We don’t want to see Patrick Reed win tournaments anymore, we want to see longshot BOMBS. It’s my favorite part of the week again where I’ve scoured the board for value and hand-selected the guys with the most upside to exceed the value of their betting odds and DFS price.
Once again, I need to temper the definition of “bombs” this week, as just like Torrey Pines, it’s taken elite talent to win this event over the years. I think an argument could be made that the stars of the game are more prone to handle the momentous pressure these giant crowds typically bring, and that a more subdued event could open the door for more unheralded players to prevail. That said, you’ll notice a trend that all my favorite players are great Ball Strikers with a propensity to Putt better at TPC Scottsdale than average. Okay, let’s dive in!
All prices below are from Draft Kings, DK Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook
Bubba Watson ($8,500)
Last week I played Bubba as an Outright flier, knowing the recent Ball Striking and Course History numbers were strong, but apprehensive about it being his first start since the Masters in November. A week later, the rust is shaken, the price has dropped, and we’re back again talking about Bubba Watson.
There is so much to like about Bubba Watson this week, I don’t even know where to begin. The most important stat this week is Ball Striking. Not only is Bubba #1 in the Field in SG: Ball Striking over the last 24 rounds, he’s also #1 in the Field in Ball Striking at TPC Scottsdale. In addition to that, he’s #1 OTT, #2 T2G, and #6 APP. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more out of him last week at Torrey Pines, but given his extended break and stark difference in course layout this week, I’m quick to give him a pass and reap the cost savings that come with it.
He hasn’t won the Phoenix Open (yet), but he’s coming off back-to-back Top-5, and has 5 Top-5s to his name here since 2012. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300) gets a ton of rightful praise for his track record here, but Bubba’s finished ahead of Hideki at The Phoenix Open each time since Hideki won in 2017.
I think $9,000 would have been a fair price for Bubba this week so at this discount, he’s a great staple to build your lineups around.
John Huh ($7,200)
My favorite thing to talk about after researching a tournament is the players who rank better than Field average in all key stat categories for the week. My key stat categories this week are SG: OTT, SG: Ball Striking, SG: APP, Opportunities Gained, GIRs Gained, SG: TOT at WMPO, and SG: P at WMPO. This week only 6 players in the Field fit that criteria: Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Russell Henley, Webb Simpson, and you guessed it, John Huh!
Huh has not missed a cut since the Honda Classic 11 months ago and has boasted T25-or better finishes in 4 of his 6 starts since then. Course History-wise, he’s made the cut in 5 consecutive trips to the Phoenix Open, including a T6 in 2016. He’s been getting it done here with consistently strong Putting (7th SG: P at WMPO), but his solid outings more recently can be credited to his control OTT (#3 Good Drives Gained), allowing him to capitalize on Approach (#25 Proximity on Approach, #41 Opportunities Gained).
John Huh doesn’t fit the typical mold of Ball Striking specialists you’d want to target for TPC Scottsdale, but because of that, he should slot in as a nice leverage play at a discounted price for someone I can picture in the Top 20 by tournament’s end.
Russell Knox ($7,200)
I was surprised to see Russell Knox’s price fall this low after his recent success at this event and his steady rise as one of the more dependable Approach players on Tour.
Russell Knox ranks 5th in the Field SG: APP last 24 rounds and 18th in SG: Ball Striking in the same range. He’s also 2nd in GIRs Gained, 8th in Good Drives Gained, 11th in Approach Proximity, and 18th in Opportunities Gained. His recent results have backed up these numbers too, with four T25s in his last 7 events.
What I found most interesting about Russell Knox this week, however, is his Putting stats. Of the 290 total measured active PGA Tour professionals, Knox ranks 271 in SG: P (Total), 272 in SG: P (Bermuda), and 46th (!) in SG: P at the WMPO. It’s the most drastic instance you can find on the board of a player flipping a switch at a particular course, and this isn’t from a flukey low sample size. He’s played this event 5 times, and gained an average of 3+ Strokes putting in three of those trips. Make no mistake, these greens are smooth and flat, so even the most troubled putters are capable of getting going here.
We know that Knox is as strong as they come on Approach, so if the Putting also becomes an asset for him here, it’s no wonder he’s been able to card 3 Top-16 finishes at the Phoenix Open. If he can keep tapping into that putting magic, there’s no reason we can’t expect a third straight T16.
Martin Laird ($7,000)
If last week was #PlayAllTheAussies week, this is the week to #PlayTheScots (nothing says Scottish pedigree like desert golf, right?).
Like Knox, Party Marty also has a great track record at TPC Scottsdale and backs it up with a solid all around Approach game. Laird has finished T10 here four times since 2011, including a T9 most recently in 2018. He also posts better than Field average stats in SG: TOT (#46), SG: T2G: (#34), SG: OTT (#36), and SG: APP (#63).
We know Laird has the win equity, just 5 starts removed from his victory at the Shriners, and while his Approach game has been shaky the last 3 weeks, we can expect some more positive regression as he makes his way back to the familiar grounds he’s enjoyed success at over the years.
Denny McCarthy ($6,600)
Truthfully I don’t love the $6K range this week and think there’s a pretty steep drop off from the low-$7K’s, but if there’s one guy I trust putting in a lineup to get me the salary relief I need for the top names this week, it’s Denny McCarthy.
We all know Denny McCarthy as one of, if not the best Putter on Tour, but his success on the greens has really overshadowed the improvements he’s made in his overall game recently. He is one of only 10 players to avoid the bottom-25% of the field in all key stat categories this week, which is historically a great sign for cut-makers. Those stats include 46th Ball Striking, 45th Approach, and 56th GIRs. He’s also made the cut in each of his two career trips to the Phoenix Open in 2020 (T59) and 2019 (T33).
