Mahan well placed for Phoenix defence

BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2011 Phoenix Open | Preview | 02 Feb 2011

The PGA Tour is in Scottsdale in Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open where Hunter Mahan will aim to defend the title he won last year by one shot over Rickie Fowler.

Mahan went on to record his best season on the PGA Tour by winning again in 2010 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and making the Ryder Cup side and perhaps in an ominous sign for his competitors this week he arrives in Scottsdale in better form than was the case twelve months ago.

Mahan finished 6th last week at Torrey Pines and appears well positioned for a successful defence. In order for him to do so however he will need to fend of what is a strong line-up of players who have often performed well at this event including two time winner and the leading world ranked player in the field Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson returned to form last week when runner-up on another course he plays well at Torrey Pines. Mickelson has played this event for the last twenty consecutive years and has finished inside the top ten in nine of those twenty appearances.

Rickie Fowler finished runner-up to Mahan last year and although he has yet to win on the PGA Tour it is surely just a matter of time. Fowler did well last week in his first start of 2011 when 20th at Torrey Pines and his ease on the big stage, which given its regular huge crowd numbers this event certainly is, suggests he will give a good account of himself again.

Bill Haas has made a dream start to the season and although his record in this event is hardly flattering, such is his confidence at present that he might improve on that sharply. He finished off 2010 well and in three starts this season has been inside the top ten on all three occasions.

Charles Howell has missed only one cut in ten starts in this event and last year finished in a share of 4th. There is something about the way Howell’s season has started that suggests he could do well. Despite his low world ranking he is playing a lot better than many well ahead of him at present and this could be a week for him to make some serious progress in world golf. Howell has made his last eight cuts on the PGA Tour and with top twenty finishes in his opening two events of the year I expect him to do well.

Bubba Watson and Jhonattan Vegas are the most recent winners on the PGA Tour and their performance this week might well be dependent on just how well they have recovered from those efforts. Vegas bounced back from his victory at the Bob Hope to finish 3rd last week and appears the type to be unaffected by success and the off course demands caused by such.

Watson has just the one top ten in four starts in this event and interestingly missed the cut after his previous PGA Tour win in Hartford last year. On that basis it is hard to be convinced of his chances.

Nick Watney threatened to rip Torrey Pines apart last Sunday when he raced to the turn in 28. He finished with 63 and so he arrives in great form. He has not really produced great results in this event but does have rounds of 63 in each of the last two years at the TPC Scottsdale.

Robert Allenby is the leading world ranked Australian in the field albeit narrowly over Geoff Ogilvy. Allenby finished runner-up the first time he played this event back in 2000 and last year had his best finish since when 8th. Allenby has been hardly convincing in his opening two events of the season missing the cut in both.

Ogilvy has not really had a lot of success on this golf course. In nine appearances on a golf course that was for so long in his backyard, Ogilvy has recorded only one top twenty so despite his class I can’t see him doing well. In Ogilvy’s favour, however, is that his most recent form has been impressive, even if it was nearly two months ago. He won the Australian Open in December and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Australian PGA Championship.

Other Australians in the field are Michael Sim, Marc Leishman, Aaron Baddeley, Matt Jones, Nathan Green, Greg Chalmers, Stuart Appleby, Nick O’Hern, John Senden, Steve Elkington and late entrant into the field, Jarrod Lyle, who was first alternate and now has a start.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


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