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Phoenix Open is Super Bowl's best pregame show

February 8, 2022 10:59 PM
USATSI_12099937

“The Greatest Show on Grass” has also become the greatest pregame show on Super Bowl Sunday. 

The final round of the Phoenix Open provides a wonderful warmup for sports fans — and sports bettors — prior to kickoff of the big game. Last year, crowds at TPC Scottsdale were limited to 5,000 fans per day due to COVID-19 restrictions, but this week we’ll be back to the full capacity of 50,000 fans beginning on Thursday.

Many of those 50,000 will gather in the massive grandstands that surround the famous par-3, 17th hole, creating a raucous environment unlike any other on the PGA Tour. Some players love the excitement and fan engagement, and the antics and interaction make for a good watch. 

Phoenix is the only event on tour in which we see so much involvement from fans, and it’s in the perfect spot on the calendar because of the overall mood of sports fans on Super Bowl Sunday. In last week's column, I mentioned how the PGA Tour has done a terrific job with its schedule by staying out of the way of the NFL. In this case, golf is the perfect precursor to football’s climatic clash.

I was lucky enough to play TPC Scottsdale last summer. VSiN did a remote broadcast of “My Guys In The Desert” there in conjunction with DraftKings opening a sportsbook at the property.

The course’s fairways are pretty wide and forgiving, so driving accuracy won’t be of great importance this week. The course will play firm and fast, and when you add a little altitude to that, distance won’t be a huge advantage, either. The greens are big, unlike what we saw last week at Pebble Beach, which has some of the smallest surfaces on tour. The greens are Bermudagrass at their base but are overseeded with a mix of other turf species. For handicapping purposes, however, I have treated these as primarily Bermuda surfaces. We have seen Bermuda specialists fare well at TPC Scottsdale over the years, including Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson and Louis Oosthuizen.

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 with one fewer par-5 and one additional par-4, so par-4 scoring is a statistic I’ll consider this week. The tournament tends to be a bit of a birdie-fest, so scoring on the 11 par-4s is important. With driving the ball being of less importance, it puts further emphasis on approach shots, hitting greens in regulation, hitting it close to the hole and scrambling. Finally, the Phoenix Open is one of the top-rated tournaments for course form, also known as horses for courses. Players who typically play well here tend to do so year after year. 

As for comparable courses, I looked at TPC Summerlin (Shriners), The Summit Club (CJ Cup in 2021) and the rotation of course at The American Express, all desert courses that feature many similarities to TPC Scottsdale.

Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups that I considered and played for the Phoenix Open:

Considered (3-0 last week)

Justin Thomas (-105) over Patrick Cantlay

Jordan Spieth (+ 150) over Hideki Matsuyama

Seamus Power (+ 100) over Russell Henley

Played (2-0 last week)

Billy Horschel (-125) over Max Homa

Sam Burns (-125) over Tony Finau

For a full breakdown of the Phoenix Open and all of the plays from myself, Matt Youmans and Wes Reynolds, tune into “LongShots” at VSiN.com/podcasts. We’ll be joined by special guest Drew Stoltz of PGA Tour Radio and the Golf Subpar Podcast.

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