PGA Tour Picks: Waste Management Phoenix Open

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It is Super Bowl week and you all know what that means?

Yup. The Waste Management Open from TPC Scottsdale is this week and luckily for us, the most fan-involved golf course is going to allow attendance albeit only for a capacity that will certainly be reached of 5,000 people.

Most of the big dogs will be in the field this week including Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jon Rahm. I like the pure ball strikers here as they have historically performed the best at TPC Scottsdale but a heavy hitter clubbing down could be a potential play as well.

We were on Rory McIlroy last week at even money to secure a top ten placing and we missed a winning play by just one stroke. He was (-180) or something for a top 20. To me, that’s still not super safe so it is what it is. We still had another profitable week. That is 4 consecutive weeks making money on PGA Tour betting! Marc Leishman really saved the day for us as he snuck into the top 20 on the final day of the event. His resilience in the nasty elements paid off as he paid (+150) for a top 20 finish. We should have gone harder on Viktor Hovland as the Norweigian youngster finished tied for 2nd alongside 4 other golfers. He paid (+135) for a top 20 wager. The bookmakers must have known Gary Woodland’s shoulder wasn’t quite 100% yet because his (+250) for a top 20 betting line was a trap. He started well but Gary struggles when he has to try extra hard off the tee and I think coming off of the bad shoulder just beginning to feel better, he didn’t want to rip any drives at 100%. That is where he struggled last week so this week on a much shorter course in Scottsdale where it will be a little warmer without that wet coastal breeze, he could rebound well. At the end of Sunday, we were up .85 units on the day having wager 4 in total. That is a 21% return on your investment. That brings our ROI number from the Masters until now below 100%. We sit at 91 now. This isn’t sustainable most likely but we are going to try!

So, this week, we are looking at elite ball strikers who putt the golf ball well on Bermudagrass. Webb Simpson, anyone? Well, he isn’t at the top of the betting board but his odds to snag a top 20 are still juiced to (-180).

The favorite, Jon Rahm, is an unplayable (-325) for a top 20 finish. I like the Spaniard but the value is virtually void.

Rickie Fowler, conversely, is (+200) for a top twenty finish and he has three top 4 finishes in his past five appearances in Scottsdale including a win in 2019. I understand that Rickie isn’t Jon Rahm but he isn’t a full 3 points different than him either, especially at a course where he has essentially outplayed the Spaniard.

BetOnline.AG is where I am getting these numbers. Let’s predict four golfers to place or win and keep the giant green money bus rolling on down the highway.

Will Zalatoris Top 20: +175

What a great number here for who looks like he could be a truly great golfer one day. California’s Will Zalatoris flew under the radar for a couple of years post undergrad after Wake Forest University.

The psych major left school before his senior year to play professional golf and after a slow start on the Korn Ferry Tour, he got a win at the Colorado Championships which qualified him for a spot at the US Open at Winged Foot in 2020.

Then, this happened.

That wasn’t all, either. The San Francisco native finished 5 strokes over par to finish tied for 6th alongside 2020 FedEx Cup Champion, Dustin Johnson. That’s a lot to take in in one sentence but maybe that was just Will’s lucky weekend.

Did the young man let the hole in one and high finish go to his head, though? No. The following week, Will finished 8th at the Punta Cana the following week. No, the field wasn’t the strongest at Punta but I like that even more from him.

It would have been that much easier to take a mental break after all the stress of contending in his first major event and the next week playing down on a Caribbean island…No, the guy remained locked in and that is the type of championship mindset you like to see from an athlete you want to bet on, especially in golf because players show up for paychecks all the time.

Will doesn’t seem to be that guy and he has had a simply sensational start to the 2021 season. After missing the cut at the Sanderson Farms, will put together finishes of 5th and 17th. He did have a disappointing week at the Mayakoba in December but that was after 5 weeks out of competition.

His performance last week at the Farmers, though, where he finished 7th goes against that theory because he was coming off of another month plus break from competitive golf. His placings have been pretty solid this season but it is his statistics that stand out to me.

He ranks in the top ten in driving distance as well as overall scoring average. The descendent of track stars and fighter pilots apparently has the brain and the body to compete at the highest level of the sport.

Will is also top 5 in shots gained approach, tee to green, and shots gained total on the Tour as well as top 15 off the tee. My only worry with Will here is that his driving accuracy ranking is 199th!

It doesn’t seem possible but the guy makes up for it with his driving distance and short game. This bet might be a bust but I really like this kid. Driving accuracy looks to be more important than distance this week and that does go directly against his strength.

That is built into the price, though, and I like his apparent highly competitive winning attitude along with his overall game to help him keep it between the navigational beacons.

Top 20
Zalatoris

Daniel Berger Top 20: -130

Okay, a little long winded on Willy Z but I don’t believe we have ever picked him for an event and it is certainly a good idea for you guys to get familiar with this guy. Don’t let the Hovland’s and Morikawa’s of the pre-25 kinds overshadow the long and lean Zalatoris.

