GOLF WITHDRAW ALERT: Webb Simpson has withdrawn from the WM Phoenix Open.
Since there’s only one course in play, and the daylight hours are still shorter than usual. This tournament has a smaller field with just 132 golfers teeing it up this week. Last year saw a much more tame version of the WM Phoenix Open, with only 5,000 fans per day allowed into the venue. This year will likely see much more of the party atmosphere from previous years return, as the fans will likely be allowed in more sizable groups.
This week’s event also sees a much more elite field with 26 of the top 50 players in the official world golf rankings attending. The field will be led by world No. 1 Jon Rahm, and he’ll be joined by past champions like Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama. Both Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay — who were in contention at Pebble Beach last week — will also be in attendance and looking to build on some solid early season form. The cut will return to normal, as there’s no Pro-Am portion attached to this event, and only the top 65 and ties will get to play the weekend.
TPC Scottsdale: Scottsdale, Arizona
Par 71, 7,200-7300 yards
TPC Scottsdale underwent some minor renovations four 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 17- or 18-under par the last three years (Koepka won at 19-under in 2021).
One of the main features that makes 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. The return of the crowds will make this a must-watch down the stretch. 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 a be huge momentum shifter later in the round. Brooks Koepka eagled this hole last year 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 just as regularly (see Webb Simpson in 2020 and 2021 runner-up Kyoung-Hoon Lee as examples).
Ultimately, hitting a ton of greens with good proximity stats here seems to be the most important factor. Four of the last five winners at TPC Scottsdale gained +6.0 or more strokes on their approaches over the field (see winners stats below), so looking for players trending with great mid-to-long iron play seems to be the name of the game this week.
2022 outlook: This can be an event where cold desert weather and some bigger wind gusts can cause havoc, but this year, neither of those concerns are likely to arise. The daily highs are above seasonal norms at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind looks set to stay under 10 mph for the majority of the event. If you want to galaxy brain yourself to death this week, you could think about avoiding Thursday morning players in any tie-breaking scenarios just because the air temperature looks like it will be a couple degrees cooler that morning. The honest truth is that you should just ignore the forecast this week, as it looks like we’ll be getting a full four days of boring Phoenix weather.
LAST 5 WINNERS
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)
2017—Hideki Matsuyama -17 (in playoff over Webb Simpson)
- Ten of the last 11 winners have had a T7 or better in one of their last five starts before their win at the WMO.
- Eight of the last 10 winners have ranked inside the top 50 for Greens in Regulation in the year of their victory at the WMO.
- Each of the past six winners of the WMPO had finished T5 or better at this event in a season prior to their win.
Winners Stats and Course Detail
2021: Brooks Koepka (19-under par)
2020 lead-in form (MC-MC-MC-T7-T5)
SG: Off the Tee—+2.6
SG: Tee to Green—+9.52
· Players will need solid ball-striking, as each of the past four winners ranked inside the top five for the week in at least one non-putting, Strokes Gained stat during the week of their win.
· Approaches seem the most vital, though, as three of the past five winners here have gained +6.0 strokes or more on their approaches. Last year, Koepka ranked second in this stat for the week and also led the field in Greens in Regulation.
· 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 here, as evidenced by Webb Simpson and Chez Reavie (on top of Webb’s 2020 win, both lost in playoffs here in 2016 and 2017, respectively), but will have to be sharp with longer irons. There are several long par 4s on this venue, and the most popular approach ranges are between 150-175 yards and less than 200 yards.
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 comparative 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 ($10,400; best finishes: win-2017, 2016): Matsuyama deserves final boss status at TPC Scottsdale. The superstar has won this event twice and has finished T4 or better in four of the seven instances where he’s started and finished the event (WD-2018). Incredibly, he’s gained +5.6 strokes or more on approach in all but one of his seven career starts at TPC Scottsdale.
2. Rickie Fowler ($7,600; best finishes: win-2019, second- 2010 and 2016): Fowler’s course history at Phoenix is nearly as impressive as Matsuyama’s. After his win in 2019, he’s finished T11 or better in four of the past six seasons, a run which also includes a playoff loss to Matsuyama in 2016. He missed the cut at this event last season but displayed some better play in the fall of 2021.
3. Webb Simpson ($8,600; best finishes: win-2020, second-2017): Simpson has an impressively consistent history at TPC Scottsdale that includes a playoff loss in 2017 and a win in 2020. The 2018 PLAYERS champion has played at TPC Scottsdale in seven of the last eight years and only failed to crack the top 20 on two occasions. Webb has started the season a little slow but expect to see him pick up the pace this week.
4. Bubba Watson ($9,000; best finishes: 2014-second, 2020-third): Bubba has always been a strong contender at TPC Scottsdale and has come agonizingly close to winning the total on multiple occasions. He finished in the top five in both 2019 and 2020, and he hasn’t missed the cut at TPC Scottsdale in four years. He’s a wild card given his lack of play in 2021 but seems unlikely to disappoint this week.
