The Waste Management Phoenix Open preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
No Tiger this week but to reflect on his performance at Torrey Pines, yes he missed the cut, but he did improve for his second round and his putting and chipping looked solid enough first time up. He’s fighting a spin out trying to hit draws with an open stance. The consensus is he should hit fades…but who’s going to tell him? Pitching him in with Day and Dustbin only served to illustrate the ground he will never make up off the tee and in a lovely irony they both missed the cut as well. So Tiger’s going to have to learn to live with it and play smart. While wishing him well can we really imagine him winning?
On to the main event the wonderfully named Wasted Management held in the beer tent TPC Scottsdale Stadium course, a 7,260 yards (ish) Par 71. Regulars will know this is as a not so spontaneous junket for fans culminating in the par three 16th known as the Coliseum. What true joy there was here was killed a few years back with the outlawing of the caddy races…now that was fun.
The 16th is followed by the drivable par four 17th where Rickie Fowler, leading by two last year, proceeded to drive it over the back and into the water and was then forced to make a birdie up the last to secure a playoff with Matsuyama. Rickie then proceeded to hit it into the water on 18th in the playoff handing Matsuyama victory. I wouldn’t rule out Matsuyama but his form looks to have tailed off – all relative – and the source of that is his putting. Last weeks winner Rahm and contenders down the stretch, Rodgers and Finau, tee it up and they seem to be setting a mini trend on Tour – big hitters who generate their power through sheer strength delivered by curtailed backswings. We have extolled the virtues of Rodgers before and the reality is that it’s his putting that is letting him down. It will be interesting if the three of them get into contention in a major to see if they find the consistency in their swings to stand up.
The field lacks Rory, Jason and Dustbin but Speith (now world number 5) makes his first appearance and that alone puts me off – especially as favourite. Justin Thomas we love but three on the trot at the price (14/1)? I’d be tempted by Kopeka bar his missed cut last week from a position of strength but his price doesn’t reflect that. Milky has a great record here yet expressed surprise in his performance last week and you suspect he’ll find a few in front of him come Sunday. There’s a tranche of players in the 40 – 50 price bracket who have contended recently but always back off when the heats on. Steele, Woodland, English and the aforementioned Finau amongst them.
Emiliano Grillo 1pt e/w at $67 with
Martin Laird 1pt e/w at $76 with
Emiliano Grillo is, as regular readers will attest, something of a favourite here. The super talented Argentinean is so good he can post top 10’s with his B game and he’s been in that state for a while now. So why jump in (again)? The new Weiskoph / Morrish re-designed TPC Scottsdale has placed a premium on tee to green play with last years winner Matsuyama leading the field in greens in regulation at 77.78% The 2015 winner Koepka hit 75% of his greens. Of course both of these men boasted positive strokes gained putting and this is where Grillo needs to improve. Grillo ranks 14th in strokes gained tee to green so his greens in regulation numbers as not a one off. He is capable of good putting weeks and when he does he contends.
Martin Laird let us down last week but given it was Torrey Pines and the unforgiving nature of missing the fairways we’ll give him another run. Prior to last week he was 9th in strokes gained tee to green so the long game is there. One week off can be excused and while Laird has a mixed bag of form around here he does have two top five’s. Laird consistently hits 75% of greens and he can putt both recipes for success at TPC Scottsdale.