After some pre-cut carnage a lot of cream rose to the top of the Farmers Insurance Open leaderboard last week. Jon Rahm “finally” secured his breakout win while other breakout candidates like Patrick Rodgers, Ollie Schnierjans, and C.T. Pan were knocking on his heels.
This week we leave the coast but we stay in the West for the Greenest Show on Grass. I was lucky enough to attend last year, and have to say it lives up to the hype it receives. Just make sure you get to the 16th hole real early if you’re going on the weekend.
The course this week is TPC Scottsdale. Finally back to just one course after some 2- and 3-course events over the last few weeks. TPC Scottsdale is a par 71 that checks in just under 7,300 yards. There aren’t a ton of hazards right off the fairway but if you get too errant then you’ll quickly find trouble in the desert.
The course lets you use driver for most of the round. If you look at some of the recent winners (Matsuyama, Koepka, Phil, Mahan) you’ll see that letting it fly can really have it’s advantages around here. Then you see guys like Mark Wilson and Ben Crane have success and realize that distance isn’t the only route to success here.
It’s also worth noting that Tom Weiskopf came through here and made some renovations before the 2015 edition. You may remember that name from last week as he’s the architect who also renovated the North Course at Torrey Pines before this year’s running of the Farmers. Old Tommy Weiskopf added over 100 yards to the layout, laid new greens, and reconfigured bunkers. All of the changes made it slightly more challenging, but don’t mistake that for major-championship level of difficulty. There are still plenty of scoring chances on the par 5s that all come in between 550-and-560 yards.
On the whole I’m going to look for bombers this week that crush in the GIR department. Accuracy and scrambling will be added bonuses but I’m not too worried about putting stats considering golfers like Bubba, Matsuyama, Stanley, Piercy, and Steele have all had success around here.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more event history and golfer quotes.
For correlated events/courses I am looking at Firestone, Doral, Farmers Insurance Open, CareerBuilder Challenge, Shriners, and Riviera.
Players to Watch
Hideki Matsuyama… Is the defending champ. He’s finished top 5 in all three attempts here. He’s positioned himself inside the top 10 in 10 of his 12 rounds here. That makes him the man to beat in my eyes. I’m really curious to see how his ownership stacks up this week now that he’s proven to be human over the past few starts.
Jordan Spieth… Skipped the event last year but a T7 in his 2015 debut. The key will be his driver. When he’s on his game, his accuracy off the tee is very underrated. On a course without many hazards directly off the fairway, he should be able to play some stress-free golf for most of the week.
Jon Rahm… So many gamers were holstering Rahm for this week, but he popped a week early. Will likely see crazy-high ownership this week, but well deserved. Early in his career his birdie-or-better numbers are right up there with guys like Rory, DJ, Matsuyama, Brooks, etc. Keep riding the train, especially in a familiar venue for the ASU product.
Phil Mickelson… I was a bit worried about the hernia surgeries ruining his early-season form, but he’s still shining. Now he tees it up at an event he’s won three times in his career. He’s been the first-round leader here twice. His course knowledge this week is going to be unmatched. The recent appearance on the Golf.com Podcast was also golden. Give it a listen if you haven’t. I’m definitely going to be trying his cinnamon bulletproof coffee.
Brendan Steele… His friends call him Mr. TPC, and he shows us why with his resume here at TPC Scottsdale. He’s 6-for-6 with three finishes of T6 or better. Is playing well early in the season and he’s got a good track record here. Perfect combo.
Scott Piercy… If Steele is Mr. TPC, then Piercy is Doctor Desert. He’s very comfortable with this style of course, posting five top 15s in eight starts here.
William McGirt… The poor man’s version of Spieth, McGirt should also be a good fit at TPC Scottsdale for the same reasons as Spieth. The resume checks out, as he’s 5-for-5 here with all five going for T31 or better.
Roberto Castro… Led the field last week in Distance from Edge of Fairways & Greens in Regulation. That’s a recipe for success and should carry-over into TPC Scottsdale where he is 2-for-2 with a pair of top 20s.
Bubba Watson… Last year he admitted he hates the layout and is just here to appease his sponsors. Most of the time when Bubba hates a layout he under-performs big time but he’s 9-for-10 here with six top 15s. The course may not have the best sightlines for him but it’s mostly wide-open and doesn’t restrict driver usage. That gives him a huge advantage over the field, and it wouldnt be surprsing to see him grab another top 15 by week’s end.
Ben Crane… He’s not a very good DraftKings scorer unless his finishing position pops. However, he loves this week’s layout. He’s been T31 or better after R3 in five of the last six WMPOs. Has three straights missed cuts to open the calendar year, so I will pass despite seeing the course history appeal.
Patrick Rodgers… Another near-miss last week, he’s still searching for that first win. TPC Scottsdale will let him utilize his best weapon plenty of times this week, the driver. If he drives is anywhere near as good as last week then another top 10 is in the cards and he’ll be right back on the doorstep of his maiden win.
Chez Reavie… Don’t get too caught up in his Arizona State/Scottsdale connection. He’s played here 8 times in his career, missed the cut five times and never finished better than T41. FADE.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open
1. Hideki Matsuyama
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Brooks Koepka
4. Bubba Watson
5. Phil Mickelson
6. Rickie Fowler
7. Jon Rahm
8. Justin Thomas
9. Matt Kuchar
10. Patrick Reed
11. Harris English
12. Brendan Steele
13. Kevin Na
14. Daniel Berger
15. Gary Woodland
16. J.B. Holmes
17. Zach Johnson
18. Keegan Bradley
19. Patrick Rodgers
20. Ryan Moore
21. Roberto Castro
22. Scott Piercy
23. Robert Streb
24. Billy Horschel
25. Webb Simpson