This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
WM Phoenix Open
Course: TPC Scottsdale (7,261 yards, par 71)
Winner: $3,600,000 and 500 FedExCup points
In the post Tiger-era, I can't remember a non-major that has more buzz around it than the 2023 WM Phoenix Open. Even if we had a field like last week at Pebble Beach the crowds would still show out in full force to make this event unlike any other on the PGA Tour. Now you add in the fact that this is now a designated event with a $20 million purse, 23 of the Top 25 players in the OWGR will tee it up, and the Super Bowl is happening across town on the same weekend, you can see why everyone is fired up for this event. This is easily the most attended golf event of the year, and with all the extra hype surrounding this edition of the WM Phoenix Open, it should not be surprising to see the total attendance for the week reach nearly 800,000, with upwards of 250,000 of those coming on Saturday.
This will the first full-field designated event of 2023, which all top players are required to participate in to be eligible for the end of the year Player Impact Program bonus, with the exception of one skip. There are in total 13 designated events in 2023 with the first coming at the Sentry Tournament of Champions a month ago. While it's unclear what the designated events will look like long-term, in 2023 the field size will be kept relatively unchanged. 136 golfers will compete this week in Scottsdale, up from the usual 132. With just one course in the mix this week, the PGA Tour will have to squeeze out every bit of daylight to make sure the 36-hole cut is completed by Friday night.
TPC Scottsdale has been the host of the Phoenix Open every year since 1987. The highlight is of course the stadium atmosphere around the short par-3 16th hole, but it's honestly one of the most exciting finishing stretches we see on the PGA Tour. There's a couple of reachable par-5's at 13 and 15 along with the drivable par-4 17th that always put on a great show for both the folks in attendance and those watching at home. Not to mention we have also seen playoffs in five of the last seven WM Phoenix Open's, ironic of course considering the Super Bowl is usually is scheduled to start shortly after the conclusion of 72 holes. With a 4:30 local kickoff set in Glendale, it'll be interesting to see what the PGA Tour decides to do with the tee times come Sunday. This will be the fourth time the WM Phoenix Open and the Super Bowl have been held in the same city. The last came in 2015 when Brooks Koepka picked up his first PGA Tour win and the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks.
After an absurd weather week at Pebble Beach, thankfully there will be no worries for this elite field in Scottsdale. Temperatures will reach nearly 80 degrees on Saturday before the final round takes place and it cools down to around a high of 65. Winds will net out around 10 miles per hour for each of the four rounds, which will make for some great scoring conditions, especially considering the rainy winter this area has had. This is often a place where players think they can take it really low, but other than Phil Mickelson's 2013 tournament when he tied Mark Calcavecchia's 72-hole scoring record (2001) at 28-under-par, nobody has reached 20-under at the conclusion of 72 holes in the last 14 years at the WM Phoenix Open.
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)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Tee-to-Green
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Approach
TPC Scottsdale is a ball striker's paradise. Every year the leaderboard come Sunday is just littered with players who can put on a clinic from Tee-to-Green. Driving has become much more of a factor since they started really growing the rough up a couple years ago. Add into that how recent changes to bunkering have really erased a lot of the bailouts, and it's easy to see why elite drivers can make up ground. The same goes for the second shots. While these greens are pretty spacious, it's all about being able to put the ball in the correct spot. Some of these greens have massive shelves and good iron play can be the key between giving yourself a strong chance for birdie and working hard to two-putt for par. The Bermudagrass putting surfaces are some of the trickiest to read on Tour, so I'll likely lean towards players who have some experience at TPC Scottsdale. Experience in this event could also prove beneficial considering the unique atmosphere.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($12,100)
Rahm is the guy this week, there's just no way to get around that. He leads the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee and GIR percentage and is second in SG: Tee-to-Green. The Arizona State product is extremely familiar with this area and climate, part of the reason why he has not finished worse than a T16 in seven career starts at this event, including as an amateur in 2015. Rahm hasn't finished outside the top eight in his last eight starts, a stretch which includes four wins worldwide.
Collin Morikawa ($11,500)
It takes a ball-striking machine to win at TPC Scottsdale and Morikawa certainly falls into the category. The two-time major champion ranks top-11 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, GIR percentage and driving accuracy this season. Morikawa was extremely close to winning in both his starts in 2023, fading to second at Kapalua before settling for third at Torrey Pines. This might very well be the week he breaks back into the winner's circle.
Tony Finau ($11,400)
People are going to be scared off of Finau for one reason only -- he missed five of his last six cuts at this event. The one time he did make the cut, however, Finau finished in solo second. This guy has a ton of experience playing this type of golf and his numbers this season are too good to ignore. Finau is top-15 in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Putting and GIR percentage. He is now a proven winner and given how well he is hitting it, it would be shocking to not see Finau contend this week.
Tom Kim ($10,700)
We saw all the emotion and passion at the Presidents Cup last fall. The 20-year-old is absolutely built for this event. Kim is already a proven winner and finished top-30 nine times in his last 12 starts worldwide dating back to the U.S. Open. Kim ranks fourth in SG: Approach, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green, third in driving accuracy, fourth in GIR percentage and 19th in scrambling on the PGA Tour this season.
Longer Shots with Value
Corey Conners ($9,500)
It's usually hard to go wrong with Conners anywhere, but especially at a course like this where ball striking can make so much of a difference. Go back the last five years and you won't have to scroll down far to find Conners name at the end of the season in the following categories: SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, driving accuracy and GIR percentage. The Canadian has top-25 finishes in four of his five starts on the PGA Tour this season and has never missed a cut in three tries at Scottsdale.
K.H. Lee ($9,300)
Lee has struck the ball extremely well this season. He currently ranks top-25 on Tour in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, total driving, GIR percentage and proximity to the hole. On top of that he is also 13th in birdie average. Lee has a pair of top-7 finishes this season and has to feel great heading to TPC Scottsdale where he finished runner-up in 2021.
Keith Mitchell ($9,200)
Mitchell is coming off a strong T4 showing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in which he barely missed an overwhelming number of putts. That was his second top-10 of the season and he has a good chance to add a third this week on a course he has finished top-20 two of the last three years. Mitchell has been one of the best drivers on Tour for the last couple years and this season he leads in total driving and is fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee.
Adam Hadwin ($8,600)
Hadwin is one of the safest plays you can find to round out your squad. He has made the cut in all seven starts this season, which includes three top-20 finishes. The Canadian's record at TPC Scottsdale is also of note, making the cut in his last seven starts here, including three top-26 finishes. Hadwin ranks 19th this season in SG: Approach and has long been one of the most consistent putters on the PGA Tour.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
This is one of the deepest fields in a non-major, non-Players, non-WGC, that we have ever seen. Because of that, ownership should be a lot more balanced than we've seen in recent weeks with some top heavy fields at the AmEx and Torrey Pines. I hope I've hammered it in enough at this point, but ball striking is going to tell the story this week. Since 2010, winners at TPC Scottsdale have gained 65 percent of their strokes vs the field via ball striking, which is the highest rate of any regularly-played course in that span. Load up those lineups with players who fit that bill. Hayden Buckley ($8,200), Martin Laird ($8,000) and Taylor Moore ($8,000) are a few bargain options that I could see providing big returns.
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