Pat Mayo provides his preview and makes his early 2023 Waste Management Open Picks in a his first look and research for this week’s PGA event.
2023 Waste Management Open: Field
Field: 136 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, February 9
Defending Champ: Scottie Scheffler
It’s time for the true PGA season to commence. Of course, that’s an unofficial statement, but after the events at Pebble Beach, Phoenix is a great way for the TOUR to issue one of those Men In Black flashy memory wipe things to the audience. Somehow, with the fun addition of weather delays, the Pro-Am was worse than anticipated. Hopefully, that means the 2023 Waste Management Open is better and it looks on paper. Because it really does look tremendous.
Now with “elevated” status, world’s best are heading to Phoenix to compete for their share of $20 MILLION DOLLARYDOOS; $3.6M to the winner. Rory McIlroy is making his long-awaited 2023 USA debut, joining Jon Rahm, 2022 winner Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Max, Homa, Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Cam Young, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Hideki Matsuyama and Tony Finau in a field of 136 which sports 22 of the world’s 25 Top Ranked players.
Along with Rory (who won two weeks back in Dubai), Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, and Lucas Herbert are all making their PGA debuts this week. Herbert has spent the last two weeks in the Middle East and notched consecutive third-place finishes between the DPTW and Asian Tour.
2023 Waste Management Open: Key Stats
- Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
- Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards
- Eagles Gained
- Opportunities Gained
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2023 Waste Management Open: Course
Course: TPC Scottsdale
17-18-1 and 8-9-10 are similarly favorable for DraftKings Showdown so don’t sweat starting hole for picks...
Hole 17 (3rd easiest), Hole 18 (7th toughest), Hole 1 (6th easiest)
Hole 8 (8th toughest), Hole 9 (9th easiest), Hole 10 (5th easiest)
Par 3’s (4): Three of them measure over 180 yards
- Holes 7 and 12 were two of the four toughest holes on the course last year
- Hole 7 had just a 9.5% birdie rate last season (only hole sub-11%)
Par 4’s (11): The majority of them are 440-475
- Hole 11 had the highest bogey rate on the course (19.6%)
- The beginning of a tough run … Holes 11, 12 and 14 were three of the four toughest holes last season
Par 5’s (3): All three measure just over 550 yards
- All three had an eagle rate north of 2% of last season
- Hole 13 had a higher birdie rate (45.2%) than par rate (43.6%) last season
- 12 of the top-13 finishers last season gained strokes on Par 5’s
2023 Waste Management Open: Past Winners
- 2022: Scottie Scheffler -16
- 2021: Brooks Koepka -19
- 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 -28
- 2012: Kyle Stanley -15
2022: Scottie Scheffler (-16, playoff win over Patrick Cantlay)
- Highlight: His Saturday 62 was the best round by anyone for the week and helped offset a disappointing 71 on Friday
- Each of the top-20 finishers gained strokes off the tee (Scheffler lost strokes in approach, but cleaned it up with the second-best putting performance of the week … a theme you’ll notice seems to be sticky)
2021: Brooks Koepka (-19, one clear of KH Lee and Xander Schauffele)
- Highlight: Saved his best for Sunday (65) and that meant picking up six strokes on Xander and seven on Spieth, the two 48-hole leaders
- Each of the top-12 finishers gained with the putter … 11 of them gained at least three full strokes
2020: Webb Simpson (-17, playoff win over Tony Finau)
- Highlight: Was 10 back after Thursday, but got back into it with a 63-64 Friday-Saturday
- 15 of the top-16 finishers gained strokes putting (the top-3 finishers were all top-12 putters for the week)
2019: Rickie Fowler (-17, two clear of Branden Grace)
- Highlight: Fowler was the first-round leader and was cruising (64-65-64) before almost giving it all back with a 74 on Sunday
- Three of the top-6 finishers lost strokes around the green … Rickie was able to overcome it by being the best putter in the field (+9.5)
2018: Gary Woodland (-18, playoff win over Chez Reavie)
- Highlight: Gary closed with a 64 on Sunday and was the 2nd best player in the field in SG: APP
- The top-8 finishers all gained on Proximity from 200+
2017: Hideki Matsuyama (-17, playoff win over Webb Simpson)
- Highlight: ‘Deki shot 68 or better in all four rounds and picked up 13.1 strokes T2G on the field.
- Each of the top-15 finishers gained strokes with the flat stick (6 of the top-8 putters for the week cashed top-15 paychecks)
2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-14, playoff win over Rickie Fowler)
- Highlight: Three players shot 65 in Round 1 to hold the lead … they finished 1st, 2nd and T-6th for the week
- Each of the top-7 players in SG: APP finished top 20 on the final leaderboard.
2015: Brooks Koepka (-15, one clear of Matsuyama, Ryan Palmer and Bubba Watson)
- Highlight: Made his move on moving day with a 64 (-7, he was -3 entering the round)
- 14 of the top-16 finishers gained strokes off the tee
2023 Waste Management Open: Notes
Stats that have correlated to finishing position in the past five years, beyond the traditional Strokes Gained metrics, have been Par 5s Gained/Eagles Gained and Par 4s Gained between 450-500 yards. There are five holes here from that distance, three of which are the most difficult on the course. Like most weeks, approach and putting matter the most of any stats, but TPC Scottsdale provides a much flatter distribution for each of the individual Tee-To-Green metrics than most events. We get tournaments where the approach can be worth as much as four times the value of driving and chipping, but not this week.
