Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Waste Management Phoenix Open Tips

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Many, quite rightly, ridiculed me on last week’s Golf Betting System podcast. How could I change my mind on Ryan Palmer, when selecting him at 60/1 for the Farmers Insurance Open? Clearly the 44 year-old is like a car crash when leading and, by placing him in my selections, my change of heart would come to haunt me. Well luckily enough he never came into contact with the lead and with Patrick Reed holding a significant and cast-iron grip on the lead, Ryan delivered a -2 back 9 to cover the week for us. If you were on Patrick Reed at 25/1 then congratulations – an absolute beast of a closer, whatever else you think about him.

From the majesty of the classical Torrey Pines, we travel back to the desert for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Expect dome-like playing conditions on a course which is very, very different from what we saw at La Jolla last week. And where we see anything up to 600,000 fans at TPC Scottsdale in normal times, the organising Thunderbirds will be allowing up to 5,000 spectators each day, with a scaled down par-3 16th hole. One thing though you always get at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is a close finish and of late a high-class, elite winner on Super Bowl weekend.

Before we go into the detail surrounding my Waste Management Phoenix Open tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,700+ strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: Since 2015, the PGA Tour professionals in the main have welcomed the Tom Weiskopf-inspired changes to the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.

2014 had seen the course closed to undergo a major re-design which included new irrigation, re-surfacing of greens including new green locations at No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 14, bunker construction and tee construction. In all, 114 yards was added to the course across 11 holes, extending the layout to a 7,266 yard, Par 71 test.

Set at approximately 1,250 feet above sea level, players face a different challenge this week as the golf ball will travel slightly further than they’ve experienced across Hawaii and California to date. Talking of challenges, players also need to embrace the atmosphere on the Stadium Course with 5,000 spectators set to be on the course this week – it’s not the usual 125,000 a day we see here in Arizona, but after months of hardly any spectators it will undoubtedly feel a little different again.

Stadium Course, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona: Designer: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish 1995, with Weiskopf re-design 2014; Course Type: Desert, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,261 yards; Holes with Water Hazards In-Play: 6; Fairways: Bermudagrass with Perennial Rye and fine fescue; Rough: Bermudagrass with Perennial Rye and fine fescue 2.5″; Greens: 7,069 sq.ft average featuring TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis and Ryegrass; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.76 (-0.24), Difficulty Rank 29 of 49 courses. 2013: 68.95 (-2.05), Difficulty Rank 40 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.64 (-0.36), Rank 33 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.75 (-0.25), Rank 22 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.03 (+0.03), Rank 20 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.19 (-0.81), Rank 33 of 50 courses. 2018: 70.32 (-0.64), Rank 32 of 51 courses. 2019: 70.51 (-0.49), Rank of 24 of 49 courses. 2020: 70.32 (-0.64), Rank 18 of 41 courses.

Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Tom Weiskopf designs include (including re-designs):

  • North Course, Torrey Pines 2017-2021 Farmers Insurance Open

Course Overview: Scoring at the Stadium Course tends to be around the -15/269 to -18/266 mark, unless course conditions are soft like they were in 2013 when Phil Mickelson won at an eye-watering -28/256. The freshly renovated course features an additional 114 yards of length, with fresh green surfaces featuring TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. These green complexes have now been in place for just over 6 years so shouldn’t offer up too many surprises. They run pretty quick, unless rain comes and softens the course.

Undoubtedly the new Weiskopf-inspired Stadium Course is a tougher proposition than the previous set-up. Whilst greens aren’t that difficult to hit for the very best ball-strikers, interestingly getting the ball close to the hole is the real difficulty of the course. Proximity to Hole rankings of 2nd to 10th since the Weiskopf work highlight the fact that putters find it very difficult to be able to make the difference with their short game.

