It's party time at the FBR Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2009 FBR Open | Preview | 27 Jan 2009
It’s party time this week on the PGA Tour this week and that can mean only one thing – the PGA Tour is in Scottsdale for the FBR Open at the Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed TPC Scottsdale.
The event has established itself as one of the fun events on the PGA Tour with as many as 100,000+ fans cramming into the course each day. Many make a beeline for the par three 16th where players walk the gauntlet on a daily basis as they withstand the crowd’s adulation or wrath, dependant on the quality of their tee shot.
With the final round coinciding as it does with the NFL’s Super Bowl, the event and the 16th hole carry an even greater air of frivolity, the controversial par three 17th at Royal Sydney during last year’s Australian Open paling in comparison.
The field boasts 11 winners of 14 previous FBR Opens or Phoenix Opens as the event was previously known, the most popular – with the fans at least – Phil Mickelson, who won the tournament in 1996 and 2005 and makes his debut on the 2009 PGA Tour this week.
Mickelson has slipped to number 4 in the World Ranking but even though he has not played a tournament for some time, he has often played well in this event and sometimes after a considerable break. Mickelson has a huge fan base in Phoenix having played collegiate golf at Arizona State and having retained considerable golfing interests in the region.
Another two time winner is J.B. Holmes who won in 2006, missed the cut in 2007 and then won again last year. He clearly loves this event and the golf course but his current form gives little confidence in him making it three from four.
Anthony Kim is currently in the field and is expected to start despite withdrawing from last week’s Bob Hope Classic with an injury. Kim missed the cut in his first visit to the event two years ago but last year finished a reasonable 30th and with his rapid rise in world ranking since he should be a factor.
For Geoff Ogilvy this week’s event is essentially a home game, the recent Mercedes-Benz Champion a resident of Scottsdale as are several of the Australians in the field this week. Ogilvy’s recent run of good form in Australia and in Hawaii has him primed for a good showing this week although, interestingly, despite being one of the world’s best in the last three years he has never really starred in this event. The same however could have been said for Kapalua recently.
Camilo Villegas finished runner up in this event in one of his first events on the PGA Tour in 2006 announcing the arrival of a career that he quickly developed. He had a reasonable week in his only start this season at the Mercedes-Benz so might do well.
Mike Weir took quite a break in the off season but he continued where he left off when he returned to finish 4th last week at the Bob Hope. Weir has not always played well in this event but there has been the occasional top ten and with his game in the shape it is in then he stands a very good chance of winning for the first time in 15 months.
After two events in the Middle East, Aaron Baddeley is back in his US home of Scottsdale. He improved considerably from the Abu Dhabi Championship to his 12th place finish in Qatar last week which is understandable given the break he had from tournament golf prior. Baddeley’s record in this event is a strange one however. In six starts he has missed four cuts, been 42nd on one other occasion and in 2007 won his second PGA Tour event.
A player who has yet to win this event but who has a very solid record is Kenny Perry. Perry finished 6th at the recent Mercedes-Benz Championship and, although only average the following week at the Sony, could well contend despite now being 48 years of age.
Earlier in his career Justin Leonard played this event well. He has found some very good form in recent months and although a slow start cost him from a good finish last week, his 5th place at the Mercedes-Benz and several good finishes prior, are a better guide to his chances.
Kevin Na might be one for longer odds. He had a very good week when 5th at the recent Sony Open and despite missing the cut last week at the Bob Hope he has a good record in this particular event having finished runner up and 4th in two of his three visits to the event.
As mentioned earlier, the Australian challenge is headed by Ogilvy and Baddeley but once again there is a long line-up of Australasians in the field.
Stuart Appleby, who finished 4th last year, plays his first event of the season, local resident Mathew Goggin, Rod Pampling, who like Baddeley has returned from two weeks in the Middle East, John Senden, Steve Elkington, Peter Lonard, Nathan Green, Peter Lonard, Tim Wilkinson, Jarrod Lyle and James Nitties are all in the field.