The stats won’t jump off the page, but at $6,600 there’s good reason to count on Denny to make it to the weekend, and his Putter can take it from there.
Russell Henley (+7500)
You’re not gonna catch me dead this week wearing a polo or any other collared shirt for that matter. We took a couple weeks off, but now it’s that time once again. We got ourselves another Henley Week baby!
I’ve played Russell Henley thrice in the past year. At the CJ Cup (T3), Zozo (T4), and the Sony Open (T11). All three times we’ve had a #HenleyGivenSunday sweat, but haven’t been able to seal the deal to get those shirts printed. This week however, more boxes are being checked and more stars are aligning.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open values SG: APP more than any other event on Tour and Russell Henley is statistically the best Approach player since the COVID restart. I could stop right there, but I can’t resist talking up Russell Henley more.
Last year if you played the Top 2 players in SG: APP coming into the WMPO, you would’ve had both players in the Playoff: Tony Finau and Webb Simpson. Flash forward to 2021 and Russell Henley and Justin Thomas are in a dead heat at #1 in SG: APP coming in. My heart really can’t stomach a Henley playoff if it comes to that, but my wallet will take it.
What’s interesting about Russell Henley’s approach numbers is they’ve only become elite since playing without fans after the restart. Since last year’s WMPO, Russell Henley has gained strokes on Approach in 17/18 measured rounds, the lone exception being his first start back from break at the RBC Heritage in June. Interestingly enough, Russell Henley has missed the cut here in every Even year and made the cut in every Odd year dating back to his debut in 2013, which means he’s a lock to make it to the weekend in 2021.
My inclination is that Henley’s success without fans post-restart and inconsistency at The Phoenix Open, the Tour’s most fan-driven event, is no coincidence. With a subdued crowd capped at 5,000 spectators, give me all the Henley this week.
Corey Conners (+8500)
I’m planting my flag down right here. It is Corey Conners week. I wrote Corey Conners up as a fade last week and that was due in part to me wishing his price would come down for this tournament. What we got instead however was the best case scenario. He looked good at Torrey Pines, the shoddy Short Game held up at a track that tests you Around The Green like few others do, and his price still dropped down to 85/1.
Above all else, you need to be an elite Ball Striker to contend at TPC Scottsdale, and Corey Conners is nothing if not that. He ranks #2 in the Field in SG: Ball Striking, #2 T2G, #1 OTT, and #7 APP. Though his Short Game was known to be abysmal several months ago, he’s rebounded with some encouraging finishes of late, and ranks a respectable 65th in SG: Short Game (50th ARG, 72nd P) over the last 3 months. Conners is one of the hottest players in the field coming in, with 5 consecutive T25 finishes before another respectable T37 at the Farmers last week.
We’ve been conditioned to mock Corey Conners for his Short Game, but the results show he’s finally turning a corner, and at a course like TPC Scottsdale, he’ll be able to let his Ball Striking do all the talking.
Byeong Hun An (+8500)
There is an ongoing trend this week that bad Putters can find success Putting at TPC Scottsdale. Enter: Byeong Hun An.
Of the same 290 Tour professionals we compared Russell Knox to earlier, An ranks #281 SG: P (TOT), #276 SG: P (Bermuda) and…drumroll…#71 SG: P at the WMPO. An has gained strokes putting in just 1 of his last 10 events, which has overshadowed the fact that he’s gained strokes T2G in each of those same 10 events. The one event An did gain strokes putting in came at The AmEx, a similar comp course to TPC Scottsdale, where he finished T8 two weeks ago.
His course history at the WMPO is excellent with four T25s in 4 starts, including a T9 last year. The recent form holds up as well, as An ranks #10 in the field T2G and #12 APP over the last 4 events. Plenty of upside to like for +8500.
Kyle Stanley (+17500)
In an event that welcomes consistent repeat contenders (Hideki, Rickie, Bubba, etc.), Kyle Stanley may be the only exception to that rule. After winning this event way back in 2012, Stanley has not been able to finish better than T36 here in his next 8 trips to TPC Scottsdale, and that includes 3 consecutive MCs. His woes here since 2012 are strictly due to Putting, as he’s lost strokes here in that category every year since.
With that said, I’m optimistic that the 2021 version of Kyle Stanley can turn things around. Looking at his last 19 rounds over the last 3 months, Kyle Stanley ranks #1 in SG: APP and #7 in SG: BS. Normally an awful Putter, he ranks a Field average 77th in SG: P over that same span.
At +17500, you’re getting a former winner with one of the hottest Approach games in the Field at a course that puts a premium on Approach play. I’ve placed worse bets.
Keegan Bradley (+25000)
If Kyle Stanley’s Putting history at this Event isn’t scaring me away, nothing will, and that’s why I’m doubling down here on another notably horrid putter.
Make no mistake, I’m not betting on Keegan to get lucky with a hot putter – that’s impossible right now. But the way he’s been hitting irons recently, I think if he just loses 1 stroke to the Field putting, he can put himself in position to win this tournament. Every other part of his game really has been that good. He’s tied with Kyle Stanley at #1 SG: APP over the last 3 months and also ranks #1 in SG: Ball Striking in that span. Even if we zoom out to last 50 rounds, Keegan is still #3 in SG: APP and #6 in SG: Ball Striking.
I don’t care what the Putting looks like. At +25000, I’ll take my chances on the hottest Approach player coming into this event.