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Fantasy Golf Picks — 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks, Predictions, Rankings and Sleepers

Pat Mayo breaks down the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open, making his picks and rankings for the event while previewing the course and key stats.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Waste Management Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from TPC Scottsdale.

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2021 Waste Management Open: Field

Field: 132 Players
Cut: Top 65 & Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: Thursday, February 4
Defending Champion: Webb Simpson

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Welcome back fans, and welcome back golf’s elite. Almost every top-ranked player in the world is going to be in action. It’s just not all in the same place.

While Dustin Johnson, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Shane Lowry, Abe Ancer, Justin Rose, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak and last week’s EURO champ Paul Casey are all teeing it up in Saudi Arabia, the 2021 Waste Management Open is headlined by Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im, Daniel Berger, Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English and Rory McIlroy, who is playing this event for the first time in his career.

That’s an impressive first tier of talent in Phoenix, but the next wave is just as loaded. Si WOOOO Kim, Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Wolff, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Ryan Palmer, Louis Oosthuizen, Gary Woodland, Will Zalatoris, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Sebastian Munoz and Matt Kuchar will all be in attendance at TPC Scottsdale. Korn Ferry superstar Davis Riley will be in the field of 132, as will 2019 US Amateur runner-up John Augenstein. Andy Ogletree won that year.

Wolff, Charley Hoffman and Camilo Villegas are all currently listed in the field despite withdrawing a week ago at Torrey Pines. It marked the second consecutive event where Hoffman’s back forced him to quit the event.

As eluded to, the 2021 Waste Management Open is going to have fans. Just not in the same way we’re used to in Phoenix. While the weekend rounds can normally see 200,000 rowdies, including myself at my bachelor party, it appears like event organizers have capped attendance at 5,000 per day. Will they all just jam up the stadium seating on No. 16? How will per vendors work on that hole? I have no answers to these questions.

I’m curious to see the impact a lack of wall-to-wall patrons has on the event. There’s no way to quantify it on a golfer-by-golfer basis, so it can’t really impact analysis on the tournament, but certain players likely thrive off the crowd while others wilt under the pressure, especially at No. 16. Either way, it’s going to be fun to have roars back from the gallery, even if they come in at a lower decibel level.

2021 Waste Management Open: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards
Par 5s Gained
Opportunities Gained

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2021 Waste Management Open: Course

Course: TPC Scottsdale
Yardage: 7,261
Par: 71
Greens: Bermuda

2021 Waste Management Open: Past 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 -28
2012: Kyle Stanley -15

2021 Waste Management Open: Notes

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.

Watson has six Top 10 finishes at TPC Scottsdale in 14 starts. He’s never won this event. For first-round DraftKings purposes, Bubba has been under par in all 14 of his opening rounds at the course and is -49 over those 14 rounds.

Matsuyama has played 24 of 25 career rounds under par.

Rahm, an ASU product, has never finished worse than T16 in five 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. Last year’s 54-hole leader, Finau, lost to Simpson in a playoff. Plus, there has been a notable history of large comebacks at TPC Scottsdale in the recent past. Stanley, Woodland, Matsuyama and Koepka have all staged large Sunday rallies in the past decade en route to a win.

Johnny Miller 1974/75 and Matsuyama 2016/17 are the only back-to-back winners in Phoenix. Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Gene Littler and Mark Calcavecchia are the only three-time winners of this event. Matsuyama and JB Holmes have a chance to join that group this year.

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 from that distance, three of which are the most difficult on the course.

The average drive up has rested around 300 yards in the past few years with over 50% of all drives going over 300 yards. That’s the second-highest mark on TOUR in both categories. Only Club de Golf Chapultepec, at elevation, in Mexico City ranks higher.

Despite playing about 400 yards shorter than the South Course at Torrey Pines, expect most of the field to attack with driver off the tee. That generally allows a slight edge to bombers, so, if you’re going to target short to average hitters, make sure they consistently gain strokes off the tee, but more through approach.

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, 88 balls got lost to the bottom of the lake during the tournament.

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 over 1% of the time, there’s little incentive to lay up.

This event has gone to a playoff in four of the past five years and was settled by one stroke twice before Rickie’s runaway two-stroke victory two years ago. Overall, outside of Phil’s four-stroke win in 2013, the Waste Management Open has gone to a playoff seven times in the past 13 years.

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 TOUR average while hitting fairways is slightly below most courses (58 percent to 61 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.

Of the players in the field, Fowler, Matsuyama, Webb, Kuchar and Rahm have gained the most total strokes at TPC Scottsdale over the past five years.

Si WOO Kim has lost the most total strokes over the past five years (-30.2 SG:TOTAL). That’s almost 14 more strokes lost than the next closest player over that’s span — CT Pan -16.29.

The cut has been between even and +2 in the past seven years.

Since swapping weeks on the schedule five years ago, 19 of the 29 players who’ve finished inside the top five in Scottsdale played the week before at Torrey Pines.

2021 Waste Management Open Picks

Xander Schauffele

The X-Man’s never finished outside the Top 20 in his three starts in Phoenix and enters on the verge of a breakthrough. He’s piled up five top 5 finishes in his past seven starts, with top 25 finishes in 14 straight events. Now that he found the weekend at Torrey Pines, Schauffele’s now gone a full calendar year without missing a cut. Now, he hasn’t won an event since the first week of 2019 and only has one victory at a tournament with a cut line in his career (2017 Greenbrier), but when you’re paying the DraftKings pricing, it tough to find a safer option in a very volatile sport.

Waste Management One and Done Picks

Corey Conners

After finally making his 2021 debut, and squeezing through to the weekend at Torrey Pines, Conners now gets a course that won’t completely penalize his lack of short game. Over his past 24 rounds, the Canadian sits Top 10 in ball striking, opportunities gained and Par 4s gained, per usual, it will all come down to his putter. And frankly, he hasn’t been an abject disaster on the greens in a while. The last time he lost more than one stroke in a tournament was at the 2020 BMW Championship. That week he went full Conners (-7.8 SG: PUTT).

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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 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at and the best will be addressed on the show.

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 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.

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