It was no secret on the PGA Tour that many of the more veteran golfers expected a breakout season for Jon Rahm, who is from Spain but played at Arizona State. The guy was one of the best collegians ever as the only two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award (in 2015 and 2016), which recognizes the outstanding male amateur and collegiate golfer of the year. He also won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2016 and was a four-time All-American.
So I can't say it was a huge surprise to anyone that Rahm got his first PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open. That tournament looked wide open as the top groups headed to the back-nine at Torrey Pines on Sunday, but then Rahm pulled away with a 30 to finish at 13-under. He started the day three shots off the lead, and he was still not really a thought to win with eight holes to play but had two eagles in his final six holes -- including an amazing 61-footer on No. 18. It was the first time Rahm had two eagles in the same round on Tour and he was the first winner to make two eagles in a final round since Davis Love III at the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
Rahm is the youngest winner this season and the youngest ever winner of the Farmers Insurance Open. It was only the 22-year-old's 12th career start as a pro. By comparison, fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia didn't win until his 36th Tour event, although he was younger than Rahm. He was also the first player to win the Torrey Pines Tour stop in his first start since Arnold Palmer in 1957.
I didn't touch on Rahm last week, but I'll be picking him to win some event this year. I liked the prop of Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker at +500 against the field at Torrey Pines. The latter two missed the cut and Matsuyama was 33rd. I did get two-time champion Brandt Snedeker for a Top 10 at +200. He was the co-leader heading into Sunday but shot 1-over 73 and finished tied for ninth at 8 under, five behind Rahm. I thought it was good value at +135 to bet on Tiger missing the cut -- and he did after rounds of 76-72. Other than that, not a ton correct last week.
As usual, the biggest party event of the Tour season is on Super Bowl weekend: the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale and its frat house-like atmosphere, especially on the 16th hole. Rahm certainly should be a fan favorite as he plays in front of the Arizona State faithful for the first time since 2015 when he finished T5 as an amateur. Phil Mickelson, another ASU guy, is always mega-popular here too. Lefty was a solid T14 at Torrey Pines. Rahm played for Tim Mickelson, Phil's brother at ASU. Tim is now Rahm's manager.
Tiger's not playing this week; he's in the Middle East I'm sure cashing an appearance check. The first ace on a par-4 in PGA tournament history was here in 2001 by Andrew Magee on No. 17. Matsuyama is the defending champion -- and I called that in 2016. Rickie Fowler led by two with two holes left in regulation but put his drive on the 17th into the water and Matsuyama birdied No. 17 and 18. Fowler also birdied 18. Both men finished regulation at 14-under 270 so they went to a playoff, and Matsuyama won in four holes; that fourth hole was 17 again and Fowler drove into the drink again. Third-round leader Danny Lee had a final-round 73 to drop to fourth at 11 under.
Golf Odds: Waste Management Phoenix Open Favorites
Jordan Spieth is the +800 favorite at Bovada . He hasn't played since the Hawaii Swing, when he was third in both tournaments. Spieth skipped this tournament in 2016 but was seventh in 2015.
Matsuyama is +1000 to repeat. The last player to do so in this event is Johnny Miller in 1974-75. Matsuyama entered 2017 red hot but was 27th at the Sony Open and 33rd last week. In addition to his win here, Matsuyama was second in 2015 and fourth in 2014. I can't believe he's not favored.
The rest of the favorites are Justin Thomas (+1100), Rahm (+2000) and Mickelson (+2500). Thomas of course owned the Hawaii Swing by becoming just the second player to sweep those two events and even shooting a 59. He hasn't played since. As much as I like Rahm, I generally don't recommend guys coming off a win -- especially their first. Lefty has won here in 1996, 2005 & 2013 and is looking to become the first four-time champion. He also shares the course record of 60, doing it twice, but before a course re-design. Mickelson was 11th here last year.
Golf Odds: Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks
For a Top-10 finish, I'll go with Spieth (-170), Matsuyama (-120) Mickelson (+240) and Brendan Steele (+300). He has made the cut in all six trips to TPC Scottsdale with three top-six finishes. As top European, go with Russell Knox at +125. He has started the 2016/17 season in strong form. Knox was 15th here two years ago.
Head-to-head, I like Keegan Bradley (-110) over Zach Johnson (-120), Knox (-105) over Tony Finau (-125), Steele (-120) over Harris English (-110), Fowler (-115) over Patrick Reed (-115), Mickelson (-105) over Rahm (-125), and Matsuyama (-175) over Bubba Watson (+135).
Again this week, Bovada is offering a few top player groupings vs. the field. Koepka, Watson and Ryan Moore at +900 vs. the field (-2000) is interesting, but go Spieth & Matsuyama (+400) vs. the field (-650).
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