Tournament Preview Waste Management Phoenix Open

Waste Management Phoenix Open 2021 Tournament Preview: Everything You Need To Know About TPC Scottsdale

If you thought “Farmers Insurance” was a terrible moniker for an otherwise beautiful event, I’m here to raise you the Waste Management Phoenix Open! Normally a dumpster fire of drunken fan debauchery, this electric factory will feel more subdued in 2021, as the max capacity will be limited to 5,000 spectators due to COVID restrictions. Even still, 5,000 may feel like 50,000 after such an extended period of play without fans. It’ll even give the volunteers a little relief if any more embedded balls are disputed. But I digress, let’s get to know TPC Scottsdale!

Course Specs

  • Yards: 7,156
  • Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
  • Historical Cut-Line: Even
  • Greens: Bermuda
  • Comp Courses: Bay Hill, Kiawah Island (Ocean), Golf Club of Houston, PGA West (Stadium & Nicklaus Courses)
  • Past Winners: Webb Simpson (20), Rickie Fowler (19), Gary Woodland (18), Hideki Matsuyama (17), Hideki Matsuyama (16)
  • Other Past Winners In The Field: Brooks Koepke, Kyle Stanley, J.B. Holmes, Kevin Stadler, Hunter Mahan

After a brief stint on Torrey Pines’ Bent/Poa layouts, we are back again to Bermuda grass in Phoenix. This mixed with the desert climate will remind players of PGA West a couple weeks back, so you can expect golfers who performed well at The American Express to compete here again. In the same vein, it’s a stark difference from what Torrey Pines required to contend, so a great opportunity to buy low on players who missed the mark last week, especially those who lost strokes Scrambling/Around The Green.

It’s been a star-studded pack of winners the last 6 years with wins from Webb, Rickie, Gary, Hideki (twice), and Brooks. It remains to be seen if more unheralded players are able to rise to the occasion this year without the pressure of massive galleries.

We are also dealing with sacred grounds where Hideki Matsuyama has somehow found yearly success on the greens, so we’ve seen him in the mix every single year over the last decade. Although Bubba Watson has not won here in the past, he’s had plenty of chances, with 5 Top-5 finishes in the last 9 years.

Key Stats

  • SG: APP
  • SG: OTT
  • SG: Ball Striking
  • GIRs Gained
  • Proximity 175-200
  • Course History

Stats To Avoid

  • SG: ARG
  • Bermuda Putting Stats

Just as Torrey Pines highlights, exaggerates, and exposes your Short Game, TPC Scottsdale puts the same spotlight on your iron play. As long as players can avoid water hazards on select holes off the tee, the fairways are wide and rough is less penal than most other courses, allowing strong approach players to attack on their second shots. Proximity 175-200 is a key stat I’m eying this week, as players like Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and Gary Woodland each excel in this range and have all gone on to win here.

In terms of Driving stats, the ball travels farther in the elevation and dry air, leveling the playing field for shorter hitters such as Webb Simpson and Chez Reavie who have enjoyed similar historical success here as longer drivers like Brooks Koepke, Gary Woodland, and Bubba Watson. SG: OTT is an important stat here for sure, but secondary to strong Approach play.

The Greens are listed as Bermuda, however are actually a very unique blend, with a much smoother feel than typical Bermuda greens. I took a look at how players who tend to putt well on Bermuda fare on TPC Scottdale’s greens, and the results were very inconclusive. Because of that, I’m going to be prioritizing Putting performance at past WMPO events over general Bermuda Putting for this event. Case in Point: In this Field of 140, Hideki Matsuyama ranks 117th in Total SG: P, 135th in SG: P on Bermuda, and 65th in SG: P at WMPO. So he putts worse on Bermuda than his average, yet is in the top half of this field in Putting on this course. Like I said, don’t read too much into the Bermuda stats and try to prioritize weighting Putting performance at WMPO, if you can.

What To Look Out For at the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open

For a second consecutive week, we’re spoiled with a loaded field, headlined by Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, and Xander Schauffele. With that come a myriad of storylines to track this week, including:

  • Rory McIlroy: First ever trip to the Waste Management Phoenix Open
  • Justin Thomas: First start sans Ralph Lauren sponsorship
  • Hideki Matsuyama: Can he continue his perennial dominance on this track?
  • Rickie Fowler: Can a return to familiar ground kickstart a return to his vintage form?
  • Patrick Reed: Are you sure you don’t want to come out and play in front of 5,000 fans?
  • Charley Hoffman: Third times the charm! Can the Waste Management poster boy complete 4 rounds of golf after back-to-back back injury WDs?
  • The People’s Open, Minus The People: How big will 5,000 spectators feel in an event known most for its massive crowds
  • Australian Exodus: After all the Aussie hype last week, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, and Cameron Davis have all decided to skip this week’s event
  • Bounce Backs: Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepke, Harris English, Matthew Wolff, Jason Day, and Bubba Watson all look to rebound from last week’s hapless efforts
  • Sunday Sweats: I look to salvage a semblance of a bankroll after the dust settles on my WMPO outrights and Super Bowl props