GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Waste Management Phoenix Open | 4th-7th February 2021 | Sky Sports
I'm running the risk of sounding like a broken record but an all too familiar name will be backed this week on the PGA Tour.
We roll into TPC Scottsdale for the popular and long-standing Waste Management Phoenix Open, though it will not be as highly-attended as usual, given the situation across the country.
Overall, Scottsdale is a links-like desert resort track that is largely uninspiring barring the raucous par-3 16th and a couple of holes either side of it. As with most courses across the pond, it suits those exceptional at ball-striking while it somewhat favours the longer drivers, though that is not strictly inclusive.
Approach play holds all the keys here.
Interestingly, Rory McIlroy tees it up for the first-ever time here and it's a venue that could suit him to the ground. However, I'd want to steer clear of him at such short odds until he can prove he can get into contention and stay there – it's been a while and it is why Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have the edge at the front of the market.
And as I outlined right from the start, we're going back to a player that I've put up in the last two weeks. He rallied hard on the front nine on Sunday at Torrey Pines to throw his name into an outside contender but an abysmal back nine instantly put pay to that. Again, he still enjoyed a promising week all round yet his odds are getting longer and longer.
This, of course, being Sungjae Im (33/1 William Hill)
. I would be left feeling utterly gutted and rather bitter should he turn up now and win without me being on him.
His putting trended in the right direction last week and that was on a usually weak surface, so he will welcome the return to Bermudagrass greens here. And at the AmEx, another desert-like deck, he delivered a 12th place finish whilst he has a top-10 here in 2019 where he gained strokes in all facets.
Top-5s at Bay Hill and Kapalua are too encouraging, as are three straight top-12s at PGA West, and two top-15s at Summerlin (Shriners). As I keep harking on about Im, he's a truly top-notch ball-striker who should have more wins to his name. And that runner-up at the Masters suggests he could well be a major winner in due course too.
Rickie Fowler (40/1 Betfair)
is another I like in this bracket. He's had a tough 18 months or so, but this is a venue he simply always delivers at. In his last five outings here, he's won the event, been 2nd, 4th and 11th. And with his game trending nicely, it's time to jump on whilst we can still get these favourable odds.
Fowler's Achilles' heel last year was largely the driver, but in his last two tournaments (the AmEx & the Farmers), he has gained a lot of strokes tee-to-green, off-the-tee and on approach. Strangely, it's his putting that has let him down, though we know how much of an elite putter he has been over his career. It'll just take one week for that to click back and if that's happening anywhere, it's going to be here, surely?
Four of his five PGA Tour wins have come on Bermudagrass greens and he will welcome that change in surface from last week's rough-looking offering at Torrey Pines. He was 12/1 to win this last year.
I'm also going to back yet another ‘course-horse' in Bubba Watson (45/1 SkyBet)
. Simply, he rates out as the best in my overall model – after Rahm. He missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines but I would be shocked if he repeated that feat here.
The two-time Masters champion has top-5'd here in five of his last nine trips, including two runner-ups and a third-place last year. A lot of his career wins have come in twos and threes, and what I mean by that is, he regularly shows up at the same venues and does well, irrespective of form and whilst he has won the Farmers, it was perhaps just an off week.
I'm willing to ignore it given the odds on offer here. This time last year, he was sub 30/1. That MC has given us some tremendous value.
I love Corey Conners (70/1 SkyBet)
this week. There can't be many hitting the ball as well as he is right now. He hasn't lost strokes off-the-tee in over a year, whilst in that same time frame of 13 months, he's only lost strokes on approach four times.
His major weakness has been the flat-stick but compared to last year, he's made major improvements, barely losing any strokes in his last six tournaments. In which, he finished 10th at the Masters and 10th at the RSM. And he's another who should take a liking to these greens as his only PGA Tour scalp came on Bermudagrass when clinching the 2019 Valero Texas Open.
Plus when you see that the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Kyle Stanley and Byeong Hun-An have done well here, you have to believe that the putter isn't a major factor to winning this event. All three are notoriously disastrous on the greens.
I've taken several longshots that are all > 100/1 but I am not confident enough to say that they will be in with a solid shout of winning, but feel free to play Henrik Norlander (100/1), Cameron Tringale (125/1), Austin Cook (250/1) and Matthew Nesmith (250/1) in whatever markets you may fancy.
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Sungjae Im (33/1 each-way William Hill)
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Rickie Fowler (40/1 each-way Betfair)
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Bubba Watson (45/1 each-way SkyBet)
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Corey Conners (70/1 each-way SkyBet)