Waste Management Phoenix Open: Feast on Berger

Daniel Berger can get hot in the desert
Daniel Berger can get hot in the desert

Dave Tindall previews this week's PGA Tour event - the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona...

"Berger has played it three times and cracked the top 10 twice, posting T10 in 2015 after firing a 65 on his very first lap and closing 66-66-68 for T7 last year."

Main Bet: Back Daniel Berger e.w. @ 35/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Main Bet: Back Daniel Berger e.w. @ 35/1

The front of the betting has such a high-class look this week that Justin Thomas only finds himself as the fifth favourite.

Jordan Spieth has a pair of top 10s in two starts here and his ball-striking stats are superb but I'm not quite prepared to pull the trigger at 8/1.

It's a big ask for Hideki Matsuyama to pull off the three-peat and his form isn't as good as it's been.

This was the tournament where Jon Rahm first came to global attention and I am sorely tempted to put him at 10s at a course that he'll know better than any other on Tour due to living in Arizona.

Rickie Fowler loves it here too and is due a victory soon while Thomas can win anywhere.

All have strong credentials but you won't get much of an each-way return on any of them and I can't quite separate one from the rest even though I'm close to selecting Rahm.

In which case I'll look to the bigger prices with more each-way juice and take one of Spieth and Thomas' great friends on Tour - Daniel Berger.

The World No. 31 from Florida has won on the PGA Tour in each of the last two seasons.

They both came at the St. Jude Classic so it's fair to say he's a player who can carry course horse status if you put him on certain tracks.

TPC Scottsdale deserves to be in that category as Berger has played it three times and cracked the top 10 twice, posting T10 in 2015 after firing a 65 on his very first lap and closing 66-66-68 for T7 last year.

Berger has started the season in impressive fashion with T11 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T14 at the Sony Open where he closed with a 64.

A big reason for his strong showings here is the Bermuda greens. As a Florida boy, you'd expect it to be his favourite putting surface and it certainly plays out that way.

His two wins at the St. Jude came on Bermuda greens, he first made his name on the PGA Tour when making a play-off with Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic in Florida and he was 8th for Putts Per GIR in his latest outing on Bermuda at the Sony Open.

Berger ranks 18th on Future of Fantasy's list of best putters on Bermuda since 2013/14 so the evidence isn't just selective or anecdotal.

Three years ago he got a start here on a sponsor's invite. Players remember those sort of things and hopefully he'll bring it up in his winner's speech on Sunday!

Take the 35/1.

Next Best: Back Scott Piercy e.w. @ 66/1

Next up I'll go with Scott Piercy at 66s.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, it's no surprise that Piercy has a reputation for being a 'desert rat'.

He won the first of his three PGA Tour titles at the Reno-Tahoe Open in his home State and has three top 10s in his last seven starts at the Shriners at TPC Summerlin in Vegas.

As for this event, he's made eight of nine cuts, made the top 10 three times and posted another pair of top 15s.

The highlight was a third place in 2013 when he finished like a train with a Sunday 10-under 61. He's also shot a 6-under 65 on Friday for the last two years.

If we can catch Piercy at a decent price in a desert event when he's playing well, it's time to go in and that's definitely the case this week.

The American started 2018 with a top 25 in the Sony Open (65 on Saturday) and then played some fine golf for T6 in the CareerBuilder Challenge last time, shooting 65-66 in his middle two rounds.

That good play also got him into the interview room and he revealed: "It was a continuation of last week, I hit the ball really well, putter wasn't quite there last week.

"I think I hit it well enough to win last week and the putter didn't co-operate. So we have been working on the putter all week and ball striking stayed pretty consistent, so if I can get the putter to get a little warm tomorrow, then we'll be set up for a good year."

Piercy ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green at both the Sony Open and CareerBuilder so the stats back up his words.

Hitting lots of greens in regulation is a great pointer to success at TPC Scottsdale so he looks a good each-way investment at 66/1.

Third Choice: Back Byeong-Hun An e.w. @ 50/1

When Byeong-Hun An played here for the first time last year and finished T6, it backed up the idea that if you play well in one desert, you can play well in another - even it's on the other side of the world.

The Korean has been a leaderboard regular in the United Arab Emirates, only once finishing outside the top 15 in 11 starts there.

The latest was T6 in the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday when he carded 67-65-68 over his final 54 holes.

An was actually the 54-hole leader here last year and said ahead of the final round: "The course I think just suits my eyes, I guess. The hole shaping, and there is not much of a dogleg left or right. You basically hit drivers out there and try to carry all the bunkers.

"I think the yardage fit me nicely on the second shots. I think everything just suits my game on this course. I like desert golf courses. Never finished worse than 13th in Middle East, and I just don't know why. Maybe if you miss you're in the desert and can still play shots instead of going in the water."

He also loved the atmosphere on 16 which isn't for the faint-hearted. "It was crazy. Last couple holes, that many people around the course is insane. 16 obviously, but 17 and 18, when you walk to the green, it was absolutely packed around the green, left and right of the green, everywhere. I think it was pretty cool."

Even though he faded in the final round to finish T6, An said later: "I just can't wait to come back next year. It will be great."

If he can shake off the jet-lag, the Korean could be a real contender here at 50s.

Others I looked at were Adam Hadwin and Ollie Schniederjans.

Hadwin has a nice mix of course and current form. He was T17 in 2016 and T12 last year while two starts ago he popped up with a third place at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Schniederjans likes Bermuda and gave us some each-way cash back when T7 at the Sony Open. He took T24 on his Phoenix debut last year and I'm not fussed about his missed cut at Torrey Pines as this week's course is more to his liking.

As a big outsider, I wonder if Retief Goosen could do a bit of damage. The two-time US Open winner has flickered back to life with T20 (SA Open) and T12 (Torrey Pines) on his last two starts and he has some strong, if old, form here.

A top 10 or R1 leader punt could work out well on 'The Goose'.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £340
Returned: £825
P/L: +£485

(After the Farmers Insurance Open)

P/L: +£1179.89

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