The Daily Spin – Waste Management Phoenix Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 22, 2015 01:37

The epicenter of the sports world will be in Phoenix this weekend as the wildly popular Phoenix Open hits town just as Super Bowl week prepares to hit a crescendo before kicking off down the road on Sunday. Golf fans should be excited as several big name players prepare to re-enter the field this week. The names that tend to hold the strongest cache for fans and media members will put their talents on display. Tiger Woods, chipped tooth and all, will mark his return to the tour after struggling through various injuries throughout the 2014 Tour season. Woods struggled in the handful of events that he started last season and as he approaches age 40, pundits and the general public are split as to whether Tiger’s best days are forever behind him.

Other big names set to make a return this week are young, wunderkind, Jordan Spieth, who in his most recent outing dominated the field at the Hero World Challenge, winning by an incredible 10 strokes. Bubba Watson is back as well after taking a couple of weeks off as he finalized the adoption of a second child. Rickie Fowler makes his debut after a couple of weeks over on the European tour and of course, fan favorite and Arizona State alum, Phil Mickelson will enjoy a raucous, home course advantage as thousands of fans will cheer their beloved fellow Sun Devil on in an event that tends to bring the best out of homegrown talent.

The tournament takes place at The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. which underwent renovations since last year’s tournament with the aim of making the course a bit more challenging. The course plays as a par-71, measuring at 7266 yards so not nearly as compact as what the players dealt with last week. This course plays well to the big hitters on the tour and those players will make for excellent plays in a tournament where the winning score tend to be only slightly less ridiculous than those posted at the Humana last weekend. The 16th hole is considered to be the most exciting hole in golf with over 20,000 screaming fans cheering players on. Watch closely this year as the PGA is attempting to crack down a bit on players throwing items into the crowd. Anyone want to bet on who will be the first player to be penalized?

HATE

As we tend to enjoy being a little negative over here at the Daily Spin, I am going to kick this week off with my fade of the week, the still overvalued, Tiger Woods. The man once thought to be on a career path to crush Jack Nicklaus’s record for major tournament wins, Tiger’s body has begun to show its age in recent year, particularly back issues that curtailed an already shortened 2014 season. When Tiger reemerged in December at the Hero World Challenge, he showed considerable rust in tying for last place and looking especially awful around the greens. Tiger also does not play in this particular event all that often, having last played here in 2001, where he tied for 5th place. We’re not entirely sure about how Tiger will perform throughout the season. However, at this point, we see little reason for optimism until proven otherwise. For the money, there are many better values on the board this week. You should not expect to get a great price on him at the sportsbook and certainly will not get any value from Daily sites this week either. With Draft Kings running a $125,000 guaranteed tournament this weekend, the pricing structure is soft in an effort to get more action from the novices out there so there are just way too many good values priced well below Tiger to waste precious dollars and roster space on him this week. Watch him carefully this week as a solid effort could quickly lead us to change our opinion very quickly as the tour heads to Torrey Pines next week where Tiger has been dominant.

I’m also going to go out on a limb this week and will be fading Bubba Watson. I know, dear reader, you just cringed a little bit, didn’t you? Now before you light me up on Twitter after he runs through the field, let me just say that this fade is based entirely on price alone and nothing more. Bubba has been in the Top 10 here in two of the last three years and three straight Top 20 finishes. He hits the ball a mile and the course suits his game well. That said, if you roster Bubba this week, you are going to have to hit on multiple sleepers in order to field a competitive lineup. Think back to just one week ago when Patrick Reed sat atop the field in price. While Reed played reasonably well, he would have needed a Top 3 finish to even come close to justifying his high price. Also, remember those soft prices that we talked about just a paragraph ago? Take advantage of the many top players available at bargain prices this week. These prices will adjust upward in the coming weeks so enjoy the value while it lasts.

