Matt Kuchar poised to make some noise at Phoenix Open
The PGA Tour moves from San Diego to just outside of Phoenix this weekend for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which is held at the TPC Scottsdale. As is the norm in recent years, it is held on Super Bowl week, and every so many years, nearby Glendale has hosted the game soon after the tournament concludes. That won’t be the case again until 2023, but the excitement remains as TPC Scottsdale probably provides the most exuberant gallery in all of golf -- at the notorious 16th hole.
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Listed at 163 yards, the 16th is surrounded by hospitality areas and grandstands. Should a player miss the green, the gallery promptly lets them know their disapproval with boos and jeers. However, the extreme opposite is possible too. It was here in 1997 when Tiger Woods hit an ace, perhaps creating the loudest gallery in golf’s history.
Don't expect much star power
Unfortunately, Woods has rarely played in this event and won’t be here this time either. Adding to this lack of star power is the fact that three-time champion Phil Mickelson, a Scottsdale regular throughout his career who graduated from nearby Arizona State University, opted to play in Saudi Arabia instead. This was Mickelson’s last chance as a 40-something to play here. He turns 50 in June so one must wonder how many more appearances he’ll make at Scottsdale.
TPC Scottsdale is home to one of golf's best short holes
TPC Scottsdale, designed by Tom Weiskopf and the late Jay Morrish, is a par 71 and listed at 7,261 yards. Aside from the aforementioned 16th, the drivable, 336-yard 17th provides a bunch of drama in its own right and is one of golf’s best short holes. It has a long and narrow green, with a bailout area to the right and water to the left. Any score from eagle to double bogey is routinely in the cards, and back in 2001, Andrew Magee happened to ace it in what is still the only hole in one on a par 4 in PGA Tour history.
Then comes the 18th, which is a modest 442 yards. However, a few years ago church pew bunkers like the ones you see at Oakmont Country Club is famous for were placed at the end of the lake, thereby creating a difficult carry. While not as exciting as the two prior holes, the 18th does get players to think about the risk.
Keep an eye on Matt Kuchar
Obviously, the Waste Management field is wide open, and one I could see making some noise at +2500 is veteran Matt Kuchar. Now 41 years of age, the 1997 U.S. Amateur winner possesses three consecutive top 10 finishes in Scottsdale, so the track record here has improved after a spotty record earlier in his career. Kuchar won’t overwhelm people with his power, but there isn’t anything in this game he does poorly. He won in Singapore just two weeks ago, albeit against a weaker field, but also won twice last season and earned eight top 10 finishes. Kuchar would warrant a look for all props, and a win is inconceivable.