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2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Course(s): TPC Scottsdale (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Yardage: 7,266 – Par 71
Purse: 6.9 M
Field: 156 players
Recent Waste Management Phoenix Open Champions
2013 Phil Mickelson
2014 Kevin Stadler
2015 Brooks Koepka
2016 Hideki Matsuyama
2017 Hideki Matsuyama
After a six-hour Sunday round (looking at you J.B. Holmes) followed by five playoff holes, Jason Day and Alex Noren still had to return to Torrey Pines on Monday to play 13 more minutes of golf. On the sixth playoff hole, Day was finally able to shake Noren and return to the winner’s circle for the first time since the 2016 Players Championship. Now with 11 career victories, you’d be foolish to sleep on Jason Day. After being No.1 in the world until February of 2017, Day had fallen all the way down to 14th worldwide. With this win, he moves back up to ranking 10th.
Last thing before moving on to next week, the PGA Tour must do something about the pace of play. While you obviously can only see what is on the coverage, when’s the last time you saw someone penalized or even warned about pace of play? A six-hour round for a threesome of professional golfers is unacceptable. If anyone had been on top of that final group, they wouldn’t have needed to return Monday morning to play one hole of golf. Here’s hoping the camera crews and other employees involved got paid a big fat bonus for returning to the course on Monday.
For Super Bowl week, the golf tradition has been the Waste Management Phoenix Open, also known as the “Wasted” Management. Held at TPC Scottsdale, the Waste Management Open is the one PGA tournament for which golf sheds its stuffy attitude and lets its hair down. Attendance generally reaches over 250,000 for the week, a good portion of them plastered ASU students. The famous par 3 16th hole is surrounded by a raucous 20,000-seat stadium. The atmosphere is far closer to a football game than a golf tournament, and some players really feed off the energy. A long putt or a chip-in results in the rough getting covered in Bud Light cans (don’t throw your beer, they’ll kick you out). I’ve had the pleasure of attending this event myself. Do yourself a favor and make a point of getting out to Scottsdale to enjoy golf’s biggest party.
Between the crazy atmosphere and the idea of having to rush from the golf course to a Super Bowl party, the field tends to get watered down; but not this year! This week, Scottsdale will be inhabited by four of the top five golfers in the world, with No.1, Dustin Johnson, being the only one to pass. That means Jon Rahm, Z Justin Thomas, and two-time defending champ Hideki Matsuyama will all be there. Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar, Francesco Molinari, Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed, & Xander Schauffele will all make their way to Scottsdale for a total of 12 of the Top 25 in the world playing this week.
The name power doesn’t drop off after the Top 25 guys with Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Ryan Palmer, and Kevin Chappell also in attendance. If someone from the lesser-known section of the field is going to win this week, they’re going to have a room full of “been there done that” players to pass through.
TPC Scottsdale is a desert track that is very scoreable if you can keep the ball in play. As it is with all desert courses, if you hit it a little too far off the fairway you’ll no longer be on grass. There are rocks, cacti, rattlesnakes – you name it – so you can find yourself in some spots where bogey becomes a good score. A total of 79 bunkers and six water hazards are out there for players to run into. The deterrent for these issues is to select great ball strikers this week.
Strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: off-the-tee are both important stats this week. The Par 5 holes measure between 520-555 yards and the Par 4 17th usually plays between 310 and 340 yards, which is reachable for these fellas. With all the Par 5s being hittable in two shots, Par five scoring is the easy way to the top. The course is only 7,266 yards, but I would still favor the longer hitters (driving distance) who can gain a lot of strokes on the fairways. There are a five par 4s of 450-plus yards and four holes with eagle potential, so longer hitters will have a significant advantage on those holes. Add in a hot iron game and it’ll be an easy week.
Strokes gained: approach
Strokes gained: off-the-tee
Par five scoring
DFS Golf Picks for DraftKings
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,500)
The course sets up perfectly for the two-time defending champ. The best approach players generally have a lot of success here, and Matsuyama is religiously a Top 10 approach player (currently ninth in strokes gained). His relatively mediocre putting is closer to equal on these slower bermuda greens, and he is coming off a great putting week, so his confidence should be sky high. I won’t be surprised if Matsuyama goes for the three-peat, and I will be if he finishes outside the Top 10.
Webb Simpson ($8,900)
Many people will be on Webb Simpson this week and you should consider joining the masses. Simpson is a stud at this event. In his last three starts at TPC Scottsdale he’s finished second, losing to Matsuyama in a playoff, 14th, and 10th. At only $8,900, Simpson is a very good value considering how he’s nearly guaranteed a Top 15 finish. He ranks within the Top 30 in the field this season in strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: approach, and Par 5 scoring.
Byeong-Hun An ($8,000)
Last year, An shot three straight rounds of 66 or better before stumbling on Sunday and shooting a 40 on his final nine holes to finish sixth. A bad Sunday finish won’t stop me from picking him this year. An has the kind of game you want for this course. He’s very long, very accurate off the tee, and has a great iron game. An’s rankings in the key statistics are pretty incredible. He’s right around the Top 5 percent on Tour in all four key stats for the week. He’s 18th in driving distance, 17th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, 16th in strokes gained: approach, and 12th in Par 5 scoring. An should make a ton of birdies yet again, and hopef zully, give less back as he makes the turn on Sunday.
Keegan Bradley ($7,400)
(BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Keegan Bradley is starting to light it up lately with his iron game. Sunday at the Farmer’s, he knocked a 190-yard approach shot right in for eagle, then he nearly holed out again on the Par 5 18th with that extremely difficult front pin. He wound up backdooring a Top 5 finish, and he hasn’t even been putting that well. Bradley is absolutely scorching his approach shots, ranking fifth in strokes gained. If he can start gaining some strokes on the green, maybe the lethal 2012 Ryder Cup version of Bradley return this year.
Francesco Molinari ($7,300)
I went with Molinari for a similar price last week, and I was disappointed with his T-45 finish. Still, this is the 22nd ranked golfer in the world, and DraftKings wants to keep giving him away for less than $7,500? He’s going to make 80 percent of the cuts and finish in the Top 10 far more often than others at this price. Molinari within the Top 30 in the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and 11th in the field in strokes gained: approach.
Kevin Streelman ($6,800)
Your sleeper pick this week should be Kevin Streelman. This season, he is seven of seven making cuts and has only one finish worse than 29th. Streelman is 18th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, 32nd in strokes gained: approach; he’s in the Top 25 percent of Tour players in Par 5 scoring and in the top half in driving distance. He’s in a nice groove right now, finishing somewhere around the Top 20 each week and can provide great value to your lineup.