Ryan Moore is my final fade of the week. After a disappointing first two rounds last week at the Humana Challenge, Moore withdrew from the tournament before the 3rd round with a neck injury. While he is slated to be in the field, we would recommend avoiding Moore until this injury is behind him and he returns to health. He has played well here in the past with two straight Top 10 finishes, but the risk is a bit high considering the injury forced him out of the Humana. That said, if you choose to field multiple rosters for the tournaments you enter, he may prove to be a sneaky play to have on a roster as he will be lightly owned thus giving him huge value in the event that he were to play and to performed well.

LOVE

One of the best tools offered here on our site is in how we track just about any relevant professional golf tournament taking place around the globe. Having this tool is going to provide you with an enormous edge over the casual players out there. Some of my favorite names this week will not be names that have a lengthy history at this course. However, what they will having going in their favor is that they are playing fantastic golf…just not necessarily exclusively in PGA Tour events.

I’m going to start by getting the easy names out there since these will be the blue chip names that will anchor most lineups this week. There is not much more that can be said about Jordan Spieth. I would love to say that we called for him to have a big breakout season, but he broke our hearts by beating us to the punch in December with his blowout win at the Hero. The 21 year-old finished 22nd last year in strokes gained and 6th in birdie average per round, a particularly important statistic for the week, capped off by being one of the most efficient putters on the tour sitting 2nd in birdie or better conversion percentage. Spieth is an amazingly gifted young player and even his high price relative to other players looks reasonable considering that he missed just 3 cuts last season and was in the Top 25 in 18 of 27 starts.

Rickie Fowler returns stateside this weekend and brings with him an impressive recent run of success with ten Top 10 appearances in 26 starts last season and two more in the fall to start the current season. Fowler has proven to be the proverbial bridesmaid coming away with no wins last season, but it seems to only be a matter of time before Fowler breaks through in a big way. Fowler gets good distance off the tee and was 14th in birdies per round last season. His birdie or better conversion percentage ranked him 11th on the tour and given the need for players to go lower than normal, this should set Fowler up to play well this week. I’m not going to over think the fact that he missed the cut here the last two years as changes he made to his game last season seemed to help him to make a dramatic mid-season turnaround and propelled him to a very strong finish in 2014.

Hideki Matsuyama rounds out our list of favorites for the week. The obvious thread here should be obvious. The youth movement in golf is taking place right before our eyes. As we noted in an earlier column last year, players are now getting better than ever before at an earlier age. Gone are the days where peak play did not take place until age 35. The new breed of player is now entering the tour ready to win immediately. Before a 78th place finish at the Sony Open, Matsuyama had rolled off five Top 25 finishes in six events to start the current season including three Top 10 finishes. The 22 year-old played solid throughout the 2014 season and managed a 4th place tie in his first appearance at the Phoenix Open last year. Matsuyama drives the ball well, but where he really excels is in picking up strokes on his way to the green where he finished 14th in strokes gained, tee to green. If Matsuyama can eventually pick up his putting to match the rest of his game, he will be a consistent contender in most of the tournaments he enters.

The value plays that I am featuring this week focus on players that have excelled recently, but have had limited experience on this weekend’s course. There are some incredible values available this week, but if you haven’t paid close enough attention to ALL of the events around the world over the last 5 months, you are bound to miss out on these names.

Brooks Koepka is an American born player who enjoyed a great deal of success during the fall in tournaments played throughout the world. He kicked off the 2015 season with two Top 10 finishes before heading off to Turkey where he won the Turkish Airlines Open. Koepka is a bomber off the tee, currently ranking first in driving distance this season after finishing 6th last year. He also finished 9th in birdie of better conversion percentage so he is set up really well at this tournament for a serious run. This will mark his first appearance at the Phoenix Open so we hope that he is overlooked by other players this week allowing us to take advantage of his bargain price.

Jamie Donaldson is another easy name to overlook this week if one were to only take a casual glance at the field this week. He took 24th at the WGC-HSBC event in November, his lone event on the PGA Tour in the fall. However, he spent the rest of the fall tearing up the European PGA Tour with five Top 25 finishes including two Top 10 finishes. The Welshman is a bargain this week and should make a strong first appearance at the Phoenix Open this week.

