This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
Course: TPC Scottsdale (7,266 yards, par 71)
Winner: $1,314,000 and 500 FedExCup points
No tournament will be impacted more by the lack of fans than the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The atmosphere around the par-3 16th hole in non-COVID-19 years is unlike anything in the sport. This is the most attended tournament year in and year out, but in 2021 it will be limited to just 5,000 spectators per day. Despite the lack of fans, there will still be an incredible field set to do battle at TPC Scottsdale. Rory McIlroy will be making his tournament debut alongside fellow top-10 players Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and defending champion Webb Simpson. Other notables include Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, and Jordan Spieth who are all looking to get on track after a slow start to the season. A theme in recent years at the Waste Management Phoenix Open has been playoffs. In fact four of the last five years it has taken extra holes to decide the champion, which has cut into the first quarter of those trying to also watch the Super Bowl. If things stay consistent, Tyreek Hill might have 200 yards receiving again by the time us golf nerds make the switch to CBS for the big game. The scores in Scottsdale should be fairly good, as the weather is looking perfect and we should see the return of "dome golf." Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia's record score of 28-under-par is probably safe, however, as Mickelson is the only winner to break 20-under-par in the last 13 years.
2020 – Webb Simpson
2019 – Rickie Fowler
2018 – Gary Woodland
2017 – Hideki Matsuyama
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama
2015 – Brooks Koepka
2014 – Kevin Stadler
2013 – Phil Mickelson
2012 – Kyle Stanley
2011 – Mark Wilson
2010 – Hunter Mahan
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Tee-to-Green
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
Ball-striking typically tells the story at TPC Scottsdale. Just look at some of the recent champions. Being a desert course, trouble lurks not far away from the edge of the fairway. With the area getting more precipitation than normal this winter, that may cause the rough to potentially be more penal this year. That will only enhance the importance of driving it well off the tee. From there the challenge moves to approaching the greens. The putting surfaces in general are fairly large this week, but will play much smaller because of the multi-tiered greens. There are several hole locations that take a really fantastic shot to get close to, but perhaps none more intimidating than the back pin placement at the drivable par-4 17th hole. Historically, fortune favors the bold in this event. The players that teed it up last week at Torrey Pines will be overjoyed to get to move from bumpy poa annua greens to smooth bermuda greens this week. If you're feeling it with the putter, you can really roll in a lot of putts here. The last thing to consider has to be scrambling. Many of the greens are elevated, meaning we will see a lot of chips from the fairway cut up onto the putting surfaces. There will be a lot less chopping it out from thick rough around the greens, meaning the players who are strong in the short game department can separate themselves from some of the weaker players around the greens.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($12,000)
Rahm really put himself on the national radar in this event back in 2015, when he finished T5 while he was still attending Arizona State. In five career starts at TPC Scottsdale, he has not finished worse than a T16. The World No. 2 has such a high floor, as he has finished top-7 in each of his last four starts and top-25 in each of his last 10 starts. In my opinion, Rahm is the easy favorite this week.
Webb Simpson ($11,300)
Simpson was finally able to breakthrough at TPC Scottsdale last year. That made it seven top-20's in his last eight tries in the WMPO. The Wake Forest product is rested off a T4 at the Sony Open, which is one of six top-20's in seven starts this season. Simpson drives is straight, hits a lot of greens, and is 16th in SG: Putting and fifth in scrambling. There's so much to like here.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,000)
If you do "One-and-Done" leagues, I think you could put Hideki Matsuyama in ink for this event every single year. Outside of his 2018 appearance, in which he had to withdraw with a wrist injury, Matsuyama hasn't finished worse than a T16 in six starts. That includes two wins and a runner-up as well. We know Matsuyama's ball-striking is as good as anyone when he's on and while he usually struggles on the greens, these TPC Scottsdale surfaces are one's he excels at.
Ryan Palmer ($10,100)
Palmer continues to play arguably the best golf of his career at age 44. He is coming off a T2 at Torrey Pines, which is his third top-four finish in his last four starts. Palmer ranks inside the top-40 in both SG: Putting and SG: Tee-to-Green this season. He is also 22nd in GIR percentage and third in birdie average. Palmer has posted three career-top five finishes at the WMPO.
Longer Shots with Value
Max Homa ($9,600)
Homa got off to a brutal start to the season, but he turned things around recently, going T12-T21-T18 in his last three starts. The California native scored a T6 last year at TPC Scottsdale as well. Homa ranked eighth in SG: Approach and 14th in SG: Tee-to-Green last week at Torrey Pines, two stats that will be important for setting up scoring opportunities at this course.
Byeong Hun An ($9,400)
This is plain and simply An's best course on Tour. He has finished T6-T23-T20-T9 in four career starts at the WMPO, and is a couple poor final rounds away from contending for a win. An's putting has been abysmal this season, but he is 14th in SG: Around and 26th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He turned in a T8 a couple weeks ago at The American Express.
Chris Kirk ($8,900)
Kirk has quietly been striking the ball very well this season. He ranks inside the top 40 on Tour in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, GIR percentage, and proximity to the hole. Kirk is also top-60 in SG: Around-the-green and putts per GIR. The 35-year-old has only missed one cut this season and went T2-T16 over his last two appearances. Kirk has only missed the cut once in nine starts at the WMPO.
Martin Laird ($8,400)
Laird is a Scottsdale resident and has been able to take advantage of his course knowledge when teeing it up in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in his career. Over his last 10 starts in the event, the Scot has missed only one cut with four top-10's and six top-30's. Laird is gaining strokes in every category this season and ranks top-10 on Tour in driving accuracy and GIR percentage.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
For whatever reason, course history seems to play a big impact at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. As I've mentioned, TPC Scottsdale is suited towards the ball-strikers and that's a big part of the reason why those players have had repeated success in the desert. The other reason is because many of the players who do well here have embraced the chaos that comes along with this event. It will look a little different in 2021 obviously, but I'm still sticking with course history and strong ball-striking as the two biggest factors for constructing my lineups this week. Some other sleepers I'd watch this week are Chez Reavie ($8,300), Doc Redman ($8,200), and Harold Varner III ($7,900).