By News Team
2nd February 2021
Golf fans are spoilt for choice this week with some terrific action to look forward to on both the European and PGA Tours.
Dustin Johnson headlines a strong field for the Saudi International, where both Tyrrell Hatton and Paul Casey, the winners of the previous two European Tour events, are also set to tee it up. In the US, meanwhile, Jon Rahm is the favourite for the Phoenix Open.
Here’s our look ahead to both tournaments.
Big hitters to the fore in Saudi
Although there have been only two renditions of the Saudi International, it’s pretty clear this is an event that big hitters do well at. Though Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is par-70 featuring just two par fives, there are four sub-400-yard par fours which are very much at the mercy of those who can boom it off the tee. Dustin Johnson falls very much into that category and given he’s finished first and second here in the previous two runnings, it’s hardly surprising he’s just 5/1 to continue such a fine run. As we know with DJ, if he’s on then he’s often very hard to beat and it would be a surprise if didn’t feature prominently come Sunday. However, in as strong a field as this, 5/1 is pretty short and there has to be value elsewhere.
There aren’t many who hit it further than Bryson DeChambeau these days and many will see him as a value alternative to Johnson at 8/1. He finished in a tie for sixth on his only previous appearance here in 2019, where his worst score of the four days was a 68. He returned to action with an encouraging seventh-placed finish at Kapalua, which could have easily been higher had he putted better – he finished 27th of 42 players in Strokes Gained: Putting. Results of 1-6-MC-8 from his last four European Tour starts suggest he has no problem with the rigours of changing time zones and he’s another you’d have to think will be in the shakeup this week.
Abraham Ancer has been playing well and finished in a tie for sixth in 2020, so is respected at 28/1, but it’s another American in the shape of JASON KOKRAK who gets the headline pick. The 35-year-old has often flattered to deceive in his career so far, but his result of the last few months suggest he might finally be fulfilling the potential we all know he has. He ended the 2020 season with three top-15 finishes before a more than respectable tie for 17th at the US Open – results he clearly took great confidence out of. That’s because he then went on to win the CJ Cup two starts later – his first on the PGA Tour – and although he hasn’t done an awful lot since, there were signs at Torrey Pines last week that he’s coming back into form.
He shot a 69 in round two on the South Course which was playing about as hard as it gets and he was very much in contention heading into the weekend, before a few bad holes on both Saturday and Sunday cost him. It’s interesting to note he makes the trip to Saudi and although he’s got to deal with the long-haul flight, Paul Casey showed in Dubai that’s not really a negative anymore. He’s in the top 50 for driving distance on the PGA Tour so far this season, so this week’s test will suit and he could be a lively contender at 55/1.
Berger looks a tasty play in Phoenix
Over in the US, it’s the Phoenix Open – one of the great events on the PGA Tour calendar. It’s become a big one to win as shown by the likes of Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy – who makes his first appearance – all teeing it up. All are respected given their obvious credentials, but the eye is drawn to DANIEL BERGER at 20/1.
The 27-year-old came out on top at the Charles Schwab Challenge in the middle of last year and since then he’s been arguably the most consistent player on tour. He’s only missed one cut since mid-October 2019, which came at the Memorial Tournament in 2020 and he’s followed that up with a string of fine performances. His worst finish since then was a tie for 34th at the US Open and he’s begun 2021 in similar vein with top 10s at both Hawaiian events.
The Floridian has taken a liking to TPC Scottsdale, finishing 11th or better on four of his six starts in Phoenix, and he looks a big player as he goes in search of a fourth PGA Tour title.