Phoenix Open Tips: Course specialist Mahan can get hot in the desert again

Desert specialist Hunter Mahan can go well in Arizona this week
Desert specialist Hunter Mahan can go well in Arizona this week

Dave Tindall brings us his each-way tips for the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open which sees Tiger Woods makes his much anticipated first start of 2015...

"Having won the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona and also finished runner-up in 2013, he's a real desert specialist and loves this part of the world. In fact, his last eight starts in Arizona show two wins, a second and a fourth."

*Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 5 places

Nap - Back Hunter Mahan @ 34.033/1

Down the years, this has been a tournament where course form has counted for plenty - perhaps not a surprise given the mix of desert conditions and beered-up spectators who can't take their Bud Light.

Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia are three-time winners while JB Holmes and Vijay Singh are double champs. Last year's winner Kevin Stadler (injured this year) had been 11th the year before.

So, step forward course specialist Hunter Mahan.

The Ryder Cup star won this event in 2010 with a pair of 65s on the weekend while he circled 10 birdies in a third-round 65 last year when fourth. Also 16th in 2013, he got off on the right foot here when ninth on debut in 2005.

Asked about why he loves this place, Mahan said last year: "Well, I think it's a ball striker's place. You have to be able to hit the fairways and gotta be able to hit the greens and give yourself looks. I know I can do that."

Another key for Mahan is that he's nicely rested. With another child on the way, he's keen to keep perspective and not become a golfing robot, bashing balls as if his life depended on it. He adopted that approach at the Open in October, finishing third, and reflected: "I played great that week and spent less time at the golf course than any other tournament I've ever played. It's all about balance."

The other big plus with Mahan is that his latest victory - The Barclays in August 2014 - is still relatively fresh in the memory. He'd gone over two years without winning so doubts were inevitably creeping in.

Having won the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona and also finished runner-up in 2013, he's a real desert specialist and loves this part of the world. In fact, his last eight starts in Arizona show two wins, a second and a fourth.

The 32-year-old American shook off some rust by going 69-69 on the weekend of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where he finished 17th, so should be primed for another big tilt at the title here.

Next best - Back Ryan Palmer @ 26.025/1

Palmer was 22/1 in what was basically a birdie-based free-for-all last week but he's out to 25/1 here despite another fine showing.

To be honest, punters (myself included) aren't too happy about his top 10 in the Humana Challenge as it looked as if he'd come to win his race before taking a destructive and tournament-wrecking triple bogey seven at the seventh. He eventually finished three behind the winner so, American catchphrase alert, you do the math.

Palmer's form figures stretching back to the PGA Championship at Valhalla now read: 10-17-22-8-14-7-4-16-MC-5. And they show no sign of dropping off.

He shot a second-round 61 in California last week and gave this insight afterwards: "I know I'm swinging well and the work that Randy Smith and I put in on my wedges before I went to Hawaii was more than I did in my career. And it's shown these first two weeks."

There's every reason to believe that Palmer will continue his impressive form and TPC Scottsdale looks an ideal track to keep up the good work and hopefully land the win.

Palmer was runner-up here in 2006, 14th in 2010 and fifth in 2013 when shooting 64-73-66-62. He's managed at least one round of 64 or better on this track in each of the last three years.

The three-time PGA Tour winner is second in Scoring Average and fourth in the All-Around Ranking in this wraparound season so the numbers also suggest another big run. Take the 25/1.

Outsider - Back Jamie Donaldson @ 67.066/1

When Chris DiMarco won the inaugural Abu Dhabi Championship in 2006, it came as something of a surprise despite his world ranking at the time of ninth. DiMarco was playing outside of his native America and there was an element of fish-out-of-water in his price of 33/1.

But when he did lift the trophy and the punting post-mortem began, there had been a big clue - he'd won in the desert before. That victory had come in this event in 2002 and he'd also been runner-up in 2004.

Now, that same story could apply to Jamie Donaldson this week - except in reverse.

The Welshman is in the top 25 in the world, he's shown his desert credentials by winning the 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship and he's been given a fish-out-of-water price of 66/1.

Are we just hoping that he can cut it in America? Not really. Donaldson had a good crack at the PGA Tour last year and although it wasn't a total success he did manage to finish runner-up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and also 14th in The Masters.

After playing the shot that clinched Ryder Cup victory, he must be oozing confidence and some of that came out when he was ninth in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago on his only start so far of 2015.

Like Mahan, Donaldson is also wary of being over-golfed and admitted he had a month off at home over Christmas. That was on the back of pulling out of the Nedbank Challenge with a migraine, after which he reflected: "I played too much golf. You live and learn."

To give some context to Donaldson's standing in the game now, he's finished in the top 25 of his last 10 completed worldwide tournaments, a run that started at the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Finally, he's also a bit of a boy and up for a laugh so should really enjoy and feed off the raucous atmosphere in Phoenix.

Dave's 2015 P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection)

Staked: £90.00
Returned: £110.00
P/L: +£20.00

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