5. Justin Thomas ($11,000; best finishes: 2020-T3, 2019-third): He has played at the WMPO in each of the past five years and finished no worse than T13 in his last four starts at TPC Scottsdale. Thomas ranks fourth in SG: Total stats over the last five years and has been very close to finishing the job at this event multiple times.
1. Tom Hoge ($8,100, Recent finishes: win-MC-second): Hoge is coming off his first ever PGA win and has started the season red hot with a runner-up finish three weeks ago as well. He’s gained over +1.0 on approach in four of his last six starts.
2. Jon Rahm ($11,600, Recent finishes: T3-T14): Rahm played poorly in the final round at the Farmers and still produced a T3 finish. He’s not been sharp (for him) but still comes in with fantastic results on paper and already has two top-5 finishes on the season.
3. Patrick Cantlay ($10,700, Recent finishes: T4-T9): Cantlay couldn’t finish the job at Pebble Beach last week, but he’s produced top-10 finishes in all three of his 2022 starts. He’ll look to go 4-for-4 in that regard in Phoenix.
4. Keith Mitchell ($7,500, Recent finishes: T12-MC-T7): Mitchell has quietly been playing some really solid golf of late and comes in having finished T12 or better in three of his last four PGA Tour starts. His strong off the tee play should help him this week as he’s gained strokes OTT in 13 straight events now.
5. Andrew Putnam ($7,500, Recent finishes: T6-T14): Putnam is another player who has brought the heat early in 2022. The former Barracuda Championship winner has finished inside the top 15 in two straight events and gained over +1.0 strokes putting in three of his last four starts.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Thomas and Scheffler a good pairing
The course history with Justin Thomas ($11,000) was noted above in the horses for courses column. Generally, the only thing we have to fear with Thomas is whether his putter will show up or not so it’s very important to note that Thomas has now gained +2.0 strokes or more putting on the TPC Scottsdale greens in each of the past four years. Scottie Scheffler has also shown a similar affinity for this venue (see below) albeit in a smaller sample size. Down below, there’s several names to be interested in as value targets in the 7k range, but Keith Mitchell ($7,500) stands out as one of the best. He’s shown better consistency on the greens and remains a premier ball striker off the tee, which is a big help on a driver heavy venue like TPC Scottsdale.
Tournaments: Let loose with Louis
It’s hard to gauge the form of a man who has yet to make a start in 2022, but it’s also a good time for someone well rested to come in and perhaps steal a win from the more weary. Louis Oosthuzien ($8,800) is in just such a spot, and he’s a player who has taken to this week’s venue quickly, posting T11 and T3 finishes at TPC Scottsdale in his two career appearances. His ball striking was on the uptick at the end of last year, and we should see a renewed effort for a win from him to start 2022. We may also see lower ownership this week on Abraham Ancer ($7,900) who has started 2022 slow, but looks well underpriced for this event behind the likes of Tom Hoge ($8,100) and Seamus Power ($8,400). Other GPP targets to consider this week include Lucas Herbert ($6,800), Branden Grace ($7,100), Carlos Ortiz ($7,000 - see below) and Kramer Hickok ($6,400).
MY PICK: Scottie Scheffler ($9,100)
This event has produced several wins by big time players who were in the early stages of building their career resume. Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama and Gary Woodland have all recently used a win at Phoenix as a launching pad for more success, and this week I do think Scottie Scheffler can achieve a similar result. The American is coming off a strong start at the Farmers two weeks ago when he posted a T20 but also gained +5.7 strokes on approach—the most he’s gained in that metric on the PGA Tour since the 2019 Greenbrier.
Scheffler’s been close numerous times to grabbing a win on the PGA Tour in the last few seasons and many of the venues he’s found success at have come in this area of the USA. Two runner-up finishes in Texas (Houston and the Austin Match Play) have also been accompanied by a T3 finish at the Amex in 2020 (Palm Springs) and a T7 at TPC Scottsdale last season. He gained an impressive +5.1 strokes putting on these greens last year and clearly is trending in the right direction from a ball striking perspective, having now gained +1.5 strokes or more on approach in four of his last five starts. Scheffler’s breakthrough win is coming, and I'm all for betting that it happens this week in both DFS and on the DraftKings Sportsbook (+2200).
MY SLEEPER: Carlos Ortiz ($7,000)
I think there’s a good chance we see Carlos Ortiz come alive again at TPC Scottsdale this year. The Mexican has failed to impress in two starts thus far in 2022, but he’s proven he can get hot quickly when he’s on the right venue. The southwest portion of the USA has been kind to Ortiz. He picked up his first PGA win in Houston in 2020 and has produced four made cuts at TPC Scottsdale in five career appearances (including a T4 from last year).
Ortiz’s course history is the main attraction for DFS this week, as he’s typically struck the ball well around this venue, gaining strokes both OTT and on approach in each of the last three seasons at this event. The greens this week will share a similar nature to the ones he won on in Houston two years ago (Bermuda with overseeded poa), and he’s produced two of the best putting performances of his career at these two venues (Scottsdale and Houston). Look for low ownership in GPPs on Ortiz where many will likely stay away due to a couple poor recent outings.
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