Since there’s only one course in play, and the daylight hours are still shorter than usual, this tournament has a slightly smaller field with just 132 golfers. However, with the new changes to the PGA TOUR this season, Phoenix is also an elevated event which means that most, if not all, of the top pros will be in attendance — as they can be withdrawn for contention in the Player Impact Program bonuses if they skip.
With the new format, we will have most of the eligible players from the OWGR top 20 teeing it up. Defending champion Scottie Scheffler ($10,300) will be in the field along with Jon Rahm ($11,000), Collin Morikawa ($9,700), and world number one Rory McIlroy ($10,800) — who will be making his second appearance at this event after finishing T13 at TPC Scottsdale in 2021. Other players to keep an eye on in the field this week include Sungjae Im ($9,200), Tony Finau ($10,100), and Rickie Fowler ($8,000) — who won this event back in 2019, his last win on the PGA TOUR.
TPC Scottsdale: Scottsdale, Arizona
Par 71, 7,200-7300 yards
TPC Scottsdale underwent some minor renovations five years ago that were aimed at “toughening up” the golf course and resulted in a few holes being lengthened. Some bunkers were also moved to provide better protection for pins and to challenge players off the tee. Even with the changes, players have still managed to put up some low scores at this track, with the winners hitting between 16-18 under par the last three years.
One of the main features that make this such a fun event is the setup of the course. TPC Scottsdale is a traditional par 71, made up of three par 5s, four par 3s, and 11 par 4s, but contains several scoring holes that encourage aggressiveness and reward great shots with chances at birdies and eagles. All of the par 5s are reachable in two by most players (especially the longer hitters), and these holes are generally three of the easiest to score on. The par 4s are mostly between 410 and 490 yards in length, and this can be where the big hitters gain their biggest advantage if they find the fairway off the tee.
There are also a couple of unique holes players encounter down the stretch, too. The 16th is a very easy par 3, except for the fact it’s set in a stadium with thousands of cheering fans who rarely stay silent. The drivable par 4 (hole 17) is also a gem, as it presents players with a huge risk vs. reward scenario coming home and can be a huge momentum shifter later in the round. In 2021 Brooks Koepka eagled this hole in the final round on his way to the win.
The wide-open nature of the course gives it a semi-links-like feel — although water does come into play on six of the final nine holes — and gives players with good distance off the tee lots of chances to hit driver. The average driving distance here is 10-12 yards more than the PGA TOUR average, so the course does seem to cater to bombers a bit, although we’ve seen shorter hitters compete here regularly (see Webb Simpson - who won in 2020 - and 2021 runner-up Kyoung-Hoon Lee as examples).
Four of the last six winners at TPC Scottsdale gained +6.0 or more strokes on their approaches over the field, so if a distance disadvantage off the tee is to be overcome, players will need a great week with their irons. Dominate off-the-tee play and putting can carry a player, but for shorter hitters, the key to TPC Scottsdale is great mid-to-long iron play. The 150-175 yards distance is an important basket for proximity stats, with five par 4s ranging between 450-500 yards.
2023 weather outlook: There’s not much to note this week. The wind in the desert can sometimes be an issue but gusts this season look like they will stay under 10mph for the duration of this event. Sun will also be prevalent, so players will have mostly ideal conditions to work with. Early mornings will be cool this season, with some players teeing off in 45-50 F conditions. For first-round leader purposes and showdown lineups, it’s worth noting that nine of the last 12 seasons have seen at least one of the first-round leaders at this event come from the PM wave. The edge may be to load up on the later starters, on the first couple of days at least, for all single-round bets and showdown lineups.
LAST 5 WINNERS
2022—Scottie Scheffler -16 (over Patrick Cantlay playoff)
2021—Brooks Koepka -19 (over Kyoung-Hoon Lee -18)
2020—Webb Simpson -17 (over Tony Finau playoff)
2019—Rickie Fowler -17 (over Branden Grace -15)
2018—Gary Woodland -18 (in playoff over Chez Reavie)
- 11 of the last 12 winners have had a T7 or better in one of their last five starts before their win at the WMO.
- Each of the past seven winners of the WMPO had posted a top-10 finish at this event in a season prior to their win.