Francisco Molinari is our third value pick making his debut in this tournament. The Italian is playing his first full season on the PGA Tour and has not missed a beat in making the cut in both events this year to include a Top 10 finish last weekend. Prior to that, Molinari had three straight Top 25 finishes, punctuated by a 6th place finish at the Alfred Dunhill. He’s accurate and plays his approach shots very well which should set him up to make a strong debut in Phoenix this week.

Robert Streb is a name that we will continue to repeat until his price rises to a level worthy of his strong play this season. Streb is currently ranked as Fantasy Golf Insider’s 3rd hottest player in the world after his recent run of success. He has made seven straight cuts, including four Top 10 finishes and one victory at the McGladrey Classic.  Streb has been strong in all facets of his game this year, driving the ball well and picking up shots all along the way. For the season, he is 11th in strokes gained and ranks 26th in birdie or better conversion percentage. He has been Mr. Consistent for our lineups over the last 5 months and we are shocked that he is still this affordable. By now, most fantasy golf players are well aware of Streb, but in weeks like this one where the number of players takes off due to sizable guarantees, expect the novices to gloss over Streb.

You are going to need a little bit of help in rounding out the bottom of your roster this week with your last spot or two. Fortunately, there are a couple of names that should work out well for you and may even be able to add to your championship run.

Pat Perez is an Arizone State product and has played in the Phoenix Open 13 times. Though he has yet to crack the Top 10, he does have four Top 25 finishes in his last five starts here. He has made four straight cuts on tour and has been in the Top 30 the last couple of weeks. Statistically, there is not anything that we can point to that contributes to the success that Perez has enjoyed here. We simply know that he has played this course many times in his life which seems to be translating into a small edge over other competitors. This is a move to save a few dollars, so while you may not enjoy it, you will need some value in order to utilize some of the bigger names.

Matt Every takes us another step deeper into the sleeper pool. He had been enjoying a run of making three straight cuts before last weekend where not replacing a club that had become bent during the first round caused him to be disqualified in the second round of the Humana Challenge. Every has enjoyed a fair amount of success in Scottsdale, having made the Top 10 in two of three starts and not missing a cut in any of the three overall. Every does provide the potential for some upside at his low price as he finished in the Top 25 in nine of twenty-six events last year. Every was also 36th last year in the birdie or better conversion percentage category which should give him the chance to stay competitive.

The last two picks fall into the deep sleeper category. These are the types of picks that you will need to add to your lineup in the event you choose to go especially top heavy. This is a true boom or bust strategy as getting a player through the cut with a particularly low strategy gives you the opportunity to really gun for picking players at the top with a strong chance to win the tournament. However, if one or two of these players miss the cut, which is a much higher likelihood, your odds of winning any money at all will slip dramatically.

Colt Knost is one of those players that takes part in nearly every event that he qualifies for on the PGA Tour. What is great about a player like Knost is that he never has to worry about the usual rust that comes for some players during the fall and winter months. Knost took advantage of the fall season this year which help him to start strong in 2015. In his last seven starts, he has four Top 30 finishes. His lone appearance at the Phoenix Open took place two years ago where he finished 43rd. Knost is a bit of a journeyman on the tour, and has struggled over the years. However, he seems to be playing the best golf of his career right now and could be worth a reach in one of your lineups. He’s currently an alternate, so be careful, but with a number of players going through injuries or other issues (Allenby), there’s a good chance he tees it up Thursday.

John Merrick is our biggest stretch of the week. His form in recent months has not been very good, having made the cut in just two of his last six starts. We are going to try to pry a few positives from this situation. In 2014, Merrick actually made 20 of 25 cuts and he has enjoyed some success at the Phoenix Open where he has made the cut in all six of his starts there, and managed a 19th place finish last season. At his low price point, you’ll have the chance to add another stud to your lineup. There is nothing sexy about this pick, but if it works out for you, your team will be dangerous come Sunday afternoon.

 

 

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 22, 2015 01:37

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