This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WM PHOENIX OPEN
Winner's Share: $3.6M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Course: TPC Scottsdale (Stadium Course)
2022 champion: Scottie Scheffler
It's not as if the WM Phoenix Open needed any more electricity, any more juice. Already the most rip-roaring week in golf, the tournament will be ratcheded up another level or 50 as it becomes the first full-field designated event in PGA Tour history. Every eligible golfer in the top-25 in the world rankings but one will descend upon TPC Scottsdale to vie for the title on Super Sunday. As if that's not enough, there's another layer of mania added to this year's atmosphere with Super Bowl LVII being played just across town in Glendale.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 and defending champion Scottie Scheffler and No. 3 Jon Rahm headline a field of 134 that is missing only eighth-ranked Will Zalatoris, who was a late WD with no reason cited, among the top-25. Of course, Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann have went to LIV and ineligible to play. So there are 22 of the top 25 and 37 of the top 50. Five of those absent 13 are LIV golfers.
In this new PGA Tour scheduling landscape, 13 tournaments were deemed annual designated tournaments with humongous purses and mandatory attendance of the top players, with four more events picked each year on a rotating basis. The first of those four is this week (along with the RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo and Travelers). That doesn't mean one of the four could not be tabbed again next year, and you would think Phoenix would have the best chance to repeat. But that's a guessing game for another day.
Every player in the the top-20 in the Tour's burgeoning Player Impact Program (PIP), which uses a series of social media metrics to determine the most popular players, gets millions of dollars in return for their attendance. They must play in all 17 designated events but one -- and they can pick which one to skip. So the designated events all will be super-loaded. Phoenix has been loaded for years, just not this loaded.
The rest of the top-10ers in the field are Patrick Cantlay, who lost in a playoff to Scheffler a year ago, plus Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick. Other bold-face names include Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim and two-time WM champion Hideki Matsuyama. And there are two other needle-movers well outside the top-50 in the world rankings but inside the top-20 in the PIP in Rickie Fowler (16th in PIP) and Jason Day (18th). The only PIPer other than Zalatoris not entered is Adam Scott, who is now mandated to play in all the remaining designated tournaments for which he qualifies.
Of course, the epicenter of TPC Scottsdale is the raucous-beyond-words par-3 16th hole with some 15,000 fans ringing the amphitheater-like setting while fully lathered from dawn to dusk. In all, hundreds of thousands of fans are on hand at the Stadium Course across the weeklong event, and some say that makes it the world's largest sporting event outside of the Olympics and World Cup.
The WM Phoenix Open -- by the way, that's the official shortened name as of last year -- began as the Arizona Open back in 1932, making it the fifth-oldest event on Tour. As you'll recall, three-time major champion Ralph Guldahl won that inaugural tournament, kick-starting a Hall of Fame list of champions: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Bobby Locke, Jimmy Demaret, Billy Casper, Ken Venturi, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Phil Mickelson, among others. For one year, 1950, the tournament was even known as the Ben Hogan Open (it was won by Demaret).
The tournament has been at it present location at the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale for 36 years. The Tom Weiskopf design is such a fun track. The aforementioned par-3 16th is part of a four-hole finish that lends itself to big swings atop the leaderboard. The 15th is a 553-yard reachable par-5, the 17th is a 332-yard risk/reward drivable/water-filled par-4 and No. 18 is a 442-yarder with more water and the famed church pew bunkers. In all, there is water on six holes.
Just last year, there were 10 eagles on No. 15 and six on No. 17, but there were also five double bogeys or worse on 17 -- risk/reward indeed -- and a whopping 10 doubles or worse on No. 18. There also were two eagles on 16 -- aka hole-in-ones, by Sam Ryder on Saturday and Carlos Ortiz on Sunday. Even more notable on 16 on Sunday was when Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen stripped up from the waste up and ran around the the green waving their shirts, somehow raising the decibel level that already was at Defcon 1. (Deafcon?)
TPC Scottsdale plays shorter than the official distance of 7,261, thanks to some 1,500 feet of altitude in the Phoenix area, and has only three par-5s, none of which reaches 560 yards. It really is a ball striker's track, and some pretty bad putters have won there through the years. The primarily poa greens are firm and large, a little more than 7,000 square feet. If you want to officially know the grass type of the greens, it is "Poa trivialis / perennial rye overseed .100'," according to the officially-official golf course superintendents' sheet.
As for lineup construction, yes, there are so many heavyweights to choose from, and it's not easy to decide. Why not pick two? Or possibly three? With a field of only 134, and 65 and ties making the cut, more than half the field should reach the weekend. That includes quite a few golfers in the $6000s, which lends itself to taking some risks on lower-priced guys -- and conversely being able to stack multiple high-priced guys.