The course is scoreable, but when it’s played as it was intended in terms of fairway/green speeds, this tournament never features scoring like we see at PGA West for the reasons listed above. Throw in the fact that scrambling is relatively easy here and it’s clear that big hitting ball-strikers, who can consistently hit greens, have a real advantage here in the thinner air. This is no better illustrated than looking at course specialists such as Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, John Rahm, Brendan Steele and Bubba Watson who must love attacking a set of par-5s, which read 558, 558 and 553 yards on the scorecard, at altitude.

waste management phoenix open tips

Winners: 2020: Webb Simpson (-17); 2019: Rickie Fowler (-17); 2018: Gary Woodland (-18); 2017: Hideki Matsuyama (-17); 2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-14); 2015: Brooks Koepka (-15); 2014: Kevin Stadler (-16); 2013: Phil Mickelson (-23); 2012: Kyle Stanley (-15); 2011: Mark Wilson (-18); 2010: Hunter Mahan (-16).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -17.
  • 2019: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -20; Round 4 -17.
  • 2018: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -14; Round 4 -18.
  • 2017: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -17.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Martin Laird, Harris English, Sam Burns, Stewart Cink and James Hahn.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RSM Classic / Joburg Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Matt Kuchar / Steve Stricker; 3) Corey Conners / Ryan Moore; 5) Keegan Bradley / Brendon Todd; 7) Ryan Armour; 8) Brian Stuard; 9) Brian Harman; 10) Austin Cook / Adam Long; 12) Martin Laird; 13) Jason Dufner / Brice Garnett; 15) Daniel Berger / Webb Simpson; 17) Louis Oosthuizen; 18) John Augenstein / Lucas Glover / Kevin Streelman; 21) Sungjae Im; 22) Tom Hoge / Jerry Kelly; 24) Joel Dahmen / Satoshi Kodaira.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) J.B. Holmes; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Kevin Streelman; 4) Webb Simpson / William McGirt; 6) Luke Donald / Justin Thomas; 8) Si Woo Kim; 9) Corey Conners; 10) Lucas Glover; 11) Daniel Berger; 12) Kyle Stanley; 13) Cameron Tringale; 14) Henrik Norlander / Xander Schauffele; 16) Jon Rahm / Sam Ryder; 18) Michael Thompson; 19) Sam Burns / Chris Kirk / Ryan Moore; 22) Emiliano Grillo / Scott Stallings / Scottie Scheffler; 25) John Huh.
  • Scrambling: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Billy Horschel; 3) John Augenstein; 4) Si Woo Kim; 5) Michael Thompson; 6) Ryan Palmer; 7) Daniel Berger / D.A. Points; 9) Harris English / Matt Kuchar; 11) John Huh / Sean O’Hair / Louis Oosthuizen; 14) Martin Laird; 15) Nick Taylor; 16) Rory McIlroy; 17) Webb Simpson; 18) Bo Hoag / Jordan Spieth; 20) Jamie Lovemark; 21) Dylan Frittelli / Henrik Norlander / Brendon Todd; 24) Scottie Scheffler; 25) Padraig Harrington / Pat Perez.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Max Homa; 2) Carlos Ortiz; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Robert Streb / Michael Thompson; 7) Steve Stricker / Brendon Todd; 9) Matt Jones; 10) Ryan Palmer; 11) Harry Higgs / Peter Malnati; 13) Daniel Berger / Corey Conners / Ted Potter Jnr / Xander Schauffele; 17) Rory Sabbatini; 18) Brooks Koepka / Charl Schwartzel; 20) Sungjae Im / Patton Kizzire / Webb Simpson; 23) Joel Dahmen / Chris Kirk; 25) K.H. Lee.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RSM Classic and Joburg Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Rickie Fowler; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Cameron Champ; 7) Xander Schauffele; 8) Emiliano Grillo / Luke List / Adam Long; 11) Keith Mitchell / Webb Simpson; 13) Brian Harman; 14) Justin Thomas; 15) Sam Burns; 16) Padraig Harrington; 17) Wyndham Clark / Harris English / Sungjae Im / Patton Kizzire / Adam Schenk; 22) Grayson Murray / Charl Schwartzel; 24) Talor Gooch / Ryan Palmer.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Henrik Norlander; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Keegan Bradley / Rory McIlroy; 8) Kyle Stanley; 9) Si Woo Kim; 10) Cameron Tringale / Will Zalatoris; 12) C.T. Pan; 13) Russell Henley; 14) Padraig Harrington; 15) Russell Knox; 16) Ryan Palmer; 17) Daniel Berger / Zach Johnson; 19) Harry Higgs / Max Homa; 21) Rickie Fowler / Charley Hoffman / Webb Simpson / Kevin Streelman; 25) Harris English / Michael Thompson.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Brendon Todd; 3) Sam Burns / William McGirt; 5) Patton Kizzire; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Justin Thomas; 8) Adam Hadwin / Vaughn Taylor; 10) Rickie Fowler; 11) Wyndham Clark / Sepp Straka; 13) Sung Kang / Si Woo Kim; 15) Chris Kirk / Charl Schwartzel / Xinjun Zhang; 18) Max Homa / Rory McIlroy; 20) Dylan Frittelli / Scottie Scheffler / Michael Thompson; 23) Jerry Kelly / Martin Laird; 25) John Huh / Danny Lee / Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Rickie Fowler; 3) Xander Schauffele; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Daniel Berger / Jon Rahm / Will Zalatoris; 9) Chris Kirk; 10) Si Woo Kim; 11) Sam Burns; 12) Keegan Bradley; 13) Cameron Tringale; 14) Webb Simpson; 15) Brendan Steele; 16) Henrik Norlander / Rory Sabbatini; 18) Byeong Hun An; 19) Luke List; 20) Kyle Stanley; 21) John Huh; 22) Wyndham Clark; 23) Luke Donald; 24) Brian Harman / Lucas Glover / Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Michael Thompson; 3) Ryan Palmer / D.A. Points; 5) Louis Oosthuizen / Brendon Todd; 7) Matt Jones; 8) Daniel Berger; 9) Carlos Ortiz; 10) Will Zalatoris; 11) Austin Cook; 12) Bo Hoag; 13) Webb Simpson; 14) Adam Hadwin; 15) Chris Kirk; 16) Robert Streb; 17) Jon Rahm; 18) Rory McIlroy; 19) Bill Horschel; 20) Brooks Koepka; 21) Ryan Armour; 22) Sungjae Im; 23) Harris English / Charl Schwartzel; 25) Michael Kim.