There are a bunch of odd factors that make this possible. Despite playing about 400 yards shorter than the South Course at Torrey Pines, expect most of the field to attack with drivers off the tee. This event has become the one with the highest average driving distance of any event and at 305 yards with more than 61% of all drives going over 300 yards.
All three Par 5s are reachable in two, but No. 15 tends to be a magnet for the water. Much like its aqua brethren, No. 18 at TPC Twin Cities, you must carry the hazard to reach it in two. In 2019, 74 balls reached the bottom of the lake during the tournament. Despite there only being three Par 5s, they combined for the fifth-best score to par overall when going for the green (-572) in 2020.
Beyond the Par 5s, the drivable par 4 17th is the other spot on the course to gain back significant strokes on the field. Just 332 yards, every player can take a crack at the green from the tee box, but with water looming off the left side, both eagle and bogey are in play depending on the drive. Originally, I assumed it was an ultimate risk/reward proposition, but, players have made par 40% of the time on No. 17 after they go into the water. Considering the field makes birdie over 38% of the time and eagle more than 1% of the time, there’s little incentive to lay up. In 2020, 51 balls found the water off the tee, while 63 landed on the green. Rickie Fowler has made the most bogeys or worse of any player, 12, and that was when he was good.
No. 17 is also the hole that features the most putts from over 80 feet. There have been over 220 putts from 80 feet or beyond on this green and almost half have resulted in a three-putt or worse (49.3%).
10 players who have hoisted novelty checks in Phoenix have also won THE PLAYERS Championship. Webb Simpson was the last to accomplish the double.
The greens are listed as “Bermuda” when we’re separating them, but it’s not exactly the Bermuda grass-putting surfaces we see in Florida. Per the GCSAA, they’re officially listed as “TifEagle Bermuda over-seeded with velvet bentgrass, Poa trivialis and perennial ryegrass .100.” I have no idea what that means after about the sixth word. Just know, these greens are historically firm and run faster than the average TOUR event, which has helped out the poorer putters as shorter putts have become easier in these conditions. In 2020, the field made 89% of putts inside of 10 feet. A rather absurd rate.
Among other golfers to watch, Matsuyama has played 31 of 33 career rounds under par; Rahm, an ASU product, has never finished worse than T16 in seven appearances in Phoenix, including one start as an amateur.
Since 2000, just eight 54-hole leaders have gone on to convert the victory on Sunday, and only two since 2009 — Phil in 2013 and Fowler in 2019. It was Fowler’s second 54-hole leader conversion in seven career tries.
Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Matsuyama (2016 and 2017) are the only back-to-back winners in Phoenix, while Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Gene Littler and Mark Calcavecchia are the only three-time winners of this event. There have been multiple repeat winners since 2000: Mickelson, Matsuyama, Koepka and JB Holmes have each won twice.
This event has gone to a playoff in five of the past seven years and was settled by one stroke in the two that didn’t.
All-time, 10 players have won in their first appearance at TPC Scottsdale dating back to 1932. Koepka (2015), Stanley (2012) and Holmes (2005) are the only players to accomplish that feat this millennium.
Scrambling and GIRs are higher than the TOUR average while hitting fairways is slightly below most courses (59 percent to 62 percent average). As reflected in the GIR rate, the rough isn’t very penalizing, although there isn’t much of it. Once you veer too far from the short grass, you’re in the desert. There are 68 sand traps littered across the course with water in play on six holes. There’s also an abundance of cacti littered across the sand. Ask Spencer Levin.
Of the players in the field, Kuchar, Rahm, Fowler, Thomas and Schauffele have gained the most total strokes at TPC Scottsdale over the past five years.
The cut line has been under par the past two seasons after seven years of an Even or above par cutline.
DraftKings DFS NOTES
The tippy top of the board has been reserved for the elite, so you don’t want to fully fade the top guys, but this is a tournament that has seen plenty of cheaper options pay off in a big way. There will be time for balance builds, but last week didn’t project as one and neither does this.
- 2022: Each of the top-3 scorers cost you north of $9,000
- 13 players scored 91+ DK points … 5 of them were sub-$7,000
- 2021: The top-2 scorers cost at least $8,800, but the next six all cost under $8,000 (four of them under $7,000)
- 2020: The top-3 scorers were all top-12 in pricing ($9,000+), but the next four were all sub-$7,500
- 2019: Five of the top-6 finishers on the DK leaderboard cost you at least $8,700. Each of the top-5 in DK pricing finished top-15 on the final leaderboard
- 2018: The average cost of the Top 7 finishers on the DK scoring leaderboard was just over $7,400 (including a pair of sub-$7,000 players in Chesson Hadley and Martin Laird)
2023 Waste Management Open Picks
Picking between the elites this week may just come down to sheer luck. They all look like amazing plays on paper. But the price discount on Thomas from the very top of the board is enough to suck me in. JT has the best Phoenix record without a win, yes even better than Rahm. The discount comes from his slow start to 2023. He was pretty lackluster at Kapalua; looked fine at Torrey but wilted each day. In those two starts, it’s been the driver giving him issues. It was the first time he lost strokes off the tee in consecutive events since the beginning of 2021. It was 2017 before that. Seems pretty fixable for him.
It’s funny how different perceptions can be applied to results. Morikawa’s played in two events this year and each has come with its share of disappointment. He’s come 2nd and 3rd in those two starts. The chipping is likely to be an issue, per usual, and the putter can always go frigid, but the elite ball striking has returned. If he continues gaining huge numbers with the drivers and irons, he’ll accidentally win a few times this season.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2021 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and was a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time.
Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy, and Traditional Season Long Fantasy).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.