As for the weather, a pretty great forecast. Highs in the 70s the first three days, in the upper-60s on Sunday, with no chance of rain. The wind should be a manageable 10ish mph all week.
We'd be remiss to not mention that this will be the first Phoenix Open since Weiskopf passed away last August at age 79. Besides being a 16-time PGA Tour winner, 1973 British Open winner, four-time Masters runner-up and 1995 Senior Open champ, Weiskopf was the TPC Scottsdale course architect in 1986 with his renovation coming in 2014. Weiskopf's legacy intersects all across golf, but his most enduring impact likely will be on display every year in the second week in February at The Greatest Show on Grass.
WMPO Factoid I: It was at this tournament four years ago that Johnny Miller signed off for the last time. He left after the third round, so as not to overshadow the end of the tournament, and was replaced on NBC by Paul Azinger.
WMPO Factoid II: One of the greatest weeks by a golfer in PGA tour history took place here in 2001. In the strongest Phoenix field ever before this year, Marc Calvacecchia's won by *eight* shots. Third place was 12 shots back and Calc bested Tiger Woods by a whopping 15 strokes. He shot a course-record-tying 60 in the second round and set a then-PGA Tour record with 28 birdies across 72 holes.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Scottsdale
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Ball Striking/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Par-5 Scoring/Par-5 Birdie or Better
2022 - Scottie Scheffler
2021 - Brooks Koepka
2020 - Webb Simpson
2019 - Rickie Fowler
2018 - Gary Woodland
2017 - Hideki Matsuyama
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama
2015 - Brooks Koepka
2014 - Kevin Stadler
2013 - Phil Mickelson
Look at the past eight winners -- all top golfers, no long shots winning here. And that should continue this week. The winning score has been remarkably consistent through the years, between 16- and 19-under in the past six editions. There also have been playoffs in five of the past six years, with Scheffler defeating Cantlay last year to kick-start his surge to No. 1 in the world with four wins in six starts. Three years ago, Simpson nipped snake-bit Tony Finau. Imagine Finau finishing fifth in putting and not winning? That's what happened. Bad putters very often putt well here, or well enough. Woodland has won. Matsuyama has won twice. Stadler has won. Last year turned into a putting contest, with the top seven on the leaderboard all finishing in the top eight in SG: Putting. Schauffele was the exception, ending in a three-way tie for third despite ranking 54th in Putting. But he led the field in greens in regulation and SG: Tee-to-Green. Normally, that's the path to victory . In prior years, Simpson and Finau were both top-10 in GIR, Woodland was fourth, Matsuyama was ranked first and second in his back-to-back wins and Koepka was fourth in 2015. The over/under on the winning score per golfodds.com was set at 266.6, which is 17.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $10,800 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +850)
McIlroy, or Rahm at $11,000? They're the best players in the world right now, racking up win after win. It's like deciding between steak and lobster. Of course, you can order surf and turf, but we're not. Picking both doesn't help you set your lineup. McIlroy gets the slightest of edges. Rahm plays here every year. He's been remarkably consistent but for some reason hasn't finished higher than ninth the past six years. That's more than a small sample size. McIlroy has played Phoenix only once, in 2021, when he tied for 13th. He's actually playing far better than in 2021, and Scottsdale is not a course where you need a lot of reps to learn the nuances.
Xander Schauffele - $10,000 (+1400)
Last year, Schauffele put on a ball-striking display at TPC Scottsdale. He just putted really poorly. That's a real aberration for one of the better putters on Tour. If he could've putted just a little bit, he'd have won, not Scheffler. Schauffele wound up tied for third. He also was runner-up two years ago, and actually blew the lead then, when he found the water on 17.
Max Homa - $9,900 (+2200)
Homa has now won six times in his career after capturing the Farmers two weeks ago. The thing about Homa is, he's been feast or famine, with all those wins yet only five top-10s last year and five the year before. That's far too few for an elite player. Well, Homa already has two top-3s in 2023, and appears ready to consistently compile top-10s. He was 14th here last year and sixth in 2020.
Collin Morikawa - $9,700 (+1800)
Morikawa has come pretty darn close to winning twice already in 2023, with podium finishes at the Tournament of Champions and Farmers. Some better putting would've made a difference. At Scottsdale, great ball strikers don't need to putt great, just enough to get by. No way of knowing whether Morikawa will do that, but if he does he'll win.