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Will Zalatoris; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Chris Kirk / Webb Simpson; 8) Ryan Palmer; 9) Corey Conners; 10) Michael Thompson; 11) Matt Jones; 12) Sam Burns / Bo Hoag / Brendon Todd; 15) Rickie Fowler / Henrik Norlander / Justin Thomas; 18) Patton Kizzire / Carlos Ortiz; 20) Sungjae Im; 21) Rory Sabbatini; 22) Austin Cook; 23) Si Woo Kim; 24) Kyle Stanley; 25) Ryan Armour / Charley Hoffman / John Huh.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Simpson 14/1; 2019: Fowler 22/1; 2018: Woodland 50/1; 2017: Matsuyama 11/1; 2016: Matsuyama 28/1; 2015: Koepka 40/1; 2014: Stadler 125/1; 2013: Mickelson 25/1; 2012: Stanley 66/1; 2011: Wilson 80/1; 2010: Mahan 66/1. Past 7 Renewals Average: 41/1. Overall Average: 47/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 73. Wind S 5-10 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 72. Wind W 3-6 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 76. Wind S 4-8 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 76. Wind S 6-12 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 73. Wind S 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 71. Wind S 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 67. Wind S 6-12 mph. Sunday: Cloudy with light rain. High of 63. Wind SW 5-10 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind NW 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind SW 4-8 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind SW 4-8 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 67. Wind NW 7-12 mph. Friday: Round one resumed at 8 a.m. and concluded at 8:28 a.m. Sunny, with a high in the low-70s. Wind NW 8-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 74. Wind light and variable 5-7 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 76. Wind SW 4-8 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 67 degrees. Wind NE 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 64 degrees. Wind NE 5-10 mph Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 77 degrees. Wind SW 4-8 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 78 degrees. Wind SW 4-8 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Scottsdale, Arizona is here. I’m expecting colder conditions than 2020, with the whole tournament week set to be rain-free. Temperatures will be 17-18 degrees Celsius across the opening 2 days, which then increase to 2+0 degrees on the weekend. Only the lightest of breeze will be in play. Turf conditions-wise, the course should potentially have some cut in it on Thursday with 20mm of ain being received last week, but the tournament organisers have the course exactly where they want it, so expect the typical high-teens winning score again.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 6 winners of the Phoenix Open since the course re-design in 2014 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2020, Webb Simpson (-17). 307 yards (44th), 71.4% fairways (3rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (6th), 35’4″ proximity to hole (7th), 68.8 % scrambling (14th), 1.66 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2019,  Rickie Fowler (-17). 310 yards (11th), 69.6% fairways (3rd), 72.2% greens in regulation (13th), 39’11” proximity to hole (42nd), 75.0 % scrambling (6th), 1.59 putts per GIR (11th).
  • 2018, Gary Woodland (-18). 318 yards (8th), 60.7% fairways (19th), 77.8% greens in regulation (4th), 34’11” proximity to hole (6th), 68.8 % scrambling (25th), 1.71 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2017, Hideki Matsuyama (-17). 311 yards (20th), 66.1% fairways (6th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 32’11” proximity to hole (3rd), 71.4 % scrambling (12th), 1.74 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 2016, Hideki Matsuyama (-14). 296 yards (36th), 55.4% fairways (44th), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 35’10” proximity to hole (7th), 68.6 % scrambling (16th), 1.75 putts per GIR (32nd).
  • 2015, Brooks Koepka (-15). 310 yards (3rd), 58.9% fairways (47th), 75.0% greens in regulation (4th), 35’2″ proximity to hole (10th), 83.3 % scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (11th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 20th, Driving Accuracy: 20th, Greens in Regulation: 5th, Proximity to Hole: 13th, Scrambling: 13th, Putting Average 16th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Webb Simpson (-17). SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 11th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 12th.
  • 2019, Rickie Fowler (-17). SG Off the Tee: 3rd, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 68th, SG Tee to Green: 19th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2018, Gary Woodland (-18). SG Off the Tee: 12th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 32nd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 16th.
  • 2017, Hideki Matsuyama (-17). SG Off the Tee: 9th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 29th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 47th.
  • 2016, Hideki Matsuyama (-14). SG Off the Tee: 10th, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 29th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 11th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 21st.

