We move to Scottsdale this week for another desert style test. The Waste Management Open is a nice change as it’s a bit of a compressed field this week (130 players) and will also be held exclusively on one course. TPC Scottsdale is an interesting track with a couple quirky holes, including a short stadium par 3—complete with rowdy frat parties—and a completely drivable par 4 where some players will actually have to “club down” in order to avoid going over the back of the green. The changes made a couple years ago have toughened the course up a bit, especially off the tee. Weather looks perfect for the week and so a fast firm course, much like last year, can be expected. I’d expect another winning score in the vicinity of -15.
Important Waste Management Phoenix Open Notes
Importance of hitting greens: Winners of this event over the past couple of years have tended to be ranked highly in a couple of different stats, most notably Greens in Regulation and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. The past two winners here have ranked 4th and 1st in Greens in Regulation for the week of their win here, with both Fowler and Matsuyama (the playoff combatants from 2016) ranking 1st and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green last year as well. This isn’t a week to worry a lot about putting stats, and I’d over-emphasize players coming in with good approach games or good tee to green stats in general.
De-emphasizing course history: Newcomers have not been fazed by this course at all. In 2015 Brooks Koepka won here on his first go-round playing this event. Hideki Matsuyama finished T4 in his first start at this course and two years later won here as well. Last year also saw great weeks put in by first timers Jon Curran, Patrick Rodgers and Shane Lowry. Its also interesting to note that Danny Lee came fourth here last season on his fourth start at this event and had never made the cut at this event prior to that finish. When making lineups this week I wouldn’t discount a player based on a lack of experience at all. In fact, emphasising recent form over past history this week would seem to make the most sense.
DraftKings “Flexible” Pricing: The pricing this week can be described as a little bit too simple, and a little strange in places quite frankly. Top 50 players in the world are strewn throughout and often priced beside players who haven’t made a cut yet in 2017 (and barely made one in 2016 in Matt Every’s case). 50/50 competitions will likely be tight this week but in gpps bypassing some of the obvious chalk will mean more unique lineups and roster construction. Forcing yourself off some of the “easy plays” might prove fruitful in big fields here.
John Rahm as “the mega-chalk”: I won’t spend much time dissecting this, Rahm is a great player who—after his win last week—should be ultra popular at what is essentially his home town event (he went to ASU). I’m not recommending you fade Rahm in cash games but there’s merit to swerving him in gpps at $9,700, especially if he’ll be over 40% owned. Avoiding Rahm and starting your lineups with two of the other top four players in big tournaments will give you a unique lineup construction as it will force you to avoid many of the other popular plays in the 8k range as well. It’s by no means certain to work out but if Rahm fails to have a big week you’d be gaining a lot of leverage on a big chunk of the field.
Jordan Spieth’s quietly good start to the year: Spieth hasn’t been talked about much lately, but that’s mainly because Justin Thomas and John Rahm have been making history. What has gone unnoticed is that early on in 2017, Spieth looks like he has shored up some of the weaknesses in his game that held him back at times last season. Spieth currently ranks first in Greens in Regulation percentage in 2017 and while it’s still very early he’s obviously seen a huge improvement in this area already as he ended last season at 145th in that same category. TPC Scottsdale awards people who hit greens with regularity and if his approach game remains in form Spieth should prosper here. With a lack of course history and a high salary he might go somewhat overlooked, but shouldn’t.
Bubba Watson: Sometimes hard to trust but this has been one of his favorite venues over the years. At such a cheap price though I think he offers a little more upside than Phil Mickelson (who I also like). With eight straight made-cuts and two runner-up finishes at this event I think he’s actually the must-play golfer this week given his insanely low price and the upside he possesses. The good news is with everyone focused elsewhere his ownership might not get super high.
Others: Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Brendan Steele
Louis Oosthuizen ($6,900): This is one of the stranger pricing outliers of the week for sure. Oosthuzien is still a top 30 player in the world and even though he’s playing this event for the first time ever you can’t ignore him at this price-point. He’s made eleven straight cuts world-wide and, even coming off a so-so week in California, he shouldn’t be ignored here. There’s a lot of strong plays around his price-point so you could find a reason not to play him I guess but the consistency alone and the fact he’s simply a better overall player than most of the players priced around him makes him one of my favorite values this week. He’ll likely be a popular play.
Roberto Castro ($6,900): Castro didn’t end up with a high finish at Torrey Pines but he did lead the field in greens in regulation hit last week. He’s now made 19 out of his last 20 cuts on tour and also already has two top-twenty finishes at this venue to his name. Even in a week with a ton of great value plays at all levels he sticks out to me as a great high floor play with plenty of upside.
Robert Streb ($6,800): With so many great players on tour it’s easy to forget how a good a player Streb is/has been. Much like Castro, when Streb’s tee to green game is on he hits plenty of greens and shouldn’t have issues with the long par 4’s here this week either. Even coming off a couple good starts I doubt he’ll be highly-owned and will likely make a good tournament play. Finished tenth here two years ago as well.
Others: Lucas Glover
High-upside GPP Pivot Picks
Emiliano Grillo ($7,600): Grillo’s off to a bit of a slow start in 2017 but he’s a player you shouldn’t forget about. He’s coming off a strong week of play as he ranked 12th in SG: tee to green and 8th in GIR percentage at the Farmers. He makes for a strong pivot this week off of players like Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau and Kevin Na who are all in his price range and will be very popular.
Byeong-Hun An ($7,100): An’s a player that can and likely will go overlooked in this field. He started his season a couple weeks ago with a nice finish in Abu Dhabi, a tournament he had a shot at winning until the back nine on Sunday. He should find the confines of TPC Scottsdale more akin to the track there. An ranked 13th last season in Greens in Reg on the Euro Tour and fits the mold of many of the players who have had success here the past few seasons.
Geoff Ogilvy ($6,900): Ogilvy is definitely something of a wildcard play, but is assured to bring you low ownership at his price point. He’s quietly put together a few nice weeks to start 2017 and tee to green has actually been one of the best players in the field his last few times out (last week not withstanding). Ogilvy has played well at TPC Scottsdale over his career, with the faster greens and desert style track being more akin to his liking. I really like the fact he made the cut here the past three years because his level of play recently has been much improved than what we’ve seen from him over the past couple of seasons.
Other: Ryo Ishikawa
Players to Consider (in no order):
– Jordan Spieth, John Rahm, Brendan Steele, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Roberto Castro, Louis Oosthuizen, Robert Streb, Lucas Glover, Ryan Moore
– Emiliano Grillo, Ben An, Geoff Ogilvy, Ryo Ishikawa, Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Jamie Lovemark, Kyle Stanley, Bud Cauley