Patrick Cantlay, Louis Oosthuizen are strong plays

This will be a wild weekend of sports with the Super Bowl on Sunday and one of the rowdiest parties in the West with the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona. It’s a definite bucket-list item to attend if you like golf, day drinking and sun.

It’s a big-boy event with 18 of the top 30 players in action. Realistically, there are many golfers who can win this event because so many are coming in with such good form and/or good course history. Here’s what I like in the head-to-head market.

Patrick Cantlay (-120) vs. Viktor Hovland

Hovland is on absolute fire right now … but so is Cantlay, and his success holds a little more weight. Hovland has won three of his last five events but in much smaller, less competitive fields, including the Dubai Desert Classic to close out January. Cantlay has a T11, a ninth, and four top-five finishes in his last six events, including back-to-back wins in the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. Weighing course history could really be beneficial for this tournament. However, Hovland has played here once and was cut, and Cantlay is making his debut.

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 06: American PGA professional golfer Patrick Cantlay celebrates a great putt during the PGA AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on February 6, 2022 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Patrick Cantlay is a solid bet in this week’s PGA event. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The problem area for Hovland: He’s terrible both around the greens and putting, losing strokes with his short game in seven of his last 10 recorded events. Cantlay is mostly in the green in all categories. If course history is a non-factor, I’ll back the player with a more solid game that has faced tougher competition as of late.

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Louis Oosthuizen (-130) vs. Brooks Koepka

Stats are pretty irrelevant with Koepka. When he’s on, he’s on, and when he doesn’t care to play, his score reflects that. Koepka comes into this event as the reigning champ, while Oosty hasn’t played since November. So, why do I want to back Oosthuizen? Because he is consistently the better player. He may not get the driving distance off the tee, but Oosty is the better iron player and better short-game player. I know I just said stats are a bit irrelevant with Koepka, but he has missed the cut in three of his last five events and has lost strokes in every category.

Last week I had a similar thought process with fading Spieth — stats were bleeding red. Except Spieth was playing poorly and still finishing in the top 20. Koepka is playing poorly and missing the cut. Here’s another positive nugget: Since 2009, Oosty has four wins and nine top-10s in his first event back from a layoff. He’s also T11 and T3 here his last two starts.

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