February 04, 2016

Phoenix Waste Management Open Statistical Picks

And here we go again folks!

The course:

TPC Scottsdale, a medium-long course playing 7266 in last year's event has 3 holes with water barely in play (unless your tee shots are wayward). This will be the opportunity for low scoring especially when bombing it off the tee-box and players take their chances on four holes with eagle in play. Shooting 60 here has been done before and we might even see something pretty close to that this year, although weather here will start cold and heat up heading into the weekend. It's a fairly undulated course with no particular stats that stand out to target other than being a long hitter will get you a ways in closing gaps to eagle a couple of holes. Anyone could see lucky (or unlucky) bounces everywhere which increases the variance of players to choose from.

The players:

I really hate to limit myself to four players here since all of them could just hit the sand and not one make the cut but I'm going to do my best to give it a shot. I am solely picking players who are not necessarily world renowned but have gained momentum in previous tournaments and are hungry to bring one home in an event without Jordan Speith (because he is just crushing the golf world right now).

J.B. Holmes - A solid ball striker, J.B. finished here with a T66 last year carding two rounds of 73. He's definitely improved his stroke over the past couple of months and has become one of the tour's premier ball strikers from 50-125 yards, putting it second closest to the hole than any other pro this year. Putting has also been an issue but something he had found his stroke in at this event, putting all putts from 6' in the back of the cup, so I trust him to find confidence setting up each hole well and ranking 2nd in driving distance at this event last year.

Tony Finau - The player to watch coming into this event. Ranking 1st in driving distance last year and finishing T22, he looks improved on his putting stroke after throwing up his lowest putt round of 24 in round 2 of the CareerBuilder Challenge. Having to only play one course should suit his eye well and help build confidence in his tactics approaching every hole. He's one of the few guys who will put himself with an eagle opportunity every time on the short par four 17th hole, so look for him to continue his improvement and finish in the top-15 this year.

Charles Howell III - A statistical anomaly this year, he's managed to finish here with a T6 in 2014, but couldn't follow it up after course changes last year. He still has an average driving distance over 300 yards and is very hot coming into this event with 4 top-15 finishes and a T17 the week before those. I see him posting his usual low scores and capitalizing on eagle opportunities once again, especially as the season is coming up on his favorite event, The Masters.

Jaime Lovemark - Well rounded in driving the ball averaging the same driving distance as J.B., Lovemark faltered under the pressure of his three day lead at CareerBuilder with some awful mistakes and getting into his own head. He is still very healthy though and just needs to find confidence in himself, something that poises well for him at the Phoenix Open. Being an event where young first-time winners usually take home the cake, Jaime shook off his jitters with Torrey Pines as a good buffer. Still being a top 30 player this year in percentage of putts made within 10', I can only see his stock going up from here and shaking out a possible top-10 maybe even top-5 finish. He's a bit of a long-shot but can definitely take home the cake if he gets the ball rolling his way.

Good luck to everyone out in the field.

P.S. I hate to limit myself to just four picks though so I just have to throw out there that Kevin Streelman, a Scottsdale native, played well at Torrey Pines and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up coming away with a solid finish here. Posting a T30 here last year shooting a 64 in the final round, he could run really hot at familiar turf and with the confidence boost of finishing T3 last week, I think he finds it in himself to want to make a run at the trophy.

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