Waste Management Phoenix Open picks

January, 28, 2014

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Phil Mickelson
He won't have to worry too much about the sore back at TPC Scottsdale. The rough is light and easy to play out of, unlike last week. Phil has won here three times, including last year when he lipped out a birdie putt for a 59 in the first round.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: J.B. Holmes
Holmes is coming off a broken ankle that cut his 2013 season short, but he has earned both his PGA Tour victories on TPC Scottsdale's Stadium course in 2006 and 2008.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Lefty will make his 25th start in the event if a bad back allows, and he's attempting to become the tournament's first four-time winner. The defending champion shot 60 in the first round a year ago on his way to victory.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Webb Simpson
The 2012 U.S. Open champ owns back-to-back T-8 finishes at TPC Scottsdale, so clearly he knows the track. Toss in the fact that his worst finish in the new 2013-14 wraparound schedule was a T-23 at the Humana Challenge, and he'll contend in the desert.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Webb Simpson
His last two starts at this event -- he didn't play last year -- resulted in two eighth-place finishes. And if Las Vegas is Sodom (where Webb won earlier in the wraparound schedule), Scottsdale could easily be considered Gomorrah, meaning the choirboy is going to have another top-10 finish.

Evans: Marc Leishman
The 30-year-old Australian has a fifth and tie for second in his past two events. That second came at the difficult Torrey Pines course last week, where he finished a shot behind the winner, Scott Stallings.

Harig: Scott Stallings
The winner of the Farmers Insurance Open acknowledged that a fall move to Arizona really helped him with the improvement he was seeking. Now he's getting his first "home" game at TPC Scottsdale.

Maguire: Pat Perez
He might not be the most famous former Arizona State golfer in the field (assuming Phil Mickelson tees it up), but Perez is on a nice early streak here in 2014 with a pair of top-10s in his past three starts.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Brian Harman
He made it through his first start in this event last year playing the final three rounds in 11 under. I expect now that the lefty from Georgia is comfortable in this setting, playing the 16th in 2 under, and he'll get his third top-10 of the season this week.

Evans: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
The 33-year-old Spaniard is the 37th-ranked player in the world. In November, he won the prestigious BMW Masters and he had a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open in June.

Harig: Lee Westwood
The Englishman is making his first start at the tournament and after finishing 47th at the Farmers Insurance Open, has posted just one top-10 in his past 11 starts.

Maguire: Erik Compton
The two-time heart transplant recipient's third full season on the PGA Tour hasn't gone exactly as planned, with less than $50,000 earned in six starts prior to the Farmers Insurance Open. Then a T-19 finish at Torrey Pines that saw him get as high as T-3 during the final round showed he just might be able to play his way on to more leaderboards soon.


Collins: Scott Piercy
In five starts at this tournament, he has finished outside the top 10 only twice. We hear guys say all the time, "It's a course that just fits my eye." His third-round scoring average of 66.6 is a testament to that, but remember last year he shot 61 in the final round. This year, trophy No. 3 goes in his case.

Evans: Brandt Snedeker
The six-time PGA Tour winner finished second here last year, 4 shots behind Mickelson. Snedeker shot a pair of 65s on the weekend. He's off to a slow start in 2014, but he will jump-start his season with a victory in Phoenix.

Harig: Graham DeLaet
It's just a matter of time for the Canadian, who was on the International Presidents Cup team last year and continues to put himself in contention. He came up a shot short at the Farmers but gets it done at TPC Scottsdale.

Maguire: Marc Leishman
Two starts ago at the Sony Open, the Aussie finished fifth. Last week at Torrey Pines, Leishman came up a shot short of a playoff. He's clearly trending upward and after beating both his playing partners in the final pairing Sunday at Torrey Pines, there's only one place to go from his T-2 in La Jolla.





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