It’s time for one of the biggest spectacles in the world of golf.
There are things that go together naturally. Peanut Butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. The WM Phoenix Open and Super Bowl weekend.
That’s right, the PGA Tour turns its attention to the fan favorite WM Phoenix Open this week at TPC Scottsdale.
This is an event like no other on the PGA Tour schedule as TPC Scottsdale has the ability to accommodate 350,000 fans.
In terms of U.S. sporting history, the 2018 playing on this event ranks third all-time in terms of attendance at 216,000 fans.
Due to this, the venue offers one of the most unique atmospheres in the sport. To sum it up, TPC Scottsdale offers an “arena-like” golfing atmosphere.
Golfers will have to deal with loud crowds throughout the week. Some golfers will feed off of the uproars and energy of the large crowds while others will falter due to the pressure.
If you have a buddy who isn’t the biggest golf fan, this is the week to introduce them and get them hooked!
In all, it’s one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Although this week is sandwiched between two Signature Events in last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and next week’s Genesis Invitational, the field this week is still quality.
That is a testament to this event. No matter the event’s designation, it’s going to draw a quality field.
Scottie Scheffler comes into this week as not only the odds on favorite to win, but the two time defending champion. He bested Patrick Cantlay in a playoff in 2022 and topped Nick Taylor by two strokes last season.
Scheffler will be joined by the likes of Justin Thomas, Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Min Woo Lee, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im and Wyndham Clark.
Other former winners of this event in this week’s field include Rickie Fowler (2019,) Gary Woodland (2018,) Hideki Matsuyama (2016 & 2017,) Kevin Stadley (2014,) J.B. Holmes (2006 & 2008) and Aaron Baddeley (2007.)
The field includes six of the Official World Golf Rankings top ten and 29 golfers within the top 50.
TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course has been the host of this event since 1987 and plays as a Par 71 at roughly 7,200 yards in length.
Due to the elevation and the dryness of the Arizona desert causing firm conditions, TPC Scottsdale offers annually the longest average driving distance on Tour at 305 yards. This takes some of the advantage long bombers off the tee may have.
With the longer driving numbers comes a ball striking paradise. Approach shots beyond 200 yards are a rarity here and those within the 200-yard mark are the norm.
Water is in play early and often here however, making it important for golfers to find the fairways as well. The course does feature two-inch rough but in relation to what golfers have seen in the previous few events, it is not much of a deterrent at all.
There is surrounding desert cacti and other vegetation that can and will cause fits to those who miss the fairways however.
This event also features some of the easiest putting conditions that golfers will face on Tour. We’ve seen the likes of Scottie Scheffler win this event despite struggling with the putter across the week.
Of course, being an event of this nature, the finishing stretch features a series of risk-reward holes that can and has offered plenty of drama.
The tournament can be won and lost down the final stretch with the pressure of the arena atmosphere and thousands of fans staring down from the stadium-esk seating.
Golfers will have to deal with the unique crowd nature of this event. Some will feed off the atmosphere as some will crumble.
Course history is important here as there are just two courses on Tour that offer a bigger predictor of success than TPC Scottsdale; Augusta National and Waiʻalae Country Club.
Golfers with previous success at TPC Scottsdale are most likely to repeat more than all but two other courses as we listed above. We can contribute this to possibly the atmosphere the course offers opposed to the course itself.
This doesn’t mean that debutants can’t have success here as we’ve seen the likes of Cantlay, Sahith Theegala and Matt Fitzpatrick have top ten finishes here on their debut.
Leading into this week, Phoenix will see some light rain from Tuesday through Thursday. This will soften the course, to an extent, and take some of the distance out of play. Outside of a 60-percent chance for precipitation on Thursday, the rest of the week looks clear. Temperatures will range from 57-degree to 59-degrees for Thursday through Saturday before peaking at 64 degrees on Sunday. Winds will be minimal, ranging from five-to-eight miles-per-hour across the four days as well. In all, it’ll be a warm welcome from what we saw last week at Pebble Beach.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT)
Par 4 Average Scoring
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards.
Following the withdrawals of both Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, there remain just two golfers in this price range in Scottie Scheffler ($11,600) and Justin Thomas ($10,000.) Without much competition at the top and being the two time defending champion, Scheffler is going to be highly owned. That leaves us with Thomas, which is no consolation prize. Thomas is actually my overall favorite this week. He’s currently first on Tour in all three of ball striking, scrambling and bogey avoidance. He is also seventh in both SG: APP and par four average scoring, 20th in SG: OTT, 53rd in birdie or better percentage and 77th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards. The downfall is obviously the putter as he ranks 172nd on Tour in SG: PUTT. I referenced previously that this course can be won without a strong putter and I believe Thomas can do just that. In his two outings on the season, Thomas has placed T3rd at The American Express and T6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Now, I also talked about the importance of course history here at TPC Scottsdale. Thomas has made the cut in six consecutive years at this event. His worst finishes in those six events was a T17th and a T13th. If you remove those two outings, he has four top tens and three top fives in that same time span. He placed fourth here a season ago and placed third in both 2019 and 2020. I’m playing four units on him this week at +1400.