Tier 2 Values
Hideki Matsuyama - $9,400 (+3500)
Matsuyama has never missed a cut in nine starts at Phoenix (eight cashes and one WD). It has proven to be one of his most successful venues, with two victories, a runner-up, a fourth and, last year, an eighth. As mentioned multiple times already, TPC Scottsdale allows great tee-to-green players to excel without placing too much of a demand on putting. Matsuyama dealt with injuries much of last year but is coming off an encouraging tie for ninth at the Farmers two weeks ago.
Viktor Hovland - $9,300 (+3000)
Hovland has played this tournament twice and missed the cut both times, including last year -- by three strokes. Which makes no sense. This course, with an emphasis on ball striking and deemphasis on scrambling, should be a green light special for Hovland. So here's a vote for one of the top iron players in the game to end a curious streak and reach the weekend, and more.
Tom Kim - $9,000 (+2800)
Kim ranks top-6 on Tour in driving accuracy, greens in regulation, Strokes Gained: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green. And that's including tracks far longer than TPC Scottsdale. Kim has not played this course before, but that's not a big concern. He already has two top-6 finishes in 2023, at the Tournament of Champions and the Amex.
Rickie Fowler - $8,000 (+6000)
The lower $8000s looks like a bit of dead zone this week -- no one really jumps out as a must-play. Fowler costs the least, and he also has had the most success at Phoenix, albeit not recently. Fowler has made both his cuts so far in 2023, including a very impressive T11 at Torrey Pines. His ball striking has been quite good since getting back together with Butch Harman -- he's tied for sixth on Tour this season -- and at the Farmers even his putter showed signs of life.
Tier 3 Values
Keegan Bradley - $7,700 (+7000)
Bradley is ranked in the top third on Tour in every strokes gained category except Around-the-Green. And that includes Putting. He's coming off a runner-up at the Farmers two weeks ago. Bradley plays here every year and has made eight of the past 10 cuts with four top-25s. He just missed another last year (T26).
Tom Hoge - $7,500 (+10000)
Hoge cost $10,000 last week at Pebble Beach. That was about right. $7,500 this week may be too little. He's become one of the better ball strikers on Tour the past few years. Hoge has finished top-25 at Phoenix two of the past three years, including T14 last year.
J.T. Poston - $7,300 (+13000)
Poston combines good course history, good recent form and good stats heading into this week's tournament. Most surprising is that he's ranked 13th on Tour this season in GIR and 16th in ball striking. It's his normally excellent putting that has not been up to his usual standards. Still, he's riding four straight top-25s, two of them in 2023, including a tie for sixth at the Amex. Post has played the WM four times and made every cut, with top-25s the past two years.
Chris Kirk - $7,300 (+10000)
Kirk has played well in this tournament through the years, including a tie for 14th last year. And he arrives with a pair of third-place finishes already in 2023. Kirk is simply a well-rounded player, ranking top-50 in SG: Approach, Around-the-Green, Putting and Tee-to-Green.
Scott Stallings - $6,900 (+18000)
A year ago this week, Stallings was ranked outside the top 200 in the world. Now he's nearing the top 50, sitting at 57th. At age 37, he may be amid the most-consistent long stretch of his career. Stallings has made 12 of his past 14 cuts, with two top-25s in three starts this year. He also was 21st here last year. Stallings is ranked 69th on Tour in greens in regulation and 93rd in ball striking -- both in the top half on Tour.
Luke List - $6,900 (+30000)
List is ranked 43rd on Tour in ball striking. So at this price, what's not to like? Well, he's also outside the top-200 in SG: Putting. But he's coming off a good week (T25) in defense of 2022 title at the Farmers. And he's made three straight cuts at Phoenix. There isn't much similarity between Torrey Pines and TPC Scottsdale other than you can have a good week with good iron play and without the finest putting.
Sam Ryder - $6,700 (+30000)
Ryder got more TV time than he'd ever gotten before two weeks ago at the Farmers. In the end, he couldn't secure his first PGA Tour title and wound up tied for fourth. That doesn't have a lot to do with why he's listed here. It's because he plays Phoenix every year and makes the cut every year -- four in a row now, with a top-25 last year. Ryder seems very comfortable on this course, no more so than last year on Saturday when he electrified the fans at No. 16 with a hole-in-one.
Kevin Tway - $6,300 (+60000)
When you come down this far and look at each guy individually, it's hard to envision him making the cut. But as mentioned above, half the field will reach the weekend. Tway has done that three times in the past five years at Phoenix, including last year. He missed the cut at Pebble Beach last week but had made three in a row before that, with a top-20 at the Farmers.
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