Go Chambeau at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
By James Daltorp
BEAST DOME NATION
There’s a lot that happened over the weekend in Southern California and we have to give props to all the PGA fans who were chanting for Kobe Bryant at the Farmers Open on Sunday. As a L.A. native, we have to give props to one of the greatest to ever do it.
This week, we shift from the “major championship” vibe to the one and only Phoenix Open, the biggest party atmosphere in golf (and maybe among most sports). The beer will flow heavily on the 16th hole this week and the field who comes to this event knows exactly what they got themselves into – not just the Waste Management’s staple desert classic, but the WASTED fans that make this the most raucous and sometimes challenging tournament to finish in the clutch.
I’m not going to waste any time throwing around my top six picks. I’ll have more thoughts on my Twitter account (@jamesdalthorp) when the tee times are released tomorrow, but I’ve already got some strong thoughts about your lineup after watching a ton of golf this week so let’s dive into it.
The TPC Scottsdale is the friendlier version of the Players Championship – a place that rewards a risk reward attitude and a bold putter. This is the type of event that tends to bring out the best in a great up and coming player or a hungry guy trying to earn some status. Let’s look at the current top six for the week on my list.
1. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU
If you know me well, this is not a pick that I’m going to make often. In fact, I have some real concerns about Dechambeau’s game. I think he needs to rethink his universal club lengths to improve his wedge game (he had some poor wedge shots in Dubai last week) and his attitude was poor down the stretch. However, buckle your seatbelt golf fans. I can sense that this man is brewing with healthy animosity. That will either be quite dangerous or backfire – and I’m thinking this week is just the right combo for a surge. Think about it. Last week in Dubai, he played flawlessly until the final round on a golf course that has similarities to this week’s desert golf layout. The Weiskopf layout at TPC Scottsdale has similarities in it’s rolling hills, sometimes firm conditions, and weird angles off the tee. Bryson even hit some great shots from the waste area. Plus, Bryson has played here one time and finished tied for fifth.
2. RICKIE FOWLER
This is Rickie’s best event. He will feed off the energy of the excitable crowd that tends to verge from the typical golf norm. This year has been a very interesting rollercoaster for Rick. Married and living a great life, his expectations will always be very high. A near win two weeks ago at the Amex – and a missed cut by one shot at the Farmers… I don’t see any red flags. The Farmers was a tough go this year and there was a real shuffle getting those first two rounds in on separate tracks. This is a completely different event and I see Rickie doing well.
3. VIKTOR HOVLAND
We’re looking at a future hall of famer. Hovland has a win at the US Amateur and his accolades suggest to me that that he’s in his PGA TOUR honeymoon phase. I think he’s going to make some babies this week out in the desert. This dude strikes it as well as anyone – and his record to date suggests that he is going to be tough. I like his track record on Tour and scoring average and I really like his game on this golf course. He’s a good ball striker and a steady putter. He’ll make a lot of birdies – and he’ll drive it steady off the tee. Great opportunity for him and he’s fresh off a week in Dubai.
4. ADAM HADWIN
This is an Olympic year and for the second time in this new age, there are a bunch of golfers who are going to be soaking up some amazing rays in the hopes of Olympic gold. We’ll have to see who makes the team for the US, but some guys are locked. Hadwin is an international player technically, but he also hails from the land of syrup and niceness, Canada. Hadwin showed his maturity at the Presidents Cup and is playing a slightly different schedule this year. His last two results here were middle of the pack, but he’s been in the top 15 here multiple times in the last five years and contended. I’m a big believer in his ability. This is a great opportunity for him to make a mark.
5. BRANDEN GRACE
This dude has been a beast overseas lately and his accomplishment of winning the South African Open to complete the African Slam of sorts (I just made that up) is a first in his country’s history. Grace has the all time record for the low round in a major, not Kevin Costner. If he’s going to have a break out year as a superstar, this is the year.
6. JON RAHM
Last but certainly not least, Rahmbo. There’s a lot to like about Rahm this week. He’s a local favorite, an ASU alum. He’s going to have a lot of old teammates and friends here. He’s played this course as much as any of the other guys in the field. Regardless of how he plays, you know he’ll be firing on all cylinders after coming up short last week. My best guess is that 4 out 5 birdies to finish and losing the lead will spark a hell of a fire for this Sun Devil.
Dark Horses and Notes
Joel Dahmen, Harry Higgs, Beau Hossler, Max Homa. Young guys who are getting their games together at the right time.
Hideki Matsuyama plays well here and we have to consider he refinds glory.
Matt Kuchar missed the cut at the Sony and even though he won in Hong Kong, the field was weak and we saw how Justin Rose struggled after playing in that event and transitioning back to the states.
Tom Hoge has been in a few of my lineups this year and he’s got a ton of game. This might be a good track for him, especially with that fade off the tee. He got some good experience with Tiger on Sunday.
Colin Morikawa won over a bunch of people in the last few weeks but he needs to make more putts. Maybe these desert greens will give him the answer he wants. He’s playing a ton of competition right now.
There are plenty of Arizona State alums in the field who have played here regularly. As one myself, you have to look out for Chez Reavie.