Waste Management Phoenix Open Draws Strongest Field to Date
A Brief Preview of “The People’s Open”
The newly dubbed WM Phoenix Open welcomes an incredibly strong field to TPC Scottsdale this week, with 6 of the top-10 and 17 of the top-25 ranked golfers in the world set to compete.
A 7,261 yard, Par-71 desert course, TPC Scottsdale presents an environment for low scores. With no major defense, many golfers will shoot into the 60s for three or four of their rounds this week.
I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as a full blown “birdie fest” though, with danger lurking on many holes — particularly if golfers hit wayward tee shots that end up in the desert. The back nine offers several risk-reward type holes, with water coming into play a number of times.
On the back nine last year Brooks Koepka made the most of these risk-reward holes, shooting five-under on his last six holes to surge past the leaders and claim victory. Mostly notably, Koepka chipped in for Eagle on the iconic driveable Par-4 17th.
Koepka will have his hands full trying to win for the third time at TPC Scottsdale though, as the WM Phoenix Open has attracted many of the world’s best this week.
As the week goes on we’ll perhaps find out why more elite golfers than usual decided to compete at this year’s event — perhaps it just coincidentally fell at a good time on people’s schedule, or maybe this is a sign of a positive trend developing for Waste Management in attracting top talent.
One of these top golfers I’m excited to see play this week is Viktor Hovland, who it feels like we haven’t seen in a while even though it’s been just over a month since he played in Hawaii.
Hovland recently picked up another win at the Dubai Desert Classic (a European Tour event), his 3rd win in his last 5 starts world-wide. The 24 year-old Norwegian just continues to elevate his game, now ascending to #3 in the world rankings. I can’t wait to see him tee it up at TPC Scottsdale, a place he’s only competed at once before (in 2020 where he missed the cut).
Louis Oosthuizen will tee it up for the first time in 2022, coming off a spectacular 2021. Despite not ever hoisting a trophy last year, Oosthuizen contended deep into every major besides The Master’s and just piled up top finishes. He didn’t really play much in the Fall — withdrawing from The RSM Classic (mid-tournament) in his last start. So I’m very much interested to see what sort of shape Oosthuizen’s game is in to start the year.
Although most of the top players don’t come to Waste Management every season, the event does present a history of notable winners.
Just in the past decade we’ve seen Koepka win twice here, Hideki Matsuyama win twice here as well, along with Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, and Phil Mickelson all winning once.
This history of strong winners likely stems from a course that rewards solid all-around golf games.
Relative to all of the courses played on the PGA Tour, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green is an above average statistical indicator of success at TPC Scottsdale, with Strokes Gained: Approach proving paramount.
In other words, the best ball-strikers typically prevail at Waste Management. It’s not a mere hit and giggle.
The raucous crowds make The WM Phoenix Open what it is — not just another stop on the PGA Tour, but one that sticks out because of the vibrant fanfare and electric atmosphere.
Combining this type of atmosphere with a stellar field should almost certainly make for a tremendous event this week in Arizona. One I’m excited to bet, make DFS lineups for, and of course watch on TV.
Thanks for reading and happy GOLF.