The tour makes its annual trip to Phoenix this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 16th hole at the Waste Management is a spectacle. Like an Alabama-Auburn game, a perfect tourney for Super Bowl Sunday with all the electricity of that hole providing a great precursor to the Patriots-Rams in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The defending champion is Gary Woodland who shot -18 last year and won in a playoff over Chez Revie. Last week, world number 1 Justin Rose cemented his spot with a huge victory at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open, finishing -21, 2 shots clear of Adam Scott. Rose is phenomenal right now. I thought his change in equipment might cause him some issues early, but he looks to be in midseason form. Rose, world number 2 Brooks Koepka, world number 3 Dustin Johnson, and world number 5 Bryson DeChambeau are in Saudi Arabia this week for the first ever Saudi International. Should be a fantastic tournament there as well.
This field is pretty outstanding at Phoenix, too. 3 of the top 7 players in the world, Justin Thomas (4), Jon Rahm (6) and Xander Schauffele (7) are all playing. Rickie Fowler (14) and Phil (29) are both playing as well. Phil has won in Phoenix 3 times.
Also of note, this will be Johnny Miller’s last NBC golf broadcast of his career this weekend. Hate to see Johnny hang it up, he’s been a spectacular voice of the game, but he’s 71 and ready to spend more time with his kids and grandkids. He’ll be missed. Paul Azinger will take over in the booth. Paul is good, too, so it should be a pretty good transition, though it’s hard to replace Johnny. Johnny will finish up on Saturday afternoon as the network will focus on who wins the tournament on Sunday. Saturday should be interesting and pretty moving to watch. Johnny’s has been a legend in the game, both as a player and as a broadcaster. Will never forget his 63 at Oakmont on Sunday at the 1973 U.S. Open. It was historic stuff. His commentating has been just as memorable.
Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 2-6 PM CT; Saturday-Sunday, GC, 12-2 PM CT, NBC, 2-5 PM CT.
Weather looks pretty good overall. Sunny tomorrow, 75; Friday and Saturday chances for rain, Sunday, 65 partly sunny. Wind anywhere from 5-8 MPH.
Of course, at TPC Scottsdale (7,261 yards, par 71) the 162 yard par 3 16th hole is a spectacular sports setting. The Stadium hole features 20,000 rowdy patrons cheering on every good shot and booing every not so good shot. Players throw footballs to the crowd, they wear jerseys of their favorite teams and high five, fist bump, shoulder bump, they do it all on the 16th. It’s terrific entertainment. The hole is kind of straight forward. There is a pretty wide green and the player needs to carry the waste area in front. There is sand on the left and a run off on the right. A lot of pressure. Maybe not as much as the 17th at TPC Sawgrass,, but certainly pressure to produce on this hole for the players. Should be classic on Saturday and particularly on Sunday with the tournament on the line. The 17th is a birdie and potential eagle hole. The hole is 332 yards and a par 4. The players need to avoid a waste area and a couple of bunkers when taking a rip at this hole. In 2001, Andrew Magee gained notoriety when, after carding a double on 16, he impatiently teed off on 17. His ball ran up to the green banked off a player, Tom Byrum’s, putter, and rolled 8 feet before going in the hole. So players will be going for this green particularly if their tournament hopes are on the line. The 18th is a par 4, 438 yards and has a lake running from the front of the tee box and consuming the entire left side of the hole. Deciding how much lake to cut off when driving is a critical decision for the players because a draw will put you in the water and a cut that doesn’t cut enough could be wet as well. There are bunkers on each side of the fairway, so playing up the right side can be tricky as well. The sand can save a player if he’s too close to the water on the left side. If the player navigates his drive well, the second shot is a lot less challenging though there’ll be plenty of pressure on Sunday, so that’ll make it compelling.
I’m pretty bullish on Justin Thomas. Jon Rahm, Phil, and Xander Schauffele this week, but I’m going to take the 2016 and 2017 back to back winner. He also shot 67 last Sunday at Torrey Pines to finish tied for 3rd at the Farmers. I’ll take the 26 year old from Matsuayama Ehime, Japan.
Winner at the Saudi International,
Coverage Sunday, 3:30-8 AM CT on the Golf Channel. A little early, but may catch the last 5 or 6 holes.
A friend of mine asked me today who I thought is this year’s and the coming years’ Brooks Koepka, a guy who’ll light it up. It was ironic he asked that because the Golf Channel had just discussed who will be the best player in the next 5 years between Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. I’ll take the winner of 5 tournaments in the last 2 years (John Deere Classic in 2017, Memorial, Northern Trust, Dell Technologies Championship, and the Shriners Hospitals for ChildrenI in 2018) ’ll go with the 25 year old from Modesto, California by way of SMU, who won last week at the Dubai Desert Classic, and I like him to win again this week in Saudi Arabia.
A while back, I was drug to a Sting concert in Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Chicago, but was not as keen on seeing Stung perform. Sting’s fine, just not my favorite. But the opening act was Tracy Chapman. She rocked. Here’s the great Tracy with rock icon Eric Clapton jamming in 1999.
Super Bowl LIII
Preview and prediction for the Patriots vs the Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Kickoff Sunday 5:30 PM CT.