Waste Management Phoenix Open preview

The PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion but his participation is uncertain due to injury.

Phil Mickelson defends WM Phoenix Open (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion but his participation is uncertain due to injury.

First contested in 1932, there have been some notable winners of this tournament over the years - Arnold Palmer won three in a row in the early 1960s, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Sandy Lyle have also taken the title.

Last year, crowd favourite Phil Mickelson took the victory. The former Arizona State player had won the tournament twice before - in 2005 and 1996. He'd also finished in the top-10 on six further occasions. He opened with a scintillating 60 then reeled off three more rounds in the 60s to win by four over Brandt Snedeker.

Mickelson withdrew after two rounds of last week's Farmers Insurance Open suffering from lower back pain. At this stage he's still hoping to defend the title in Scottsdale, but is taking the doctor's advice and may still withdraw.

This is the best-attended event in world golf with a tournament record of 538,356 fans coming through the gate back in 2008. Last year, 179,022 attended on the Saturday - a single day PGA Tour record. Many of the fans make their way to the cauldron like amphitheatre surrounding the par-3 16th. It's been the scene of many dramatic moments in the past.

When Tiger Woods aced the hole in 1997 the cheer could be heard 10 miles away. At the other end of the spectrum, Justin Leonard was not popular when he gave the crowd the finger after they taunted him for a poor shot.

The weather looks set fair this week. It may get cooler as the tournament progresses but there looks like being little wind and no rain. As such, expect to see some low scoring. Mickelson's four round total of 28-under-par (256) was joint third lowest in PGA Tour history.

Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona Date: Jan 30 - Feb 2 Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,116,000 Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson (-28)

TV Coverage: Thursday 30 - Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Friday 31 - Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Saturday 1 - Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Sunday 2 - Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player Watch: Graham DeLaet - The Canadian is showing excellent form with a runner's up spot last week and top-10 finishes in seven of his last 14 tournaments.

Ryan Palmer - A famously streaky player, Palmer was tied 8th in Hawaii and second in the Humana Challenge. He was fifth in this event last year.

Gary Woodland - Furious with himself for blowing a chance of victory last week, Woodland will look to make amends this time out. He has a tied fifth to his name in this tournament back in 2011.

Key hole: 16th. 162 yards into a green that will be surrounded with thousands of fans, including many Arizona State university students, cheering good shots and booing poor ones.

Skills required: Concentration. With the huge throngs of boisterous fans swarming along the edges of the fairways it's easy to become distracted. The man who wins will either harness the crowd's energy or have his blinkers firmly secured. Where next? European Tour - Dubai Desert Classic preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?