10 Biggest Storylines Heading into the 2013 Phoenix Open

Mike DudurichContributor IJanuary 28, 2013

10 Biggest Storylines Heading into the 2013 Phoenix Open

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    It has become a tradition. The first Sunday in February is a great day for the sports fan.

    The day is highlighted by the final round of the (Waste Management) Phoenix Open that makes a great lead-in to the biggest football game of the year, the Super Bowl.

    The spectacular sun-drenched pictures from Phoenix warm the hearts of snow-bound fans and this year should be no different.

    There are a variety of storylines to follow when play starts at the TPC of Scottsdale on Thursday.

    Check out this list of 10 of those.

Tough Trio Could Make or Break on Sunday

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    It’s an ongoing theme at the TPC Scottsdale, but the tournament could well be decided by who does best on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

    The Stadium Course was built specifically in 1986 to be the home of the Phoenix Open and the design duo of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish set it up for excitement coming down the stretch.

    Fifteen is a reachable par five, 16 is the par three that’s surrounded by bleachers that can hold 20,000 and 17 is a drivable par four.

    Light it up on that trio, especially on Sunday, and winning is possible.

Phil Mickelson's the Headliner This Week

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    It won’t be the greatest field ever assembled but 97 of the top 125 players from last year’s money list will be in the desert this week.

    Twenty of the top 50 in the world golf rankings are entered, including seven of the top 25.

    Phil Mickelson, a two-time champion, will play in the event for the 23rd time, while defending Masters champion Bubba Watson is another headliner.

    With only seven top-25 players in, the odds are good that one of the PGA Tour’s lesser lights might win.

Henley, Gay Going for Two

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    A pair of players–rookie sensation Russell Henley and veteran Brian Gay–have a chance to create a bit of history this week.

    As winners of the Sony Open and Humana Challenge respectively, a win by either this week would make them the quickest to get to two wins since Mark Wilson won at Hawaii and Phoenix two years ago.

Kyle Stanley Is the Reigning King of the Desert

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    How will Kyle Stanley react to being back on the Stadium Course?

    He was one of the great stories of the 2012 season, winning in Phoenix after blowing the Farmers Insurance Open on the 72nd hole.

    He overcame an eight-shot deficit on Sunday at the TPC Scottsdale, beating Spencer Levin by one.

    He doesn’t have any momentum coming to Phoenix, his best finish in three starts being a tie for 30th.

How Low Can Henley Go?

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    Much has been made of rookie Russell Henley, winner of the Sony Open by making birdie on his final five holes.

    Did you know he put up scores of 64 or better in four of his eight rounds in 2013?

    Think there’ll be any attention on him this week?

Making Their Season Debuts

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    Headlining the list of those making their 2013 debuts in Phoenix will be Martin Kaymer, the hero of Europe’s Ryder Cup win last September.

    This will also be Kaymer’s first tournament as a full-time member of the PGA Tour.

    Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington will also look to shake off the rust in the desert.

    Another of the feel-good stories in the field, J.B. Holmes, makes his first start of the year, too. Holmes won this event twice and returns after a year away as he recovered from brain surgery.

    Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa is a newcomer. Also in are FedEx cup champion Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley.

First-Time Winners Not Unusual in Phoenix

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    If the winner this year happens to be a first-timer, it won’t be something out of the ordinary.

    Nine times in the past a player won his first event in Phoenix. The most recent was J.B. Holmes in 2006.

    The others were: Ed Furgol (1954); Rod Funseth (1965); Dudley Wysong (1966); Bob Gilder (1976); Jeff Mitchell (1980); Paul Azinger (1987); Tommy Armour III (1990) and Jesper Parnevik (1998).

Five in a Row: Good or Bad?

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    Call them this season’s early contenders for the PGA Tour’s Marathon Man.

    Kyle Stanley, Scott Stallings and Tommy Gainey are the only players to have entered the 2013’s first five events.

    Playing for the fifth straight week could make that trio either razor sharp or worn out.

    Keep an eye on them.

Phil Mickelson Has Been Dominant in Phoenix

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    If he were playing a little better, Phil Mickelson might have something of a home field advantage.

    He became a fan favorite as a player for Arizona State and then added to that with wins in Phoenix in 1996 and 2005.

    He has six other top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss to J.B. Holmes in 2008.

    The big lefthander has won $2,578,782 in this event.

Mike Weir Is Hopeful of Rediscovering His Game

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    He’s certainly not in contention, sitting at three-over par, 20 shots behind Tiger Woods as the Farmers Insurance Open was finally finishing on Monday.

    But that’s not what is really important for Mike Weir as he heads for Phoenix this week.

    When he made the cut at Torrey Pines, Weir broke a streak of 18 straight missed cuts.

    He’s almost 10 years from his 2003 Masters victory and has fallen outside the top 1,500 in the world golf rankings.

    Hopefully his play this weekend will carry through Phoenix and get him back on track.