Let’s take a view from players as to how the TPC Scottsdale sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Webb Simpson (2020): “The golf course has gotten more firm every day, so it’s going to be challenging tomorrow, but guys I think are still looking at it as plenty of birdie opportunities. This course is playing shorter so we’re having shorter clubs in, even though the greens are more firm. But, yeah, I mean I didn’t think today teeing it up that I was going to go try to shoot 6- or 7-under. As boring as it sounds, all I really focus on is the first shot and you try to attack when you can attack and then the tougher holes you try to make par. And then you get hot for two days like I have and shoot 15-under and give myself a chance and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

I compartmentalize everything. So if I got a sand wedge in my hand I’m going to be going right at it. If I got an 8-iron or 7-iron a little more conservative. If I need to adjust on the last few holes, I will, but the last two days I let the birdies come to me and it’s hard in this game when you try to force it. But there’s plenty of birdie holes, like I said, so if I keep playing solid there’s great opportunities for tomorrow.”

Rickie Fowler (2019): “I enjoyed it. I think the start getting off 10 and 11, hitting two good 3-woods in play, just nice solid ball flights, started where I wanted to, fell a little right. So it was great to get off to kind of a positive start. Obviously then was able to birdie 12, eagle 13. But I think 10 and 11’s tough to start on early in the morning, so it was nice to get that out of the way, you kind of get off heading the right direction and really just tried to play within myself, not try to do anything special, still working on some stuff on the swing and the last few weeks and trying not to focus too much of that on the golf course, just go play and still getting used to the golf ball as well. So I’m happy with where we’re at and where we’re heading.”

On 18 today I was trying to stay, I was actually trying to stay right of it, just with where the pin was and I toed it really bad. Yeah, I would say the, you know, last year it was out of play, but maybe not by much. Now it’s, I mean the water is completely out of play, I don’t have to think about that, but — I can’t go on Cameron Champ’s line, but I can get kind of the right half of the bunker. Yesterday was a good one, I think it maybe flew around 325 or 330. And the ball does go further here, but I’m happy about that with — I’m not very big, so, yeah, I would say right now not necessarily here because like I said the ball goes further, it used to be where the bunker at 290 if I hit one good I didn’t have to worry about, now I don’t have to worry about carrying it at 300.”

Gary Woodland (2018): “I put a lot of work in this off season. I mean obviously I knew what has been going on in the last couple years, short game, needed some adjustment, I spent some time with Pete Cowen. Pete really got me to where I have confidence in my short game and that allowed me to be more aggressive and let Butch and I do what we do. And play aggressive off the tee, play aggressive with the irons and attack from there. It’s been a big difference

Jordan Spieth: “Yeah, I’ll play the 17th aggressively. I’ll try and knock it on the green. If I get out of position, you can always make par unless you hit it obviously in the water. You can still make par from there. They get that pin way in the back in that little sliver, and I’ll probably still try and hit driver up the green. If it goes offline and I can’t get next to the hole, then you hit it to about 20 feet and two-putt and don’t do anything more. I saw quite a few shots in my experience last time, including my own, and I think I made par to that hole by playing conservatively, and that’s fine. I think if you play the hole 2-under for the week, you’ve done a good job. So it will be a good test this week. These greens are very pure. If you’re putting well, you can really putt well out here. It’s not Poa annua.

