Mickelson and Singh head FBR field
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 FBR Open | Preview | 31 Jan 2006
The USPGA Tour heads to the TPC at Scottsdale just outside of Phoenix in Arizona for the FBR Open with the two time winner Phil Mickelson likely to start the warm favourite to repeat his 1996 and 2005 victories. His solid week last week at Torrey Pines suggests he is not far from the mark.
Vijay Singh, another two time winner of the event, will likely challenge Mickelson for favouritism but he has been on a globetrotting journey in recent weeks, taking in events in Hawaii, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and whether the considerable travel will take its toll remains to be seen.
The Stadium Course course – one of two at the facility – was one of the first collaborations by the highly regarded design team of Weiskopf and Morrish and opened in 1986. When teamed together during the eighties and nineties they produced a series of high quality courses throughout the world including the nearby Troon North and also Loch Lomond in Scotland. Weiskopf continues to make subtle changes to the course each year and this year it will measure 7216 yards.
The field will include not only Mickelson and Singh but two of the four winners on the USPGA Tour in 2006, David Toms and Chad Campbell. Stuart Appleby, who won the Mercedes, is not here and Tiger Woods is in Dubai this week following his gutsy win at Torrey Pines last week.
Campbell is at the top of his game right now although this course has not been all that good to him. It will be interesting to see if the commanding form he is in can overcome that issue. He was only average last week in San Diego but it was hardly bad and he arrives here ready to improve on his Phoenix record.
David Toms has been very solid here and was fourth to Singh in 2005. His win in Hawaii indicates where he is at with his game right now and a follow up win would not surprise.
Sergio Garcia had a good week at Torrey Pines last week when in the firing line for much of the event. His form over the last few months has been nothing short of superb. Seven top tens in his last nine official starts gives an indication of just how well he is competing each and every week. He has played well at this layout on occasions and another week in contention is expected.
Chris DiMarco returns to golf after his fine win in Abu Dhabi and as a winner and runner up in this event, he is expected to feature over the weekend. He had last week off to recover from his trip to the Middle East and will be buoyed by what was his first win since winning at this venue four years ago. He missed the cut last year but was runner up to Jonathan Kaye in 2004.
Jesper Parnevik has a good record in Phoenix including his win in 1998 and with his significantly improved form of late, he is expected to challenge again. He was amongst the many leaders at one stage late in the tournament last week before finishing 10th and that after his runner up in Hawaii. This augurs well for the Swede on a course with which he is familiar and has good memories.
Stewart Cink has played well enough in recent weeks to be considered in an event where he regularly plays well. He has finished inside the top ten on a number of occasions in Scottsdale and it might just be that he does again in 2006.
Mark Calcavecchia has won this event previously and is going well enough to perhaps be a factor.
Robert Allenby will tee it up for the first time in 2006 looking to recapture the form that saw him win three consecutive events in Australia late in 2005. The field assembled this week however is clearly stronger than those he faced in Australia and his return to tournament golf will be watched with interest especially by those in his home country. In his very first appearance in this event in 2000, Allenby finished runner up to Tom Lehman so he does have credentials here.
There are so many players each and every week who are capable of surprising, as we saw last week with the likes of Nathan Green and Arjun Atwal, that the chances go well beyond those mentioned above.
Of the Australasians outside of Allenby, Green is the one who deserves most attention because of his heroics last week. By finishing inside the top ten last week he guaranteed himself a start here and although this is a new venue for him so too were Hawaii and Torrey Pines.
Rod Pampling, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Elkington, John Senden, Aaron Baddeley, Steve Bowditch and New Zealander Craig Perks make up the rest of those from Australasia.
The tournament carries prizemoney of US$5.2 million and the event typically records crowds reaching beyond 100,000 – yes 100,000 – on Saturday and Sunday.