After a grueling week at Torrey Pines, many of the golfers are probably glad they missed the cut and got to avoid the nasty weather and delays that Sunday and Monday held. The show must go on, though as we head to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s held at TPC Scottdale’s Stadium Course. Also known as the Greatest Show on Grass!
Lucky me, I will get to attend this show in person, thanks to my lovely wife! #WifePick! She bought us tickets so hit me up if you want to have a beer on Friday or Saturday.
Back to business, the course is a par 71 track that is just under 7,300 yards. It was renovated prior to last year, stretching it out an extra 115 yards, adding new bunkers, and tightening some landing areas. Many golfers commented on the “freshness” of the greens (firm and fast; bouncy) but fully expect them to be more mature this year as they’ve had another year to grow.
Another note on last season is that weather came through and wrecked havoc on much of the field. If you check second-round scores, you’ll notice a lot of big numbers. Quite a few came from course horses, too. That makes it hard to say whether it was the re-design or the weather. I lean toward the weather. The accuracy numbers off the tee didn’t change much in the first year, post-renovation (around 61 percent) but the GIR numbers dropped from its usually 67-71 range down to just 62.5 percent. Again, I am going to blame weather and fresh greens here. I think overall the course will play like it has over the past 5-to-10 years.
UPDATE: On further review of the course stats, I noticed a 20-yard increase in the Average Distance to Hole after Tee Shot. That’s more than just weather, that is likely due to the Tom Weiskopf renovation. It will be good to see another year worth of data, but the course is definitely a little trickier.
One thing that didn’t change is the amount of drivers used. This is a driver’s course, plain and simple. Whether its a bomber like Bubba or a plodder like ZJ, everyone is grabbing driver more than most courses on TOUR. The best way to gain strokes on the field off the tee is with length. Give bombers a boost. Guys that are EXTREMELY accurate off the tee can also gained strokes off the tee, so don’t just focus on bombers.
Give a look at the Phoenix Open Fantasy Golfanac for quotes and course details.
Players to Watch
Brooks Koepka… The switch to Nike sticks proved to be a non-issue as he finished T3 in his first start with the new bag. At the Hyundai TOC he ranked 3rd in the field in GIR, 4th in driving distance, and 8th overall in strokes gained:tee-to-green. Now he heads to a driver’s course where he’s free to mash away? It’s easy to see why he won here in his tournament debut. Should be good for another top 10 in his attempt at a title defense.
Bubba Watson… The biggest obstacle in Brooks’ way is this man. Bubba is built for this course. Despite the renovations that added some bunkers and tightened some fairways, this is still a course where you can blindly pull driver out of the bag at nearly every non-par 3. This is an event where I wish SG:Driving was available. I do know Bubba led the TOUR in SG:Driving last year, according to @MarkBroadie. That is why he’s almost a lock to add a seventh top 25 in 10 tries here at TPC Scottsdale.
Patrick Rodgers… Got a little too heavy on Rodgers last week as I get excited for his breakout 2015-16 campaign. Now we head to another driver-heavy course that should be tailor-made for his play style. Should make for a great DFS target as most will be hesitant to reinvest after last week.
Brandt Snedeker… What a week at Torrey Pines! We gave a middle finger to the weather as he posted the best round of the season so far. Beat the field by over 9 strokes in the final round to come away victorious. His history at TPC Scottsdale is also good, just not Torrey or Pebble good. Don’t completely jump off Sneds, but might be a good week to let him simmer after the big win.
J.B. Holmes… A two-time winner on this course, he hasn’t finished inside the top 40 during his last four visits. A great high-upside selection this week in Phoenix.
Webb Simpson… His course history here reads 10-T8-T8 over the last three trips. Arrives with T17 and T13 on his current form resume. With top 10s in 23 percent of his career starts, I think this is a great opportunity to add another.
Hunter Mahan… Much like Sneds, I think Mahan is ready for a big bounceback in 2016. His history in Phoenix makes this an easy place to get on board. He won in 2010 and has top 30s in each of his last five WMPO starts. Arrow pointing up here.
Phil Mickelson… He was the flavor of the week at the Farmers but I wasn’t buying it. All the fancy-schmancy swing talk about Lefty feeling great means nothing until he can string together some consistency. Last week he was facing a course that he admitted to not liking since the redesign. This week is a similar situation (almost). He missed the cut last year in his first attempt post-renovation at TPC Scottsdale. However, his second-round 76 was posted during some sloppy weather. I’m going to give him a pass on last year and think he should get back into the top 25 this week on a course where he’s won as recently as 2013.
Scott Piercy… My self-proclaimed King of Desert Golf, I like him this week in Phoenix. His track record at the Stadium Course is 6-for-7 with five top 25s. I will give him a pass last year due to the weather that hit during round two (he posted a 4-over 75).
Brendan Steele… Hasn’t won since the 2011 Valero but man has he been close here a few times in Phoenix. He finished three shots back in 2014 despite a second-round 74. Opened with a mediocre even-par 71 in 2012 before blitzing TPS Scottsdale with 69-69-64 to finish 11-under and four strokes shy of Kyle Stanley’s winning aggregate. Hate to say a golfer is “due” to win, but I’m going to continue to ride Steele on favorable courses until he gets back in that winner’s circle.
Kevin Na… The hottest golfer in the field since the start of the new season. He’s gained 49.68 strokes in 24 rounds. That beats out guys like Kisner, CH3, Smylie, Bohn, Si Woo Kim, and Snedeker. It doesn’t hurt that a also sports four top 5s in 10 tries here.
Ryan Moore… Haven’t seen Mr. TRUE Links since November when he T10’d the CIMB Classic. It was his second top 10 in three starts this season. Recency bias will keep him under-owned. He shouldn’t be though. He’s another Las Vegas guy that excels in this region. Top 20s in five of his last seven here. Yee-hawww.
Phoenix Open Cheatsheet… Head over to Daily Fantasy Solutions and grab this week’s DraftKings cheatsheet for just five bucks. This week’s content will drop on Tuesday morning. This includes guys that fit the stat profile, golfers that are in good form, course history, recommended cash game targets and more! I love hearing about the success people are having with the weekly DraftKings cheatsheet so check it out!
My Top 25 for the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open
1. Bubba Watson
2. Brooks Koepka
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Webb Simpson
5. Kevin Na
6. Ryan Palmer
7. Hideki Matsuyama
8. Rickie Fowler
9. Ryan Moore
10. Zach Johnson
11. Brendan Steele
12. Phil Mickelson
13. Hunter Mahan
14. Justin Thomas
15. Scott Piercy
16. Patrick Rodgers
17. Charles Howell III
18. Harris English
19. Jason Dufner
20. Si Woo Kim
21. Graham DeLaet
22. Kevin Kisner
23. Robert Streb
24. Tony Finau
25. Gary Woodland