Hideki Matsuyama: “Before the re-design or the changes, I thought it was an easier course than it is now. I mean, the 2nd hole and the 14th hole have really put some bite into this course, and those are two difficult holes right now where before they weren’t that difficult.

Brooks Koepka: “15, 16, 17 is just I think an unbelievable finish. There is so much risk reward, like you said. And if you hit a couple of quality golf shots, you can really make a move, whereas, you know, the opposite, you hit one bad one, and you can run up a number pretty quick. Luckily I was able to pull some shots off.

Phil Mickelson: “I think, for the most part, they’re very well done. The first year you always have to cut some slack because the greens are firm and unreceptive because the roots haven’t had a chance to grow in. You want to cut it some slack the first year. But I think it looks really good. Surprisingly, the greens are putting very true and in wonderful shape. I was pleasantly surprised. In terms of new bunkering, I thought it was strategic and well-placed in a lot of holes. I have always liked Weiskopf’s stuff. He has great strategy from a player’s standpoint. Really not too much was done differently other than three or four holes; otherwise, very similar throughout.

Bubba Watson: “It’s just a different mindset, I mean, when you’re adding length to a golf course you still have to hit driver. But it’s funny to me how they add length and then shorten the landing zone. They make it skinnier. They don’t want you to hit it any farther but they want to stretch the course out. It’s funny to me. It makes this golf course a lot different and tougher. Today I hit my driver nicely. I think I missed two fairways, which is pretty good for me. G30 worked out today. But, yeah, for me today it was about the driver. Around this golf course my driver stays in play. My irons are pretty decent. So now it’s a driving golf course. There are a couple things they could tweak here and there. It’s about 85 to 80% perfect the way they changed it, but there are a couple of little things. Nothing major, though. It doesn’t change the outcome of the score if you changed them, but just the way it looks.

Ryan Palmer: “In the past it’s been better for me, I think, because there is a lot of shots that, a lot of draw ball tee shots. A lot of greens set up for me, as well, depending on where the pin is obviously. I was able to kind of attack the golf course with the length I have. From what it is now to what it used to be, it’s definitely longer, for sure. I used to hit a lot of wedges, sand wedges, and we are not doing that anymore. But I like what they did from tee to green. They did a lot of good things. There are a few greens that I’m sure if you ask a lot of players they weren’t very pleased about, but overall I think they did a really good job with it. It’s in perfect shape, for sure. Greens are rolling pretty pure, of course with the bounces they are getting. Overall I think they did a good job.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 11 Phoenix Open winners:

  • 2020 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 66th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2019 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 8th.
  • 2017 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2015 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 64th, Round 2: 20th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2014 – Kevin Stadler: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2013 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – Kyle Stanley: Round 1: 33rd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2011 – Mark Wilson: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Hunter Mahan: Round 1: 29th, Round 2 54th, Round 3: 6th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 11 Phoenix Open winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2020 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 10 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2019 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2018 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2017 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2016 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2015 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2014 – Kevin Stadler: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 4 ahead, Round 2: 4 ahead, Round 3: 6 ahead.
  • 2012 – Kyle Stanley: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 8 back.
  • 2011 – Mark Wilson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Hunter Mahan: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 4 back.

Form of winners since 2010:

