The Waste Management Phoenix Open is annually one of the most entertaining PGA Tour events of the year. Inebriated patrons stumble around the grounds of TPC Scottsdale in search of the next beer and the next golfer to heckle. Bad shoots are booed on the 16th hole and some players actually play along with the crowd, while others want to just hide in a corner and not have their rounds affected.
Fans will be permitted, but only up to 5,000 per day. The tournament will take on a very different feel in 2021. We usually have to handicap the players that could be most affected by the environment and the atmosphere, but this year, it will feel a lot more like a regular tournament. Even the fans that will be on hand are likely to be a subdued bunch.
We usually get some final-round fireworks that end up running into the Super Bowl broadcast. Four of the last five years have ended in a playoff. Back in 2015, Brooks Koepka won by one shot over three runners-up, so that one had high drama as well.
It is a great event and the hope is that next year’s event will look more like the one we are accustomed to in Scottsdale.
For now, though, we’ll play the cards we’ve been dealt for 2021 and preview the event with some picks and analysis. Odds are from MyBookie Sportsbook and will be listed at the bottom.
A few of golf’s biggest names won’t be on hand this week, but this is a very strong field otherwise. We’ll even see Rory McIlroy in this event for the first time ever. He’ll be joined at the top of the odds board with Arizona State alum Jon Rahm, who may be one of the players to benefit the most from limited spectators. He can be something of a loose cannon when he gets frustrated. Though he’d have the backing of his boys from Tempe in a traditional setting, now this is just a golf tournament in conditions he knows well.
Justin Thomas is also among the favorites. Webb Simpson is back to defend his title after taking the last couple of weeks off. Daniel Berger is back this week. Other short prices include Sungjae Im, Xander Schauffele, Koepka, and two-time winner Hideki Matsuyama.
Patrick Reed is not playing this week, but it sure would’ve been fun to see him compete here with the regular fans after last week’s controversy.
According to DataGolf, the closest comp for this course is Keene Trace Golf Club, which hosted the Barbasol Championship from 2015-19 before it was canceled due to COVID-19 last season. It is an alternate event played opposite The Open Championship. Another close comp is Bay Hill, where the Arnold Palmer Invitational is played and will be played in about a month.
The par 71 track is around 7,300 yards. The lack of spectators will make the course look and feel a lot different. This is a course where being long off of the tee helps, but it is also a course that does push accuracy off the tee a little more than other tracks. As always, strokes gained approach are important. It is a pretty average course in terms of putting importance, but when you consider Matsuyama has won here twice, you can win without a good flatstick.
There are a lot of hazards around the course and errant tee shots may wind up on the sand and dirt just off of the fairways. This is a gorgeous golf course and a great backdrop for a tournament.
Yay or Neigh?
This has been a popular stop for a lot of players, so we do have a lot of Horse for Course considerations this week, if you’re into that sort of thing. Past winners teeing up this week are the defending champ in Webb Simpson, the 2019 winner Rickie Fowler, the 2018 winner Gary Woodland, the 2017 and 2016 winner Hideki Matsuyama, the 2015 winner Brooks Koepka, the 2014 winner Kevin Stadler for just the second time since his win, the 2012 winner Kyle Stanley, the 2010 winner Hunter Mahan, and two-time winner in 2008 and 2006, JB Holmes. Three-time winner Phil Mickelson is not playing.
Matsuyama has two wins and was runner-up to Koepka in 2015. He was fourth in 2014. Over the last two years, Matsuyama has finished 16th and 15th. He withdrew in 2018.
Fowler plays well here, much like he does at the Arnold Palmer, so there seems to be a course fit correlation. Along with his 2019 win, Fowler has three other top-five finishes since 2010 and two additional top-15 finishes.
Simpson won last year and has four other top-10 finishes since 2011. He has two other top-20 outcomes. Bubba Watson has never won here, but he has five top-five finishes in his last nine starts, including a third last year and a fourth two years ago. Rahm has never finished outside the top 16 in his five starts, including back-to-back top-10 finishes.
As far as others, Matt Kuchar has three top-10 finishes and four straight in the top 20. Justin Thomas has finished third back-to-back years. Byeong Hun An has finished in the top 25 each of his four times at this event, including two top-10 finishes.
Handicap & Picks
Of the short prices, Daniel Berger is on my card. Berger has played well in his two starts this year and has three top-10 finishes and an 11th at TPC Scottsdale in the past. His game really fits this course well and he’s a pretty good putter for a big ball striker. He was 10th in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and seventh in the Sony Open. He skipped the two California events and I like that with the wrist injury not that far in the past.
Xander Schauffele will win another event soon, as he’s in outstanding form, but his price points just aren’t going to be worth taking for a while. He’s a better candidate for in-tournament wagering if he sits a few shots back heading into Saturday. On a lesser scale, because he’s less accomplished, Will Zalatoris is another guy cut from that same cloth that will win one of these noteworthy events soon.
As a long shot play, Henrik Norlander keeps flirting with a win. He was 12th two weeks ago at The American Express and second last week in the Farmers Insurance Open. He’s not an overly long hitter, but he’s one of the PGA Tour’s most underrated iron players on approach. That is an important skill to have here at TPC Scottsdale, as it is most weeks. The second-place finish last week depressed his price a little, but he’ll make his first start at the Waste Management in a subdued setting. For young players, the environment is probably great, but you never know how they’ll react.
Byeong Hun An is a decent look this week. He was eighth two weeks ago at The American Express and had issues over the weekend with the long Torrey Pines South Course. He’s played extremely well here and is a pretty decent ball striker. Last week’s Saturday and Sunday scores bumped his price up a bit for us this week it would seem.
GOLF BETTING ODDS FOR THE WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN
|Si Woo Kim||+6600|
|Byeong Hun An||+10000|
|Erik Van Rooyen||+15000|
|Harold Varner III||+20000|
|J B Holmes||+20000|
|Ted Potter Jr||+40000|
|Bo Van Pelt||+150000|