The First Tee – Waste Management Phoenix Open

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly January 28, 2019 21:24

The First Tee – Waste Management Phoenix Open

This Week

Only note here is that this week is a slightly smaller field than normal events, usually in the 125-140 range instead of 156. The Phoenix Open is a two-day cut event with no course rotation.

THE COURSE

The Phoenix Open is played at TPC Scottsdale, a 7266-yard par-71 that plays tough relative to the past couple weeks. The cut typically comes in at par or worse, with the winner usually in the mid-teens – avoid looking at course history prior at 2013 as the course was renovated at that time – but there are still lots of birdies made, there are just more bogeys than a typical week.

TPC Scottsdale has three scoreable par-5s between 550- and 560-yards, and one very easy par-3s that plays below par consistently; there’s only one par-4 below 400 yards – the 17th is only 332 yards and played at -0.374 last year with ten eagles/184 birdies – while seven of the par-4s play beyond 440. Distance off the tee is important here thanks to the longer par-4s, and to have a hope of eagles on the par-5s.

The fairways here narrow tremendously the farther the ball travels though, which makes it tough for golfers: between 250-275 yards out the average fairway width is a whopping 32 yards across, but between 300-325 the average drops to just 27 yards across. Missing the fairways badly at Scottsdale can be very penal, as typical Arizona desert vegetation awaits stray balls; hedges, cacti and water hazards can hurt, although there’s essentially no rough to be scared of.

Approaching the greens here is relatively simple as the angles into the greens are simplistic and the Bermuda greens (overseeded with rye) tend to hold high-flight balls very easily. Most golfers pull driver out off the tee – like last week this is one of the more driver-heavy courses – which means most approach shots should be in the 125-175 range this week, but there’s a definite advantage for longer hitters who can hit a high wedge in.

The greens themselves are of average size and speedy, similar to Torrey Pines in speed. As I mentioned last year, “most golfers that have had success here have talked about how easy they find the greens, so looking at tournament history is maybe more of a factor than it normally would be” when looking at putting.

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-the-Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better %
  • Driving Distance
  • Approach Shots: 100-150 Yards
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Par-4 Scoring

Top-Tier Golfer

Hideki Matsuyama ($10700)

Pros: One of the best course histories here, ignoring his W/D last year with a wrist injury: Hideki’s cracks at this course have resulted in finishes of T4, T2, and back-to-back wins. He’s coming off a T3 last week at the Farmers and hasn’t missed a cut since the Open last July. He’s above-average in length off the tee and has a very strong approach game (6th last season in SG: App), and has strong numbers from 50-150 yards out (-56 in 241 attempts.) Very good par-3 and par-4 player at 3.01 and 3.98 respectively, which is great for a par-71 course.

Cons: His putting is hit and miss, although he is good when he has an opportunity to make a birdie (27th.) He’s not great around the greens which is tough at Scottsdale where the bunkering and run-off areas around the greens can be pretty steep – he ranked 60th in SG: Around the Green last year with the 88th-best proximity from the sand. His accuracy of 62.82% isn’t ideal, but his distance from the center of the fairway is more concerning given how penal the waste areas are here. Should be extremely chalky due to course history.

Gary Woodland ($9900)

Pros: You know what you’re getting from Gary: long off the tee and a great approach game. That led him to a win here last year – although his history has been mixed, he does have three top-25s in nine tries including a win and T5 – and in his last three events he’s finished T9, 80th (MDF) and a solo second. Last year’s stat rankings had him 3rd in SG: OTT, 24th in SG: APP, and -95 when hitting the fairway. He’s a strong par-4 scorer (although better on par-5) and this year has been a dynamite DFS play thanks to his scoring ability and being consistently underpriced among the elites.

Cons: The same thing every week: putting and play around the greens. He’s hot and cold with the putter and tends to play better on poa or bent, but his history here shows he can be at least competent on the greens. Being a par-71 doesn’t exactly fit his game as Woodland really takes advantage of the extra par-5s most weeks. His game with a wedge isn’t as good as some other golfers at or around his price point.

Other: Cameron Smith ($9100), Justin Thomas ($11000)

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Abraham Ancer ($7700)

Pros: Ancer is very strong with short irons and wedges in hand typically, with the 39th-best proximity to the hole in the 50-125 yard range. He wasn’t a big birdie maker last year (20.49% BoB) but has improved this year to 25.43% and has been very strong on par-4s. Ancer is an accurate player off the tee and will avoid the big numbers the longer hitters tend to make here.

Cons: Missed the cut on the number last week thanks to missing a three-foot putt, and has no course history at Scottsdale. Ancer is a shorter hitter which is never good for making birdies, and his putting is incredibly inconsistent – he ranked 127th in SG:P last year. He’s also been bad around the greens, losing 0.22 strokes per round, specifically bad in the 30-50 yard range. He ranked 93rd in SG: Approach last year, thanks mostly to play with his longer irons.

Emiliano Grillo ($7600)

Pros: Decent form coming into the week, with a T52 and T22 since 2019 turned over and no missed cuts going back to the Open. He’s deadly accurate both off the tee and on approach, sitting third in SG: Approach this season (only 11 measured rounds) but he’s hit 74% of greens so and was very strong on approach last year as well. Grillo excels with wedges from the fairway and is typically better on par-3s and -4s than par-5s.

Cons: Although he’s never missed a cut here, Grillo’s finishes of 57, 63 and 45 don’t jump off the page. His putting through his first two events of 2019 have been atrocious, back to the levels Grillo used to putt at after his strong 2018 – the Argentinian has lost 0.770 strokes putting per round. He’s always been bad around the greens and has continued that this season.

Other (since I write up Grillo and Ancer consistently): Bud Cauley ($6900)

 

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly January 28, 2019 21:24

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