Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor, Kannon is an on-air host for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and host and creator of Long Shots, the network’s golf betting show. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his 12 favorite plays for the WM Phoenix Open, which kicks off Thursday at TPC Scottsdale. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money. For more from Kannon, you can also listen to his Long Shots podcast.
Talk about a super week.
The WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale will set the table for Super Bowl LVII, taking place this Sunday in nearby Glendale, Ariz. Roughly half a million fans will make their way through the gates over the course of the four days at the WMPO, one of the Tour’s new “designated” events. Designated tournaments have far bigger purses and will feature nearly all of the Tour’s top players in the field. The Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua was the first such event; the WMPO is the second.
What has been coined “The Greatest Show on Grass” will include 18 of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Rankings. With the week culminating with the Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium, just 30 minutes away, the town will be electric.
This will be the first time players are not playing on a rotation of courses since the Sony Open in Hawaii five weeks ago. TPC Scottsdale is of average Tour length at just more than 7,200 yards. The fairways are a little narrower than average, but the greens are big. Both the fairways and the greens are a Bermuda grass base, but this time of year, the players will play on turf that has been overseeded with Rye grass, with some Poa and Bent on the greens as well. The putting surfaces are firm, relatively flat and will run fast and smooth, so I don’t think putting will be overly difficult this week, and thus won’t rely on it too much in my handicap.
The course has become more challenging since Tom Weiskopf redesigned it in 2014, with 2015 being the first year of Tour competition on the renovated version. Since Weiskopf stepped in, winning scores have been between 16 and 17 under par on average, or higher than they were when this event was a pure birdie-fest. In what was often a putting contest before 2015 has now become a real test of driving and ballstriking. In the last eight editions of the WMPO, the top finishers have performed well in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, SG: Approach, Greens in Regulation, Proximity to the Hole and Par 4 Scoring.
There are quite a few courses that one can use for comparison this week. If you are looking to go with the desert-golf angle, take a look at how players have played at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, The Summit Club — which is also in Las Vegas and played host to the 2021 CJ Cup — and the Nicklaus Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. Other non-desert tracks but similar in layout and set up to TPC Scottsdale are Southern Hills, site of the 2022 PGA Championship; Silverado Country Club, in Napa, Calif.; Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill; and Memorial Park, host site of the last three Houston Opens. Course history is very predictive at TPC Scottsdale: Much like Augusta National, players that have performed well in the past in Scottsdale typically do so year after year.
I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago that my “betting” season begins in earnest with the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. It was not a great start! I cashed just two top-20 finishes with Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele. Last week at Pebble Beach was much better as I banked top-20 finishes with Seamus Power and Scott Stallings, and also won both of our head-to-head matchups. When betting into these three different markets, money management is paramount. I risk the least amount on the outright winner bets, and I will risk two or three times the outright amount on the same player to finish top 20. The largest amount of risk should be reserved for the full tournament head-to-head matchups. This market has the lowest amount of hold percentage and is our best chance to turn a profit.
6 picks I like to win the WM Phoenix Open (and to finish top 20)
Xander Schauffele (16-1)
As I noted earlier, course history is more important here than most other tournaments. In five visits to Scottsdale in his career, Schauffele has finished 3rd, 2nd, 16th, 10th and 17th. That’s one of the best resumes for course history in this field. He doesn’t have a ton of history on the correlated courses but did take 13th at Southern Hills for last year’s PGA Championship. As far as the stats, he is near tops in just about every category: SG Approach, Par 4 Scoring, Greens in Regulation and Ball Striking. It is no wonder he’s found success at this course over the years.
Tony Finau (20-1)
Finau is a puzzling study when it comes to his performance at TPC Scottsdale. In seven trips, he’s finished 2nd and 22nd, but missed the cut on five other occasions. His runner-up finish came in a playoff loss to Webb Simpson in 2019. Finau’s current form, though, is as good as anybody’s in the field. He’s hasn’t finished worse than 16th in the 2022-23 season and won in November at one of our comp courses, Memorial Park, at the Houston Open. He has two top-10s at TPC Summerlin and has never missed a cut there. He also has a 2nd-place finish at Silverado in the Fortinet. Like Schauffele, there is no arguing the stats on Finau. He is number one in this field over the last 36 rounds for SG: Par 4 and Greens in Regulation Gained. He’s 2nd in Birdies or Better Gained, and 3rd in SG: Ball Striking.
Cameron Young (32-1)
Since 2015 — or as long as this tournament has been played on the Weiskopf redesign — the winners have come from a 10-1 to 50-1 window. Cam Young will be my final play in that neighborhood on the odds board. During that eight-year stretch, the cream has tended to rise to the top here at the WMPO, and with this week’s star-studded field, I think there is a good chance we’ll see that play out again. Young is tops in this field for SG: Off the Tee over the last 36 rounds. He’s 11th in SG: Ball Striking and 4th in Birdies or Better Gained. Over the last eight tournaments played on both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour, Young is 6th in the field for SG: Approach and 8th for SG: Tee to Green. He was 26th here on his debut last season, took 3rd at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and finished 13th at Bay Hill.
Keith Mitchell (80-1)
I was hesitant to back Mitchell this week after having to play an extra day at Pebble Beach, but I couldn’t ignore his numbers or his price. I mentioned the recent trend of players winning being priced in the 10-50 to 1 range. Mitchell is among three longer shots I played outside of that window this wee; these are all pros who I feel are close to Tier 1 players but are being priced much higher than that due to the strength of this field. Mitchell ranks 3rd in this field over the last 36 rounds for SG: Off the Tee. He’s 16th in SG Ball Striking and 7th in SG: Par 4s measuring 400-450 yards. He said on Monday he and Buffalo Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, should have won last week’s Pro-Am portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach – if not for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing with what appeared to be a suspect handicap. Maybe Mitchell has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after that and his run of solid current form continues here in the desert this week.
Corey Conners (90-1)
This is a lofty number for a player who ranks inside the top 40 in the world and hasn’t missed a cut since last June. In fact, Conners hasn’t never missed a cut here in Scottsdale, either. I’ve seen some shops posting as low as 60-1 on Conners. As always, it pays to shop around. We know the Canadian is one of the premier ball strikers in the world. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 10th in this field for SG Approach, 6th in Greens in Regulation Gained and 5th in SG: Ball Striking. He has a 24th-place finish in Houston, a 3rd and an 11th at Bay Hill and a 13th at the Fortinet. Over the last eight events on both the DP World and PGA Tours, Conners ranks 12th in this field for SG: Total.
Brendan Steele (130-1)
My longest bomb of the week is Steele. It’s interesting to note, though, that I have seen him as low as less than 70-1, and I understand why. Over the course of almost exactly a year now, Steele has recorded three top 10s and four top 25s. He has three top-20 finishes at Bay Hill, he took 9th at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills last May and he’s won twice at the Fortinet, in Napa. Back to our course history angle, Steele has finishes of 5th, 6th, 6th, 16th and 3rd here in Phoenix. He has one of the stronger combinations of course history and correlated course results in this field – and throw in his form – it adds up to why we have seen this number drop at some books. Over the last 36 rounds, Steele ranks 5th in this field for SG Approach, 5th in Proximity to the Hole, 8th for SG: Off the Tee and 2nd in SG: Ball Striking.
6 full-tournament head-to-head matchups I really like