Winners Stats and Course Detail
2022: Scottie Scheffler (16-under par)
2022 lead-in form (20-25-57-2-4)
SG: Off the Tee—+5.2
SG: Approach— -1.6
SG: Tee to Green—+6.4
- Phoenix might be one of the best all-around tests of the season, as players who can spike in multiple different categories often do well here.
- Scheffler really dominated off the tee but also relied on a hot putter, gaining over 6.5 strokes on the greens — it’s worth noting that five of the top 10 finishers at this event last season gained over 5.0 strokes putting.
- Sold ball striking is still necessary. Two of the last three winners ranked in the top three for the week in strokes gained approach stats, with 2020 winner Webb Simpson gaining 7.5 strokes on approach for the week alone.
- Driving Distance also tends to get emphasized here more than other venues, and only two of the past seven winners ranked outside the top 20 for the week in driving distance (Matsuyama 2016, Webb Simpson 2020).
- Shorter hitters can compete, but as evidenced by Simpson, they need to have an elite week with their irons if they are to do so. As for approaches, the most popular range tends to be between 150-175 yards, but there are also plenty of > 200-yard shots in play with three par 5’s and five par 4s in the 450-500 range.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,400; best finishes: win-2017, 2016): Matsuyama has won this event twice and has finished T4 or better in four of the eight instances where he’s started and finished the event (WD-2018). The Japanese superstar’s impressive tee-to-green works wonders in this tougher desert environment, and he’ll once again be a player you consider building around in DFS.
2. Rickie Fowler ($8,000; best finishes: win-2019, second - 2010 and 2016): Fowler won this event in 2019 and has finished T11 or better in four of the past seven seasons, a run which also includes a playoff loss to Matsuyama in 2016. He’s on a two-start missed cut streak at TPC Scottsdale, but his recent results (T11 Farmers) suggest we’ll see better play from him here this season.
3. Justin Thomas ($9,800; best finishes: 2020-T3, 2019-third): Thomas has played at the WM Phoenix Open in each of the past six years and finished no worse than T13 in his last five starts at TPC Scottsdale. He now ranks first in strokes gained total stats at this week’s venue, despite never winning this event. He’s started the season slowly, but past results suggest we see better form from him this week.
4. Xander Schauffele ($10,000; best finishes: 2022-T3, 2021-T2): Schauffele has finished in the top five at this event in each of the past two seasons. His ball-striking at TPC has been immaculate, but unfortunately, he faltered in the final pairing last season. With a back injury still nagging him, he’ll be a risk-reward type of play for DFS.
5. Keith Mitchell ($7,400; best finishes: 2022-T10, 2020-T16): Mitchell’s strong week at Pebble Beach came right before another good event for him in the WM Phoenix Open. He’s one of the top players in strokes gained off the tee metrics in short and long-term form and has finished T16 or better at TPC Scottsdale now in two of the last three seasons.
1. Max Homa ($9,700, Recent finishes: win-T3): Homa is coming off an impressive win at the Farmers, his second in six months and the sixth overall PGA win of his career. He gained over 8.0 strokes on approach at Torrey Pines and still looks underrated in the pricing.
2. Jon Rahm ($11,000, Recent finishes: T7-win-win): Rahm fell short in his bid for three straight wins at Torrey Pines but comes into this week off a week of rest and should be eager to grab his first-ever victory at TPC Scottsdale, given that he played his college golf in the area.
3. Rory McIlroy ($10,800, Recent finishes: win): McIlroy grabbed a win in his last start in Dubai and remained at number one in the OWGR. He’s now won twice in his last three starts overall. This will be his first start of the season against a PGA-level field.
4. Collin Morikawa ($9,900, Recent finishes: T3-2nd): Morikawa followed up his runner-up in Hawaii with a 3rd place at Torrey. The American has had an encouraging start to the season and finished T25 at this event back in 2020.
