Phil Fans Ready for Wild Times in the Desert


PGA Tour (75x100)The PGA TOUR makes its annual stop this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the long-running FBR Open -- and the list of superlatives that come with it: wild, raucous, unpredictable.
And no, we're not talking the fans surrounding the infamous 16th green at the TPC of Scottsdale.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson has had four straight top-10s at the FBR Open. (WireImage).
Rather, we're talking about Phil Mickelson's scorecards thus far this season.
Mickelson, who once was a resident in the area and was a college star at nearby Arizona State, returns to the desert as a two-time winner of the event. Yet, it is the scorecards from his opening two tournaments that scream of rust and perhaps too much time away from TOUR play.
After a much publicized retreat from golf following his dismal Ryder Cup performance, Phil the Thrill has seemingly gone back to the style of play that prompted the commercial, 'What will Phil do next?'
At the 90-hole Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Lefty somehow parred just half the holes (45) - the other half were birdies, eagles, bogeys or worse. Somewhere an amusement park should come up with a roller-coaster named after the man.
It was pretty much the same last week at the Buick Invitational. Plenty of birdies, several doubles, too many bogeys and a lone eagle - in perfect Lefty-style - on the 72nd hole.
The results - a tie for 45th and a tie for 51st. Hardly the start the reigning Masters champion was looking for to possibly quell the talk of his now legendary meltdown at Winged Foot. But a homecoming of sorts this week could be just what the doctor ordered for Phil.
Another homecoming of sorts is that of J.B. Holmes, even though he hails from Campbellsville, Ky.
It was here last year that one of the PGA TOUR's biggest bombers landed his first TOUR win - in a spectacular, runaway fashion. His seven-shot margin of victory was the largest in a player's maiden TOUR victory since Jose Maria Olazabal's 12-stroke romp at the 1990 NEC World Series of Golf.
Heres our list of players to watch for from four different categories: Superstar (top-10 ranked player from the Official World Golf Ranking); Second Tier (guys outside the top 10, but no lower than 100); First-Timer (a player who has never won before on TOUR); Veteran (a guy who has played 10-plus years on the PGA TOUR and may or may not have won in some time).
Fred Funk
Fred Funk is coming off a bogey free week in Hawaii.
Although with just three top-10 players in the field again this week, Mickelson's up-and-down play is too suspect to be the pick. Geoff Ogilvy, a definite star in the making, has little to draw from so far this season. The pick for this week then falls into the lap of Vijay Singh. Twice a winner of this event, his last in 2003, Singh will come into Scottsdale with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after two straight sub-par - by his standards - efforts at the Hope and the Buick. Singh has had five straight top-20 finishes in the event.
Second Tier
Fred Funk. The Funkmeister is coming off a big win on the Champions Tour that saw him trounce the competition to the tune of a staggering 11-shot victory. Maybe even more impressive was this stat: 54 holes, 0 bogeys. Funk, who turns 51 in June, intends to spend most of his time on the PGA TOUR this season due his exempt status from winning the Players Championship in 2005.
If J.B. Holmes can have his breakout party here Arizona, why not Bubba Watson? Watson did edge out Holmes for the driving distance title last season and had the best finish of his young career just south in Tucson at the Chrysler Classic. Currently 24th on the money list due his fourth-place tie last week, Watson again is leading the TOUR in driving distance at 323.1 yards off the tee. It's just too bad that the wild 16th hole in Scottsdale is a par-3 instead of a par-5, or a short par-4. If it was, Watson would no doubt be crowned the king.
Mark Calcavecchia was the pick in this space a week ago, and he gets a well-deserved nod again this week. A three-time champion in Scottsdale, Calc is playing inspired golf at the moment, racking up his second straight top-10 after his tie for fourth at the Buick. With his confidence growing, the 12-time PGA TOUR winner will be ready when he arrives at the place where he has had his most success.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - FBR Open
  • Golf Channel Airtimes