T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open | Five players to watch
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 10:41 a.m.
It's going to be the rowdiest of weeks on the PGA Tour schedule this week, as the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for its annual stop at the frat party that is TPC Scottsdale and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Scenes like the one below, where Tiger Woods "raised the roof" after a hole-in-one on the famous par-3 16th hole:
Tiger won't be in the field this week, but a stellar field that includes defending champ Phil Mickelson (pending the condition of a sore back) will be.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is about the most fun you can have on a golf course. Whichever players can embrace the enthusiasm of the crowd and harness their emotions (and make tons of birdies) will contend.
Here are five players to keep an eye on:
5. Charley Hoffman
Best finish in 2013: T3 at Valero Texas Open
Reason to watch: For starters, he's sponsored by Waste Management, so that's got to count for something, right? Well, not really. But this does count for something: Hoffman is 6-for-6 in cuts made for the 2014 season. On three occasions -- including the last two weeks -- he's finished inside the top 10 (T9 at Humana Challenge and T7 at the Farmers Insurance Open). Hoffman's only real solid finish at TPC Scottsdale was in 2009 when he lost in a playoff. But, he's playing great now and I expect that trend to continue this week.
4. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2013: 4th at Travelers Championship
Reason to watch: Remember that point about players who embrace the crowd's enthusiasm? That fits Bubba to a T. This is the same guy who wound up the crowd on the first tee at Medinah in the 2012 Ryder Cup. As if that wasn't enough of a pressure cooker with dead silence, Watson encouraged the fans to "get loud" while he was hitting his opening tee shot. They'll have no problem getting loud at TPC Scottsdale. Watson has two top 10s at TPC Scottsdale in the past. He finished 15th there a year ago.
3. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2013: 4th at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: Moore's fourth-place showing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last year was his best of the season. So far, 2014 has been far better. Moore already has a win in the bank -- the CIMB Classic back in December -- and comes in fresh having not played since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where he finished alone in 10th. The good form and the nice break should serve Moore well this week.
2. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2013: 4th at FedEx St. Jude Classic
Reason to watch: It's been a mixed bag for Palmer in Phoenix. He tied for second in 2006, finished fifth in 2013 and had some missed cuts in between. This week, he arrives at Phoenix riding high on confidence. His last two starts -- Sony Open and Humana Challenge -- yielded a tie for eighth and a runner-up finish, respectively. Palmer can be a birdie machine -- see last year's final round at TPC Scottsdale, a 9-under 62.
1. Keegan Bradley
Best finish in 2013: 2nd at HP Byron Nelson Championship
Reason to watch: Hard to believe, but Bradley hasn't won since the 2012 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He's always around the first page of leaderboards. And, like Watson, he gets fired up easily -- a great way to get the crowd behind you at TPC Scottsdale. So far in the 2014 season, Bradley has made four starts. His best finish? Tenth at the CIMB Classic. His worst finish? A T18 at the Humana Challenge. As you can see, Bradley's worst was still pretty darned good. He's a win waiting to happen.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
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