The Daily Spin – DraftKings Daily Fantasy Golf Preview – Waste Management Phoenix Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 30, 2019 12:24

For some reason, I decided to return to Minnesota on Monday night. After six perfect days in Coronado and La Jolla at Torrey Pines, I landed on Monday night to temperatures plunging below zero. As it sits right now, the outside air temperature is -30 degrees with a windchill of -57 degrees. It is colder here today than it is down in Antarctica. Whenever people in warm weather states ask me about how cold it can get in the winter up here, I let them know that days like today do in fact exist, but are not the norm most of the time. Unfortunately, today is one of those extreme cases where it actually hurts to be outside for more than about a minute at a time.

The weather here is in stark contrast to the beautiful days I spent at Torrey Pines last week. The weather is usually nice, but this year was perfect. It was sunny each day, around 70 degrees and the winds were light, with a slight breeze down near the holes by the ocean which felt incredible as we walked with a few different groups. Typically, the wind is the biggest defense of the course and can hold scores down in the single digit range for particularly challenging years. However, this year, the wind was so non-existent that scores actually reached the -20 range, which is something that we just do not see unless conditions are perfect. It will be very interesting to see the type of work that the USGA puts into the course over the next two and a half years in preparation for the US Open in 2021 to make sure that the scores are not excessively low in a similar scenario to this past week. The plans are already underway to begin overhauling the South Course so I am anxious to see how it changes over the next two years before the big event.

Overall, the Farmers lived up to the hype and we ended up with a great leaderboard by Sunday afternoon. By the time the back nine were being played for the leaders, it felt like a forgone conclusion that Justin Rose would be our winner after a slow start to the round, but with names like Hideki, Rahm and Rory all in the mix down the stretch, we got to see some great gold from the best players in the world which is all you can really ask for in our first Sunday without football of this winter.

I took some time to follow a few groups during the week as I try to pick up on a few story lines here and there each year. One of the players I was most anxious to see in person was Cameron Champ after his blistering start to the season that saw him pick up his first career win this past fall. Champ is someone that first caught our eye in the summer of 2017 out at Erin Hills at the US Open when he hovered around the top of the leaderboard through the first two rounds before falling back to 32nd by the end of the tournament. He was hammering the ball off the tee and we watched him play a few holes thinking it would be exciting to see where he would be at in a few years. Well, his time came quicker than we would have anticipated.

Off the tee, Champ was everything I expected, smashing a number of drives 340 yards out into the fairway. The ball explodes off his driver in such a way that even the contact sounds different than with other players. He picked up strokes all day off the tee on the South Course, but it was a real challenge for him in other areas. Although many of his tee shots were either on or just off the fairway, his approach game proved to be a struggle. On multiple occasions, he failed to get anywhere close to the pin from short ranges where he was well positioned off the tee. He was hitting greens for the most part, but just was not particularly precise and rarely was in close proximity to the pin. When he missed the greens though, it was disastrous for him.

I had seen the numbers around the green and being at Torrey seemed to exacerbate his problems as a few holes really got away from him when he did not hit a GIR. Through fourteen holes on the South Course, he had battled to an even par round and had two Par 5 holes to play, the 6th and 9th holes, to end his round. He parred 7 and 8, so you would think he would have a great chance of finishing at -2 for the day, but instead, things went completely sideways on the last two Par 5 holes after he missed the fairway off the tee and he posted a double bogey and bogey to finish +3 for the round in a combination of poor wedge play, really poor sand shots and then frustration on the greens in missing a couple of makeable putts.

All in all, it was a good learning round for Champ. The South Course is a great test for young players and a big step up from the courses that he has been smashing to start the season. The South Course at Torrey was always going to be the place where his weaknesses were highlighted and I am sure it gave him plenty to think about as he headed off to Scottsdale this week. The talent is definitely there, and this 23 year old is going to make golf more exciting to watch wherever he competes this year. If he can improve his short game even to just being average and not losing strokes each round, he should be a great prospect in the next couple of years to do some damage at some of the bigger events of tour. I also should mention that even after a tough finish to his round, Champ still took time to come over to the military tent to talk to fans and take pictures and could not have been nicer about it, even if it made me feel old when he called me ‘sir’.

Moving on to the next event, the tour heads off to TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It is one of the most enjoyable events of the year for golf and the atmosphere is really incredible as the event has turned into the biggest party on tour of the season. While this could get old if it took place at every tournament throughout the year, the fact that it is unique to the venue and specifically to the stadium hole on 16 makes it special and fun. If this is your first year following golf closely, you are in for a real treat when you watch this week as the crowds will be in a frenzy and the cheers can turn into boos quickly when players miss the green on this short, Par 3 hole.

While the 16th hole garners a lot of attention at this event, the back nine holes are set up really well to finish off the course and there are plenty of great risk vs reward holes that make this course a treat for players and spectators alike. The 15th hole is a Par 5 with an island green where birdie opportunities are plentiful, but bogies abound for those that come up short in their attempts to go for the green in two shots. The 17th hole is a 330 yard, Par 4 with water placed perfectly near the hole to trap any errant drives off the tee. The 18th hole is Par 4 with water to the left and church pew bunkers where a well placed drive leaves players with a fairly easy approach shot, but getting off the fairway makes for a very challenging finish.

The course itself is a Par 71, and plays at just over 7,200 yards. It’s a classic desert style course so great comp courses would be any that we see in southwest around Vegas and Southern California and you can throw in the events over in the Middle East as well. The fairways tend to be open and easy to hit although they do narrow down here after 250 yards. This is a course where driver is prevalent off the tee, but there are a handful of plodders who play well by being very good around and on the greens. While the rough is not an issue here, getting too far off the fairways here is where things can get out of hand quickly. The area around the fairways is full of cactus and other nasty vegetation that is not easy to get out of and usually the cause of the biggest numbers on scorecards each year. The greens are Bermuda this week, a bit of shift from what we have seen in recent weeks, but not particularly fast. Be sure to consider which players tend to be at their best when putting on Bermuda versus other grass types this week.

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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 30, 2019 12:24

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