  • Webb Simpson: 3rd Sony/10th World Challenge/2nd RSM Classic/7th Shriners.
  • Rickie Fowler: 66th Torrey/5th World Challenge/16th Mayakoba/4th Shriners.
  • Gary Woodland: 12th Torrey/7th Waialae/3rd Shark Shootout/34th OHL Classic.
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 33rd Torrey/27th Waialae/2nd Kapalua/1st World Challenge.
  • Hideki Matsuyama: MC Torrey/17th World Challenge/2nd Dunlop Phoenix/WD HSBC.
  • Brooks Koepka: 19th Nedbank/42nd DP World Tour/1st Turkey/48th BMW Masters.
  • Kevin Stadler: 78th PGA West/12th OHL Classic/10th McGladrey/19th CIMB.
  • Phil Mickelson: 51st Torrey/37th PGA West/13th Singapore/2nd Mission Hills.
  • Kyle Stanley: 2nd Torrey/MC PGA West/23rd Waialae/11th Aus Open.
  • Mark Wilson: MC PGA West/1st Waialae/6th Disney/22nd Shriners.
  • Hunter Mahan: 64th Pebble/MC Riviera/27th Torrey/14th Shriners.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2020 – Clark PM -10/61 – 150/1
  • 2019 – Fowler / Thomas / Varner III 2AM/1PM Split  -7/64 – 35/1, 22/1 & 100/1.
  • 2018 – Haas PM -7/64 – 150/1
  • 2017 – Kuchar PM -7/64 – 70/1
  • 2016 – Fowler / Lowry / Matsuyama – 2AM/1PM Split -6/65.
  • 2015 – Palmer – PM -7/64.
  • 2014 – Watson / Yang – AM/PM Split -7/64.
  • 2013 – Mickelson – AM -11/60.
  • 2012 – Dufner / Palmer – Both PM -7/64.
  • 2011 – Gainey – PM -8/63.
  • 2010 – Villegas – AM -9/62.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of altitude golf courses on the PGA Tour since 2016, with players in the field this week. TPC Scottsdale course history is available via this Tournament Form link:

2016:

  • Montreux: Winner: Greg Chalmers; EW Places: Woodland, Steele, Laird.
  • TPC Summerlin: Winner: Rod Pampling; EW Places: Koepka, Glover, English, Bradley, Perez.

2017:

  • Chapultepec: Winner: Dustin Johnson; EW Places: Rahm, Thomas, McIlroy.
  • Old White: Winner: Xander Schauffele; EW Places: Streb, Munoz, Lovemark, Henley.
  • Montreux: Winner: Chris Stroud; EW Places: Werenski, Hoge.
  • Nine Bridges: Winner: Justin Thomas; EW Places: Brown, List, Harman, Lovemark, Perez.
  • TPC Summerlin: Patrick Cantlay; EW Places: Poston, Kizzire, Hoge.

2018:

  • Chapultepec: Winner: Phil Mickelson; EW Places: Thomas, Harman.
  • Old White: Winner: Kevin Na; EW Places: Cook, Dahmen, Varner III.
  • Montreux: Winner: Andrew Putnam; EW Places: McGirt.
  • Nine Bridges: Brooks Koepka; EW Places: Woodland, Palmer, Piercy, Perez, Reavie.
  • TPC Summerlin: Bryson DeChambeau; EW Places: Ryder, Fowler, Streb, Glover, Palmer.

2019:

  • Chapultepec: Winner: Dustin Johnson; EW Places: McIlroy.
  • Montreux: Winner: Collin Morikawa; EW Places: Merritt, Streb, Hoge, Laird, Palmer, Sloan.
  • Old White: Winner: Joaquin Niemann; EW Places: Hoge, English, Harman, Lashley, Werenski, Munoz, Scheffler, Shelton.
  • TPC Summerlin: Winner Kevin Na; EW Places: Perez, Hadwin, Stuard, Gay, Simpson.
  • Nine Bridges: Winner Justin Thomas; EW Places: Danny Lee, Matsuyama, Woodland, An.

2020:

  • Chapultepec: Winner: Patrick Reed; EW Places: Rahm, Van Rooyen, McIlroy, Matsuyama, Thomas.
  • Old Greenwood: Winner: Richy Werenski; EW Places: Merritt, Stallings, Streb, McNealy.
  • TPC Summerlin: Winner Martin Laird; EW Places: Cook, Wolff, Hahn, Zalatoris, Si Woo Kim, NeSmith.
  • Shadow Creek: Winner Jason Kokrak; EW Places: Schauffele, Henley, Gooch, Watson.

So what’s the recipe for success this week? Well, key player attributes rewarded here undoubtedly include driving distance (Simpson showed that’s not 100% essential), high-class ball-striking and an aggressive Going for the Green percentage. Players who can hit the ball consistently well thrive on Weiskopf’s design which features relatively large and flat green complexes. The re-laid greens themselves are quite tricky as they feature a TifEagle Bermudagrass base which has been overseeded with Poa Trivialis. All winners here since 2010 have featured in the top 13 for Greens in Regulation and I can’t see that changing in 2021. For course form buffs course experience is not essential here as both Kyle Stanley and Brooks Koepka won on their course debut.

