Baddeley back to defend FBR Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 FBR Open | Preview | 29 Jan 2008
The PGA Tour moves east to Arizona for this week’s FBR Open at the Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed TPC Scottsdale.
The tournament has been played in one form or another since 1932 although it only moved to it’s current venue, the purpose built TPC of Scottsdale Stadium Course, in 1987.
The FBR Open has always clashed with the Super Bowl but this year the two events are being played just a few miles apart. The tournament will hopefully be well and truly decided by the time the Super Bowl kicks off at the University of Phoenix Stadium around 4.30pm local time on Sunday 3rd when the New England Patriots and the New York Giants go head to head.
The defending champion is Aaron Baddeley, who was a narrow one shot winner over John Rollins last year and as a result became the third Australian to win this title after Bruce Crampton and David Graham. Baddeley was the beneficiary, to some extent, of Jeff Quinney self-destructing over the closing holes with Quinney eventually finishing third.
Baddeley returns to his home in Scottsdale this week an even better player than he was 12 months ago, courtesy of his FBR win, his best ever year on the PGA Tour and his win at home in Australia at the MasterCard Masters. He had a solid week last week at Torrey Pines when 13th so it would be surprising not to see him at least contending this week.
His win here last year was only the second time Baddeley had made the cut in five visits to the event, his previous best was a 49th in 2005.
Phil Mickelson got rid of a lot of cobwebs last week as he looked to get his 2008 season underway in earnest. He produced a strong finish suggesting he was getting better each day and as a two time winner of this event, the world number two appears set to follow in Tiger’s footsteps this week and start his winning ways. In addition to the two victories there have been six other top tens in this event at this venue so Mickelson must fancy his own chances this week.
Don’t be surprised to see Rory Sabbatini record yet another top ten or better in a run where he has racked up ten in his last 13 starts. The South African has played well here on occasions and even when he has not finished well in the last couple of years there has still been a very low round in the mix. So well is he playing that Sabbatini might just put it all together this week.
Justin Leonard has had a rollercoaster run of tournaments at this event but earlier in his career he really played well at the TPC Scottsdale. Like Sabbatini he has found some of his best form once again and with six top tens (including a victory) in his last seven starts, the chance of him contending again this week are very good.
The game’s greatest improver in the past two years, Steve Stricker, returns to tournament golf after a break of two weeks. Stricker, the current world number three, has made an impressive start to 2008 with two good finishes in Hawaii and despite his record in Scottsdale being nothing special, he has made all but two of twelve cuts in the event.
The Australians other than the defending champion provide several good chances in the event. Stuart Appleby played well last week, Geoff Ogilvy, despite being a local, has a poor record in this event and John Senden played well last week at Torrey Pines.
Rod Pampling, Robert Allenby, Nathan Green, Peter Lonard, the inform Steve Elkington, Nick O’Hern, Jason Day, Nick Flanagan, Mathew Goggin, Mark Hensby and Stephen Leaney make up large and significant contingent of likely chances from down under.