Picking winners of a golf tournament is hard. Doing it consistently is downright impossible. However, finding value is something all bettors must practice in order to give themselves the best chance to make hay when the day finally comes that they select a champion.
Below, we will cover the best bets for the WM Phoenix Open based on current form, course fit, and -- of course -- the value of their odds.
One of the most anticipated events of the early season is finally here as an absolutely loaded field descends upon TPC Scottsdale on Super Bowl weekend. Always a popular and rowdy environment, the added incentive as one of the new elevated events means the field strength is akin to a major championship. Indeed, the total prize pool of $20 million and winner's share of $3.6 million are in line with last year's PLAYERS Championship, the richest event of the season.
Ball-striking is the alpha and omega this week. With a major championship-level field, we'll tread carefully down the board. The juicy numbers next to some long shots may be intriguing, but Phoenix has typically produced a class champion in years past. A loaded field further narrows the outcomes but also offers some decent numbers on accomplished golfers.
We'll have to punt the favorites to fit enough diversity into our card, but that leaves us widely exposed to a Jon Rahm (+700) or Rory McIlroy (+800) barnburner. So, it must be this week, and if we are blessed to see Rory and Rahm go head-to-head down the stretch, we'll count ourselves lucky enough.
At The Top
Patrick Cantlay (+2100) - Cantlay debuted with a splash last year in Phoenix, the victim of an otherworldly weekend charge by Scottie Scheffler (+1300) to ultimately finish as the runner-up. The course is right in his wheelhouse as a primo ball-striker, and while his buddy Xander Schauffele (+1400) boasts the consistent track record here, Cantlay matched his best finish on the first try. He's second this season in the Tour's official ball-striking stat, which combines the total driving ranking (accuracy ranking plus distance ranking) with the greens in regulation ranking. While that stat is not perfect, Rahm's name at the top this season and each of the last two at least gives it some credibility as a useful measure. Top-15 marks in each of the past two for Cantlay and a chance for revenge make him a worthy candidate this week.
Justin Thomas (+2100) - It's been a slow start to Thomas' season by his standards, but no doubt, he's had this event circled since the Presidents Cup ended. Payday aside, Thomas wants the spotlight and is no stranger to big-time victories. Last year, he won his second PGA Championship, and the season before he took down the PLAYERS. He's as reliable a big-game player as we have on Tour, and finishes here of T8, T13, T3, solo 3rd, and T17 the last five years set him up nicely to finally break through with a win when the stakes are highest. While the accuracy can sometimes cost him, he's as good an approach and around-the-green player as we have on Tour.
Hideki Matsuyama (+2900) - Matsuyama showed signs of life at Torrey Pines with a pair of 69s over the weekend at the South Course -- the best golf he's played all season -- and he finished tied for ninth. His short game was a big part of that, but he gained in all four strokes gained categories and now heads to a course where he's had about as much success as any in his career. Hideki won back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 before withdrawing with an injury as the outright favorite in 2018, and more recently, he has a T15 in 2019, T16 in 2020, T42 in 2021, and T8 last year. This combination of his ball-striking prowess, the course history, and his form on the rise is too good to pass up at this price.
Corey Conners (+7500) - Conners was second only to Rahm in ball-striking last season, sixth in 2021, and first in 2020. He improved off a T42 finish in his 2020 Phoenix debut with a T17 in 2021, and he was T38 last year when he uncharacteristically lost 0.56 strokes on approaches. He has not quite made the impact in strong fields, but he's reached the TOUR Championship in three of the last four seasons despite just one career win. That type of consistency is bound to turn into hardware, and Conners is on offer this week at the same price he's currently at for the U.S. Open and well shorter than his price at The Masters (+4600) and the PGA Championship (+5500). This is a major championship field without the daunting setup of a U.S. Open, and the comp to his odds at the upcoming majors is enough to put him on the value radar.
Gary Woodland (+12000) - In what seems like a different life, Woodland won here in 2018 and followed a T7 the next year with a U.S. Open victory a few months later. He's far from that player these days, but that solid record at Scottsdale catches our eye in the triple digits, where we can envision very few options dusting a field like this. He's up to fourth in driving distance and 33rd in ball-striking this season, but he's converted those numbers into just one top-10 so far. A win might be too much to ask against these horses, but with good history and form trending in the right direction, Woodland presents a decent value for a Top-20 Finish (+410).