Looking at the incoming form of recent winners, Webb Simpson was on fire and went off at 14/1. A PGA Tour form-line of 3rd at Waialae on calendar debut, 2nd at Sea Island and 7th last time he visited the desert at TPC Summerlin saw him go off as the 3rd favourite in the betting. Rickie Fowler in 2019 had played once in the year, prior to arriving in Scottsdale, finishing 66th at Torrey Pines the week before. 2018 had ended with a 5th at Tiger’s Hero World Challenge and 4th at TPC Summerlin.

Gary Woodland in 2018 had gone backwards when contending at Torrey Pines the week before. However an eventual 12th at Torrey was preceded by 7th at Waialae. Hideki Matsuyama in 2017 had finished 33rd at Torrey Pines and 27th at Waialae prior to arriving in Arizona, allowing his odds to grow to 11/1. Prior to that 4 wins and 2 runner-up positions including season-opener Kapalua had made him the hottest player on the planet. 2016 had seen him miss the cut at Torrey Pines on his 2016 debut, but 2nd at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and 5th at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur at the latter end of 2015 had shown promise in low-scoring events. Brooks Koepka had started the 2014/15 PGA Tour season strongly with 8th at Silverado and 4th at TPC Summerlin followed by his first main Tour career victory at the star-studded Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour. This was his calendar debut. In 2014, ‘Baby Walrus’ Kevin Stadler had shaken the rust off at PGA West (78th) after a strong close to 2013 which included 4th at TPC Boston, 19th at Kuala Lumpur, 10th at Sea Island and 12th at El Camaleon.

Xander Schauffele 3pts EW 11/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

An average winning price of 25/1 across the past 5 renewals of the Waste Management Phoenix Open tells you what we are dealing with here this week. The extremes of that number saw Gary Woodland win from outside the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 in 2018 at 50/1. We’ve also seen Hideki Matsuyama defend his title in 2018 at 11/1 and 12 months ago Webb Simpson was the unloved 3rd favourite who won at 14/1.

Recent winners here also have a huge connection with the U.S. Open. Webb Simpson won at Olympic Club in 2012. Rickie Fowler was runner-up at Pinehurst Number 2 in 2014. Gary Woodland won at Pebble Beach in 2019. Hideki Matsuyama was runner-up at Erin Hills in 2017 and Brooks Koepka naturally is a 2-time U.S. Open champion who has also finished 2nd and 4th in what is renowned as the toughest Major Championship.

So at the top of the betting, I’ve made a stand and gone for Xander Schauffele who I think is primed for a victory. 5th at the Winged Foot U.S. Open in September, Xander on his last visit to the desert finished 2nd to Jason Kokrak at Shadow Creek – we were on-board win only at 12/1. In 2021 he already sits with a 5th at Kapalua and 2nd last week at Torrey Pines. Winless since the 2019 Tournament of Champions, it’s obvious to say he’s due – a little like Simpson (winless for 20 months), Fowler (winless for 23 months) and Woodland (winless for 3 and a half years) all were.

I won’t bore you with his 8-week statistics which are magnificent, apart from highlighting that on a course where Strokes Gained on Approach is absolutely critical, he ranks Number 1 in this field above Thomas, Rahm and McIlroy. Plus he also ranks 1st for Strokes Gained Current Form. And then we get to U.S. Open results – 5th at Erin Hills, 6th at Shinnecock Hills, 3rd at Pebble Beach and 5th at Winged Foot – nobody apart from Brooks Koepka has a set of results anywhere near the like.

17th (2018), 10th (2019) and 16th (2020) here in his 3 appearances, they have always been off the back of a disappointing Torrey Pines outing. 5th after 54 holes here both in 2018 and 2020, Schauffele has never had a better chance of taking his 5th PGA Tour crown. RESULT: T2

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Sungjae Im 2pts EW 33/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

My eye always turns to Sungjae Im when the PGA Tour visits courses with Bermudagrass-base greens and rightly so. A maiden PGA Tour winner at PGA National last February, Sungjae, who has finally purchased a house in Atlanta, has also finished 5th (2021) at Kapalua; 3rd x2 (2019 and 2020) at Bay Hill; 4th (2019) at Copperhead; 2nd (2019) at the CC of Jackson; plus 6th (2019) and 9th (2020) at Sedgefield CC.