Now, onto Daniel Berger.

He is almost an automatic pick each week and I played with the idea of picking him to win at 20 to 1. You can sprinkle a little bit there if you like but I really like the small amount of chalk needed to play Berg for a top 20.

Please Note:
He is almost automatic to get a top 20 finish on 80% of the courses on the PGA Tour. He was absolutely red hot for the first Âľ of the year in 2020 but slid back to finishing outside of the top 20 but inside of the top 35 for the most part to wrap up what was a breakout year for Florida native.

In 2021, though, he has 10th and 7th place finishes to start the year in Hawaii and will surely be well rested to play in Scottsdale this week.

He has three top 11 finishes here in 5 showings. I think he finishes inside the top ten this week but let’s pay the small price for a top 20 finish since we have plus money in all of our other plays.

Top 20
Berger

Rickie Fowler Top 20: +200

We spoke about the pastel pompadour briefly in the intro and I love his number here of 2 to 1 to finish inside the top twenty. Both him and Brooks Koepka are former winners here at TPC Scottsdale but are each 40 or more to 1 to win.

I am not against taking a shot on either golfer but let’s go with what got us on this winning track in 2021 and take advantage of some incredible value with Rickie at 2 to 1 for a top 20. His previous four finishes here: 2nd, 4th, 11th, 1st albeit with a disappointing finish of 34th last year. When he is on, he is on, and (+200) has an implied probability of 30%.

He has been 80% to finish top 11 over the past 5 years so we have a good number here.

Top 20
Fowler

Corey Conners Top 20: +275

Corey Conners has a golf game that is made for TPC Scottsdale and his recent form has been some of the best of his career. Top 24’s in 4 of his last 5 tournaments played including a couple of top 10s give us some hope about Corey Conners.

His putter has long been his weakness but it is finally starting to catch up with his elite ball striking abilities. I think Corey puts himself in the position to make putts consistently over the course of the weekend.

Will he make the putts he needs to stick a top 20? That’s tough to say because he has only played here once and it wasn’t a great finish. I love the number here, though and if we hit this, it almost covers 3 losses.

Top 20
Conners

Sungjae Im Top 20: +120

We are keeping it going this week with the still wet around the ears, South Korean superstar, Sungjae Im. SJ paid us well as the top debutant at the Ryder Cup in 2019 and as a placer in several other tournaments.

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year did finally cool off some in 2020 but he appears to have gathered himself once more. He had better because there are more and more young golfers making waves on the PGA Tour every year.

I am seriously tempted to go big on SJ this weekend or possibly look at him to win or place higher but I’m not going to turn down plus money for a top 20. He had a strong finish as well last Summer but struggled in the Fall. That is until it was time for a tradition unlike any other.

He finished runner up that day and who wouldn’t have?

Dustin Johnson shot 20 under par breaking Tiger’s record of 18. Sungjae was 15 under, though, and that is enough to give me a great deal of confidence in this young man who is STILL yet to turn 23 years old.

This Year:
He was 5th at the Tournament of Champions and 12th at the American Express. He didn’t finish that great last week but Torrey Pines is an incredibly long course. His ball striking and Bermudagrass success in the past should lead him to a top 20 this week.

He has been a little bit inconsistent so I wouldn’t go hard on this one. I think Berger is the more consistent guy and safer play as the slight difference in the betting odds suggest. Not too many locks come along at plus money but Sungjae Im does and that is enough for me.

Top 20
Sungjae

Matt Kuchar to Win: +11000

I don’t think picking Matt to win here is that ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is this betting line of 110 to 1. The man has finished 9th, 5th, and 4th here in that order over his past 3 outings.

His driving accuracy is legendary and if he can get the flat stick going, the man has the composure and experience to close it out.

It’s a reach, sure, but we are betting the number here.

To Win
Kuchar

In Conclusion

We went hard this week with 6 picks! We have had great luck with 4 a week so far but I like all of these spots. If there are 6 edges to be had instead of 4, I think you should go for 6.

We aren’t just shooting mosquitoes in the dark here. These are all calculated predictions. Matt Kuchar winning this tournament wouldn’t blow my mind and neither should it have that effect on you.

  • He has three consecutive top ten finishes here.
  • (+200) for a top 20 on this guy but we are getting better than 100 to 1 for him to win.
  • He has the rest, the experience, and the course fit to do it.

His form is eh and he is an older guy but Phoenix, Arizona in early February is early spring without the wet cold breeze.

Kuch can do.

Corey Conners and Sungjae Im are two of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour and as long as they can shoot in straight off the tee, I like them both for a top 20 finish.

Rickie Fowler is a former winner and you can get 2 to 1 on a top 20. The field is thick and filled with golfers who have great history and course fit here but the number is nice on the Pastellian Stallion so why not?

Lastly, we went at length about Will Zalatoris. You will be hearing a lot more about this kid in the years to come so let’s get out ahead of the narrative instead of chasing it later on.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.