Thoughts on Phoenix and Pebble Beach and their Impact on 2020 Majors
By Mark Morton on February 6, 2020
I like to watch the Phoenix Open each year, not because of the raucous nonsense at #16, but because desert golf looks so inviting to those of us in the cold mid-west of February. It's nice to see green grass and warm temps as we look forward to a long, warm summer and another glorious season of golf's major championships.
It was nice to see Webb Simpson get his first win since the 2018 Players Championship, moving him into the top 10 of the latest world rankings. But it wasn't a win out of nowhere. Simpson has played very well of late, nearly winning last October at the RSM Classic in Georgia when he finished 63-67 on the weekend before losing a playoff to Tyler Duncan. In Phoenix, Simpson hung tough the entire day on Sunday, caught Tony Finau on the 72nd hole and this time prevailed in extra holes.
As usual Phoenix was fun to watch, and the field was excellent with several players from the top 20 in the field. But as much as we might enjoy this tournament, historically it hasn't been a good indicator of same season major championship results. In fact, unless you're Phil Mickelson, winners here almost never go on to major success in the same year. Desert golf just doesn't look and feel like major championship golf, with fairway misses being less penal, and tons of birdies being made. Golf fans still enjoy the Phoenix Open, and we should, but it's hard to read too much into a win here, notwithstanding Webb Simpson's recent good form. With that said, Simpson could still be a good choice for a 2nd U.S. Open because of his ability to hit fairways and greens.
Starting today we will get a look at Pebble Beach, albeit with a field that is quite a bit weaker than it was in Phoenix. Even with the weaker field, the course, the conditions and the challenge may tell us quite a bit about those outside the world top 20 and how their games are improving going into the 2020 Masters. Graeme McDowell is coming off his first win in over 6 years, and as a previous U.S. Open Champion, it will be interesting to see how his game evolves week-to-week and whether it will make him a solid pre-tournament choice at Winged Foot.
Pebble Beach, being a major venue, will likely offer better information for those of us who are watching players and trying to get a feel for the state of their games and whether they are likely major contenders in 2020. Like we did at Torrey Pines, we will continue to watch Jordan Spieth and Jason Day to see how their games are progressing. But we are also quite interested in Matthew Fitzpatrick, who has played very well so far this year, after a fine major campaign in 2019.
More thoughts to come, so check back often as we look ahead to Augusta in just a couple of months.