Phoenix Open: Gonzo could be coming in under the radar, says The Punter

Is Gonzo under the radar in Arizona?
Is Gonzo under the radar in Arizona?

Our man takes a look at this week's PGA Tour action in Arizona. Want to know what it will take to win the Phoenix Open? Read Steve's in-depth preview here...

“It’s barely four months since Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano won the BMW Masters in China and he played well in the desert at last year’s Accenture Matchplay. He’ll pound the greens all week long and I was surprised to get matched at 240.0239/1.”


Tournament History
Originally known as the Arizona Open, the Phoenix Open is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour and was first staged way back in 1932.
 
Venue
TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona

Course Details
Par 71, 7152 yards
Stroke Index in 2013 - 68.95

Best known for its barmy par three 16th hole, this stadium course was built specifically for this event and this year it hosts the event for the 27th time. It's a links style desert track with an exciting finish. The 15th is a reachable par 5 with water in play and the 17th is a drivable par 4 but also with water in play. Look out for low scores; there have been four rounds of 60 here, the last by Phil Mickelson 12 months ago and he came this close to shooting 59. It's an easy test - only three holes averaged over-par last year - the 7th, 11th and 12th.

The course is due to be altered considerably in the summer but they've already made a couple of changes - the 11th hole has been reduced by 31 yards and the 14th has also been shortened by 33 yards.

The Bermuda greens are of an average size and will run at around 12.5 on the stimpmeter.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports all four days - 20.00 on Thursday and Friday and 18.00 on Saturday and Sunday


Last Five Winners
2013 - Phil Mickelson -28 
2012 - Kyle Stanley -15
2011 - Mark Wilson -18 (playoff) 
2010 - Hunter Mahan -16
2009 - Kenny Perry -14 (playoff)


What will it take to win the Phoenix Open?

You neither have to hit it miles or especially straight off the tee but you do have to get dialled in with your irons. Three of the last five winners have ranked first for Greens in Regulation and all five ranked inside the top-five.

Par 4 performance is a stat to ponder - 10 of the last 17 winners scored best on the par 4's and last year, although Lefty ranked just seventh, runner-up Brandt Snedeker topped the par 4 scoring stats.

Recent form is a positive - seven of the last 14 winners had recorded a top-10 finish somewhere within three weeks of winning here.


Is there an angle in?

Desert golf doesn't suit everyone but others play well in these conditions repeatedly. Check out results from the Humana Challenge - Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry and Mark Wilson have all won both here and at the Humana and there are plenty of players that have played very well in both events. Other tournaments to consider are the Shriners Hospitals Open in Las Vegas and the WGC Accenture Matchplay, which is also staged in Arizona.


Is there an identikit winner?

There isn't really an identikit winner as such but previous event form holds up really well and there have been numerous multiple winners of the event so think carefully about backing anyone that hasn't played well here before.


In-Play Tactics

After his opening round of 60 last year, Phil Mickelson was never headed but he was the first - first round leader to win since Tom Lehman in 2000 and four of the previous six winners were outside the top-10 and at least four back after round one, so a fairly slow start can be overcome. 

Lefty was just the third halfway leader to win in 13 years and the previous three third round leaders all failed to convert - including Spencer Levin two years ago, despite the fact he was six clear! So converting a lead is tough and the final six holes can produce much drama and change.

The par 5 13th is always the easiest hole on the course and the par 5 15th isn't much harder. The players then face the infamous cauldron of the short par 3 16th before they take on the drivable par 4 17th. The final hole is a tough par 4 if you need a par to win but it still averaged less than par 12 months ago.


Market Leaders

At the time of writing, doubts still surround current favourite and defending champion, Phil Mickelson, who had to pull-out during the Farmers Insurance Open last week with a bad back. He's going to give it until Wednesday before deciding to play but this piece makes it sound like there's every chance he'll pull out.

If he does make the line-up and he's feeling ok then his current price of 17.016/1 is more than fair. He was in fine fettle in Abu Dhabi when this one moment of madness cost him the title and it would be no surprise to anyone if he went and won the title for the fourth time but with such strong injury doubts anyone backing must accept that he may not even complete the event let alone win it.

So open is the event that the only other player trading at less than 20.019/1 is Webb Simpson, who has a very solid chance. He didn't play last year but finished eighth in each of the two previous renewals. He was slightly disappointing last time out at the Humana Challenge but he finished the week with an impressive 64 and before that he looked in good spirits. He's also the defending Shriners champ so we already know he can win in the desert. 

Keegan Bradley is the third best in at around 27.026/1 but that price doesn't get my juices flowing and I much prefer the likes of Bubba Watson and Ryan Moore at a few points bigger.


Selections

I've backed Phil Mickelson with the hope that if he isn't right he'll pull out before he tees off and not afterwards but I confess, I've messed that up. I input my bet at 16.015/1 on Monday but forgot all about it until the monumental drift started. A bit of a schoolboy error but these things happen, and for now, I've backed just a couple of others.

Paul Krishnamurty picked out Jason Bohn as one of his three Find Me A 100 Winner picks at the Humana Challenge a fortnight ago but his chance was gone immediately when he opened up the event with a bogey and a triple-bogey! He recovered brilliantly after that and managed a tied 33rd finish despite a lacklustre final round. Bohn ranked 10th for putting at the Humana, and 5th for the same stat in his penultimate start, when he finished third at the OHL Classic in November. His Scottsdale form is far from spectacular but he was 11th in 2007 and at a massive price, I thought he was worth chancing.

My only other pre-event pick so far is Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who might just be under the radar too. It's barely four months since he won the BMW Masters in China and he played well in the desert at last year's Accenture Matchplay. He'll pound the greens all week long and I was surprised to get matched at 240.0239/1.


Selections
Phil Mickelson @ 16.015/1
Jason Bohn @ 240.0239/1
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano @ 240.0239/1


I've got a few others in mind but I think they might drift a bit yet so look out for the In-Play Blog, which I'll kick off tomorrow. I'll detail all my selections in full there.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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