Waste Management Phoenix Open picks

January, 31, 2012

It's time for the desert as the PGA Tour stops at TPC Scottsdale, site of the loudest hole in golf -- the par-3 16th. On a course that many feel favors the long hitters, Mark Wilson halted that trend in 2011.

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: 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: Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Camilo Villegas
He had to WD in 2011 with an injury, but finished tied for 8th in 2010 at this event. Seems like the new equipment has finally taken hold with two strong weeks to start his year, T-19 and T-22. I expect a strong showing in the desert from the Colombian this week.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: J.B. Holmes
The 29-year-old former University of Kentucky star has won twice in the six years that he's played the Waste Management Phoenix Open. At last year's tournament, he finished 3 shots back of the winner, Mark Wilson, in a tie for fifth at 15 under par.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Lefty is off to a poor start, but he's got the field beat when it comes to playing this course. This will be his 22nd start. He has nine top-10s including two victories.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Chris Couch
How about 67.63? That's Couch's scoring average in the Waste Management Phoenix Open his last two starts (a T-8 in 2011 and a T-4 in 2010.) And 70.18? That's his scoring average for all of 2011. Let's just say the former Gator likes it in the desert.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Dustin Johnson
The course is a bomber's paradise, and coming off the W/D at the Humana Challenge, beware the wounded golfer. Even though he's has very limited success at this event in his last two appearances, I think if his back and knee hold up, he'll finish inside the top 10.

Farrell Evans: John Rollins
The 36-year-old Richmond, Va., native will be playing his fourth tournament in a row this week in Phoenix. The three-time PGA tour winner has two top-10s in his first three events. Last week in San Diego, he finished third.

Bob Harig: Kyle Stanley
His 72nd-hole implosion notwithstanding, Stanley played some excellent golf to that point. He birdied that same hole in a playoff. It was one bad hole.

Kevin Maguire: Martin Laird
He's played only eight rounds of golf this season, and all but one have been in the 60s. Toss in 64-65 weekend that resulted in a T-3 finish at TPC Scottsdale last year and it's a recipe for low scores in the desert.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Jamie Lovemark
It's time for this kid to have a breakout party, and when he gets to the 16th hole on Sunday afternoon ... watch how calm, cool and collected he is. Nothing rattles this guy (on the outside), and it's those nerves of steel that will bring him success at TPC Scottsdale.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
Nothing about Phil's play this year points to a win in Phoenix, but I have a hunch that missing last week's cut in San Diego gave him the jolt he needed to make some needed swing adjustments. As a two-time winner in Phoenix, he's very comfortable around the TPC Scottsdale course.

Bob Harig: Ian Poulter
Making his season debut after his wife recently gave birth to a son. Poulter won his last start in Australia just before Christmas. Might be tough to expect a victory here.

Kevin Maguire: Brian Gay
If Mark Wilson (143rd in driving distance in 2011) could win this event last year when it's supposedly a bomber's paradise, shouldn't a bunter like Gay (186th in '11) be able to? He's missed only one Phoenix cut in 10 starts.


Michael Collins: Rickie Fowler
This is the most fitting tournament for Rickie to get his first PGA Tour win. Redemption for Rickie from two years ago, when everyone questioned his decision-making at the 15th hole. The atmosphere at this tournament is exactly what the Bieber-like sensation feeds on.

Farrell Evans: Kyle Stanley
After last week's debacle at Torrey Pines, where he threw away a 3-shot lead on the 72nd hole, the 24-year-old former Clemson star could have taken off this week and licked his wounds after the bitter defeat in a playoff with Brandt Snedeker. But he's playing in Phoenix because he understands that the best way to heal is to go out and give himself another chance to win.

Bob Harig: Aaron Baddeley
This is a home game for the Aussie and, while he's not fared great in the event of late, he did win it in 2007.

Kevin Maguire: Keegan Bradley
Who needs experience? He's never played this event before, but he won a major in his first appearance right? Three top-25s out of the gate to start the 2012 season bode well that Bradley might be able to avoid a sophomore slump.



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