5. Chris Kirk ($7,300, Recent finishes: T3-3rd): Kirk has been one of the bigger surprises of 2023. He didn’t finish 2022 well but posted back-to-back top-five finishes at the Sony and American Express — and gained over 4.4 strokes on approach in both starts.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Matsuyama is a must
The upper tier value this week is real as we can get former champions and players with recent elite form well under $10,000 on DraftKings. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,400) is coming off his best finish in quite some time at Torrey Pines, where he posted a T9 and was one of the leaders in strokes gained in tee-to-green stats over the weekend. The Japanese superstar loves TPC Scottsdale, and even though he faltered a little bit at this event last season, the form he showed at Torrey Pines should have you excited to build around him at this price. From the same price point, both Sungjae Im ($9,200 - see below) and Tom Kim ($9,100) look like great targets for cash games as well. Further down, the likes of Corey Conners ($7,700), Keith Mitchell ($7,400), and Chris Kirk ($7,300) all represent cheaper options with great made-cut equity, whose recent form suggests that they could push for top 20 finishes.
Tournaments: Trust Thomas
Justin Thomas ($9,800) comes into this event off a couple of mediocre starts having posted T25 finishes in each of his two tournaments of 2023. His 25th placing at Torrey Pines did come with 18 made birdies, however, and it was one of his better finishes at the event. He now comes to a TPC - stadium environment for the WM Phoenix Open, which has been greatly beneficial for his game. There’s little reason not to take the discount in price on him at $9,800, where he should be under-owned in GPPs thanks to finishing outside the top 20 in two straight starts. Tyrrell Hatton ($8,400) and Russell Henley ($7,400) are a couple of shorter hitters who could come in with lower ownership. Hatton put together a couple of nice starts over on the DP World Tour of late and sets up well for a TPC venue. Henley likely won’t draw a ton of heat but is a terrific mid-to-long iron player who struck it well his last time out in Hawaii. Other names to consider for this format include Davis Thompson ($7,100), Erik van Rooyen ($6,700), and Patton Kizzire ($6,600).
MY PICK: Sungjae Im ($9,200)
Im had a solid week at Torrey Pines in his last start, grabbing a share of 4th place. His approach game was in fine form as he gained 7.0 strokes against the field, ranking him second behind only eventual winner Max Homa in that category. The South Korean likely would have pushed Homa a little more down the stretch if it wasn’t for a few poor drives, which slowed his momentum, but he is displaying sharpness in a lot of different areas right now.
Dating back 12 starts, it’s also hard to argue that Im isn’t undervalued at just $9,200 in price either. He’s now accumulated five finishes of T7 or better in that span (including three runner-ups) and ranks out top 15 in strokes gained approach, putting and off-the-tee stats in long-term form this week. As we saw at Torrey Pines, Im also sets up well for a venue in TPC Scottsdale that will challenge players with lots of longer approaches and comes in ranked second in long-term form in approach proximity from >200 yards.
The pressures of the stadium environment this week really shouldn't be too much for Im either, as his first win on the PGA TOUR came at another high-pressure venue at the Honda Classic (PGA National). With this year now marking his fourth time playing this event — and him also landing a T7 back at TPC Scottsdale in 2019 — Im’s got the kind of experience and recent form profile we typically see from winners at Scottsdale.
He’s a great core play once again for DFS and a great outright target at +3000 and above.
MY SLEEPER: Wyndham Clark ($7,200)
Clark is coming off an up-and-down week at the Farmers, where he finished T37 but still hit the ball very well in spots. The 29-year-old’s biggest issue at Torrey Pines was on the greens, where he lost -3.3 strokes putting, a very uncharacteristic result for him considering he ranked 31st in that stat last season. The improvement in his approach play was still very encouraging as he gained 3.6 strokes on approach alone in three graded rounds at Torrey, which was his best result ever in that stat in a PGA event dating back to 2017.
Clark’s been very consistent of late for DFS purposes making six cuts in a row dating back to the fall, and sets up well for TPC Scottsdale, a venue where players can wield driver on a lot of the holes. Ranked second in driving distance and 16th in strokes gained off the tee stats over the last 50-rounds, if Clark can find a better rhythm with his putter this week on the Bermuda-hybrid greens, there’s every chance we may see a big spike week from him in the fantasy scoring. It’s worth noting as well that in his four previous appearances at this event, Clark’s managed to gain over 2.0 strokes putting in two of those starts.
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