in 2010 and third in 2013.
1.5pts each-way 100-1 Paddy Power
1pt each-way 125-1 Paddy Power
0.5pt each-way 175-1 bet365
PHOENIX OPEN LOWDOWN
Course TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Prize money $7.1m ($1.242m to the winner)
Length 7,261 yards
Course records – 72 holes 256 Mark Calcavecchia (2001), Phil Mickelson (2013) 18 holes 60 Grant Waite (1996), Mark Calcavecchia (2001), Phil Mickelson (2005 and 2013)
Course winners taking part Phil Mickelson (three times), JB Holmes (twice), Aaron Baddeley, Kenny Perry, Hunter Mahan, Kyle Stanley, Hideki Matsuyama (twice), Gary Woodland
When to bet By 2.30pm Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 2.30pm Thursday
Time difference Arizona is seven hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week – Farmers Insurance Open 1 J Rose (14-1), 2 A Scott (80-1), T3 H Matsuyama (55-1), T Gooch (250-1), T5 J Day (16-1), R McIlroy (16-1), J Rahm (11-1)
Course overview There are only three par-fives at TPC Scottsdale (the third, 13th and 15th), but the venue has traditionally played into the hands of long-driving, attacking players because of generous fairways and lack of serious troublespots.
Raw slugger JB Holmes announced himself on to the world stage with a barnstorming 21-under-par total in 2006, Aaron Baddeley repeated that feat 12 months later, then Phil Mickelson upstaged them both in 2013 with an awesome 28-under-par effort.
The track, used for this tournament since 1987, has been a fairly defenceless desert layout, although a $11m upgrade which took place after the 2014 renewal has added slightly to the challenge.
All 18 holes were slightly revised by Tom Weiskopf, the par-five 13th (tightened fairway and coffin bunker added near green) and par-four 14th (lengthened to 490 yards and uphill) seeing the most dramatic changes. Weiskopf planted 250 new trees.
The galleries are a test for the competitors, with a ridiculous number of people always packing into the stadium course. A bearpit atmosphere is created, particularly on the famous par-three 16th hole, where players are usually booed if they miss the green. Tiger Woods enjoyed a hole-in-one at the 16th in 1997. Andrew Magee went even better than Woods in 2001 and aced the par-four 17th
Story of last year Gary Woodland ended a four-year victory drought, defeating Chez Reavie at the first extra hole of a playoff
Weather forecast Clear and calm for all four days
Type of player suited to challenge The TPC Scottsdale remains a fairly straightforward test which suits aggressive golf. The likes of JB Holmes, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama and Gary Woodland have graphically demonstrated in recent years how to overpower the venue. Plenty of bottle is required to handle the vast hordes of boozed-up onlookers at the 16th hole to close out this event
Key attribute Power
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