My first play in this price range is Wyndham Clark ($9,000) who is fresh off a 54-hole victory at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he also shot a course record 60 on Saturday. Clark also placed T10th here a season ago. He is currently first on Tour in par four average scoring, second in birdie or better percentage, seventh in ball striking, tenth in SG: OTT, 11th in bogey avoidance, 29th in SG: PUTT, 85th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards, 86th in scrambling and 99th in SG: APP. His ownership may be a bit high following a victory and a course record at a venue such as Pebble Beach, but the value at $9,000 can’t be ignored. Also consider Sam Burns ($9,600.) Burns has been very good to start this 2024 PGA Tour campaign. He’s fresh off a tenth place finish last week and also went T6th at The American Express and T33rd at The Sentry Tournament of Champions. Burns also placed T6th at this event a year ago. He’s currently eighth on Tour in both par four average scoring and birdie or better percentage, 11th in bogey avoidance, 23rd in scrambling, 32nd in SG: PUTT, 34th in ball striking, 35th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards, 68th in SG: APP and 105th in SG: OTT. Burns is one of those guys that’s often overlooked so I like where he’ll stand in both a value standpoint and an ownership perspective.
I will preface this price range by saying that both of my options may be on the higher end of an ownership standpoint but I’m super high on both of them. First up we have Byeong Hun An ($8,800.) Hun An played this event every year from 2017 to 2021 with some pretty solid success. This run of form was capped by a sixth place finish in 2017 and a T9th in 2020. He also placed T20th in 2019 and T23rd in 2018. He hasn’t played here since 2021. He also has had a great start to the season, placing fourth at The Sentry Tournament of Champions, PT2 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and T31st at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He is currently first on Tour in par four average scoring, third in birdie or better percentage, 18th in bogey avoidance, 22nd in ball striking, 25th in SG: PUTT, 28th in scrambling, 31st in SG: OTT, 56th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards and 88th in SG: APP. I’m playing a unit on him on the better card at +4500 as well. Also consider Eric Cole ($8,500.) Cole will be making his WM Phoenix Open debut this week. Outside of a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Cole has had a great start to the season. He’s fresh off a T14th at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He also placed T21st at The American Express, T13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and T14th at The Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s currently sixth on Tour in ball striking, 19th in SG: APP, 24th in both par four average scoring and birdie or better percentage, 27th in bogey avoidance, 33rd in SG: PUTT, 36th in scrambling, 49th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards and 101st in SG: OTT. I’m also playing a unit on him at +5500.
Leading off this price range is Akshay Bhatia ($7,800.) Bhatia is currently 12th in Tour in ball striking, 15th in birdie or better percentage, 16th in SG: PUTT, 21st in par four average scoring, 23rd in bogey avoidance, 36th in SG: OTT, 42nd in SG: APP, 43rd in scrambling and 58th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards. Outside of a missed cut at The American Express, Bhatia has three top 15 finishes in four events on the season. He is fresh off a T13th at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and also placed T13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and T14th at The Sentry Tournament of Champions. This will also be Bhatia’s debut at the WM Phoenix Open as well. He’s also on my betting card for one unit at +7000. Also consider Si Woo Kim ($7,900.) Kim is currently ninth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 15th in par four average scoring, 16th in scrambling, 24th in ball striking, 31st in SG: APP, 34th in SG: OTT, 58th in birdie or better percentage and 79th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards. His downfall comes on the greens as he ranks 124th in SG: PUTT but once again, this is a very easy course to putt on. Kim has had a modest start to the season, placing in the top 25 in three-of-four events. He is also fresh off a T14th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Kim has made three consecutive cuts coming into this week, capped by a T23rd a year ago. He’s also on my betting card for a unit at +7000.
Carl Yuan ($6,400) is my first play in this price range and he offers some great value this week in my opinion. He has missed back-to-back cuts coming into this week at the Farmers Insurance Open and The American Express but did place T4th earlier this season at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This will be Yuan’s debut at this event as well. He is currently seventh on Tour in SG: OTT, 11th in par four average scoring, 36th in birdie or better percentage, 44th in SG: APP, 45th in ball striking, 47th in SG: PUTT, 69th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards, 72nd in scrambling and 84th in bogey avoidance. Not a bad resume for someone in this price range. Also consider Brandon Wu ($6,800.) Wu has played in three events on the season, highlighted by a T18th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He also placed T47th at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Wu has played this event once prior, a year ago, where he made the cut. He is also currently 32nd on Tour in par four average scoring, 33rd in bogey avoidance, 37th in scrambling, 41st in SG: PUTT, 47th in proximity to the hole from 150-200 yards, 48th in ball striking, 67th in SG: APP, 77th in SG: OTT and 88th in birdie or better percentage. In other words, he’s above average in each of the nine statistical categories I took into consideration this week. You have to love that in this price range.
Justin Thomas (+1400) - 4u
Byeong Hun An (+4500) - 1u
Eric Cole (+5500) - 1u
Akshay Bhatia (+7000) - 1u
Si Soo Kim (+7000) - 1u
Kurt Kitayama (+11000) - 1u
Kevin Yu (+170000) - 1u