His record in the desert is also not too shabby: 12th (2019), 10th (2020) and 12th (2021) at PGA West – he led after 36 holes there 2 weeks ago – 15th (2018) and 13th (2020) at TPC Summerlin, plus 7th here on course debut in 2019, highlights a player who plays well in thin desert air. It’s also noteworthy that PGA West has very similar overseeded Bermudagrass-base greens to those found here at TPC Scottsdale.

And lets not forget that the 22 year-old from Jeju Island has finished runner-up at The Masters and 5th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions already this season. I think his all-round game will really suit the task ahead at TPC Scottsdale this week, as he ranks 14th for Ball Striking, 36th for Greens in Regulation, 13th for Going for the Green and 31st for Par Breakers this season. And that level of basics fits in well with the fact that in this field he ranks in the top 22 for Strokes Gained Putting across my 8-week tracker. RESULT: T17

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Corey Conners 1pt EW 70/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

TPC Scottsdale undoubtedly suits high-class ball-strikers and there aren’t many better globally than Corey Conners.

Across last season the Canadian posted some amazing Strokes Gained numbers such as 13th for Off the Tee, 12th for Approach and 18th for Tee to Green. 20th for Driving Accuracy and 6th for Greens in Regulation; Conners was 1st for Ball Striking. But as we know with Corey the putting is his weakness and 181st in that particular category translated to nothing better than 12th place across January to August last year.

But a new season has certainly seen an upturn with the putter and an upturn in results. 17th at the Sanderson Farms, 8th at the elite ZOZO Championship, 10th at The Masters – his first Major top-10  – and 10th at the RSM Classic saw Conners jump to a highest ever rank of 54th in the year-end OWGR. 37th on his 2021 debut last week at Torrey Pines, Corey currently sits 28th for Par Breakers, 15th for Ball Striking and 6th for Greens in Regulation in the new season. He’s also 28th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, plus his SG Putting performance ranks at 104th and is actually positive!

Based in Jupiter, Florida, his better putting tends to be on Bermudagrass greens and his ability to score deep into the teens is worthy of note for TPC Scottsdale this week. His win at the 2019 Texas Open came at -20/268 – another course which features Bermudagrass-base (Champion) overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. 2nd at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship came at -17/271, 3rd at the 2019 Sony Open came at -17/263 and 8th in elite company at Sherwood Country Club in late October saw him rate at 32% Birdie or Better Conversion as he shot -18/270. With the WGC tournament in Florida at the end of this month, a jump into the OWGR top 50 would be great right now for the 29 year-old and in this field across my 8-week Strokes Gained tracker he ranks 4th for Approach, 4th for Tee to Green and 9th for Current Form. RESULT: T17

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Will Zalatoris 1pt EW 45/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Finally I’ll cover off Will Zalatoris. The production line of amazing, young talent in the last 2 years has been absolutely top drawer. Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland have all done amazing things since joining the PGA Tour. 7 Tour wins between them, plus a PGA Championship and runner-up spots at the U.S. Open and The Masters in 2021 within the group highlight just what we are seeing develop before our eyes. And then another one appears in the form of Zalatoris.

The San Francisco, California 24 year-old is a late developer compared to Hovland, Morikawa and Wolff, but his rise so far has been just as phenomenal. He started 2020 on the Korn Ferry Tour where he won (-15/273) the TPC Colorado Championship at altitude and added a further 6 top-5 and 3 top-10 finishes. He then hit the 2020/21 PGA Tour season finishing 6th at the Winged Foot U.S.Open, 8th at Corales and 5th at TPC Summerlin last time we saw him in the thin air at altitude in Las Vegas.

Now with Special Temporary Membership and unlimited Sponsors Invites, he can play where he chooses outside of the biggest tournaments and his 2021 debut at Torrey Pines was typically impressive. Ranking 15th for SG Tee to Green and 24th for SG Putting, he finished 8th on his first professional outing to the 2021 U.S. Open host course. 5th for SG on Approach and 4th for SG Tee to Green so far on his first season on the PGA Tour to date is amazing stuff and I doubt we see these prices about him for too much longer. We have seen players hit the ground running here at Scottsdale and contend with no course experience and if Will hits fairways, he has to be a serious danger. RESULT: T17

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:50GMT 1.2.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.