Inside the Ropes
Welcome to the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale
Par 71 (35-36)
Rough: 3 inches
6,250 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 11.6 to 12 feet
Six water hazards
Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, 1995
Notes: Bentgrass greens this week instead of Poa annua
FedExCup Points: 500 (winner’s share)
Winner’s Share: $1,098,000
Defending Champion: Mark Wilson defeated Jason Dufner on the second playoff hole with a birdie. Both men finished at 18-under par to force the playoff.
Notes: Monday finish in 2011 due to frost and frozen turf delays on the first four days because they ran out of daylight on Sunday. TPC Scottsdale ranked 42nd easiest of the 51 courses played on tour in 2011.
Date: Feb 2-5, 2012
I sound like a broken record, but TPC Scottsdale was the 42nd easiest course of the 51 courses played in 2011. The average winning score the last ten years was just a shade below 18-under par.
Playing in the desert is different than playing from the desert. Mark Wilson led the tournament in GIR last year on his way to victory. Jason Dufner struggled to hit GIR but his short game was fantastic as he only made two bogeys in four rounds and didn’t win. Bomb and gouge has also been used to overpower this course as well.
As with all TPC courses, players must be accurate with their irons and wedges or be excellent chippers and putters. Undulating greens, false-fronts and run-off areas are signature features on all TPC courses. Guys who miss greens will have to get up and down to keep pace with those who bust birdies.
Since moving to the TPC Scottsdale in 1987, no player has successfully defended their championship.
The last two winners, Mark Wilson (2011) and Hunter Mahan (2010) have both led the field in GIR. The year before that Kenny Perry won and he was T3 GIR.
Paul Azinger (1987), Tommy Armour III (1990), Jesper Parnevik (1998) and J.B. Holmes (2006) are the only first-time winners here since 1987. That’s four first-time winners in 25 years. Be careful with the youth movement again this week when looking for winners.
There have been four tournaments in 2012. All four have had blue passport winners.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
They’ll be dancing, among other things, at the 16th hole. 40,000 of your closest friends are seated and are standing right on top of the players. They are judged American Idol-style on the proficiency of their tee balls into the par-three 16th. Hit the green, polite applause. Hit it close to the flag, raucous cheering ensues. Miss the green? Well, time to put in the ol’ ear plugs as you walk the catwalk of jeers to the green.
The best part of the 16th hole is it’s the exception on Tour, not the rule. It’s taken on a life of its own and the players and spectators relish this unique environment. So what if it’s a little rowdy and a little boozy? It’s great for golf to have 40,000 people on THAT hole daily to provide that kind of atmosphere. It’s special because it doesn’t happen at every course on every weekend. Loosen up a bit and enjoy it!
By The Time I Get to Arizona
I had somebody send me an email (thanks for writing, everyone!) saying all I pick is chalk for the guys I think who can win each week. Well, YEAH! If you’re looking for me to pick a random player this week just because it’s an “off-the-wall” pick, we’ll it ain’t happening. I select players who I project will have success on this track based on experience, form, class and their past record in this event. If a Monday qualifier goes all “Arjun Atwal”, well, good for him! If the Monday qualifier goes on to win this week, you can be sure I will be taking a look at him next week!
See, this is why sports is the greatest reality television going. You cannot predict nor script what is going to happen on any given weekend. You think you know what’s going to happen and then POW! No idea how THAT happened! And that’s why we tune in. That’s why we pick our rosters. It would be no fun if we knew the outcomes before these moments happened.
Brandt Snedeker: After he made 23 birdies and an eagle to finish T8 in his first start back after hip surgery, Snedeker was licking his chops to play one of his favorite courses last weekend. After firing another five-under par 67 on Sunday, it looked like his 24 birdies this week wouldn’t be enough. Nope, it turned out to be just enough to reach a playoff and defeat Kyle Stanley for his third career Tour victory. If 47 birdies and a WIN in the last two weeks don’t get your attention, no other stats will matter. He only made 21 birdies here in finishing T8 last year. If he keeps playing like this, people will start asking Ron Howard if he knows he looks like Brandt Snedeker.
D.A Points: Blistering start to his 2012 season with consecutive top 10’s to his name in addition to T12 to open at Hyundai. In 2012 he has improved on that start up to this point. As I mentioned last week, this is where he heated up during the West Coast swing last season (5th FIO, T18 WMPO, WIN, AT&T). Before his T18 last year he was cut three times at WMPO. His form in the past three weeks pushes me past those details. When in doubt, always take da’ points!
Martin Laird: Laird has played eight rounds this year and his worst score is 70. He was second alone to Steve Stricker at Hyundai and was T14 at Humana his last time out. His distance off the tee combined with excellent iron play should be a perfect combo this week. He ranked 18th in 2011 in the All-Around category and has no problem making birdies. He missed the cut in his first two appearances before finishing T3 last year.
Matt Kuchar: One of the premium players on Tour who constantly makes cuts and hits top 10’s. He destroys par fours and has a fantastic short game. He finished T43 (2010) and T6 (2009) in his two most recent starts here. He finished at Humana with a closing seven-under par 65 in his last time out. His momentum from that final round should carry over.
Rickie Fowler: He made his first start of 2012 last week and finishing in T9 using brand-new Cobra woods and irons. Looks like he enjoys the way they play! In three career starts here he has finished T58 (2009), second alone (2010) and T13 last year, including firing a 62 in round two. With his superior long-iron game last year he led the field with two eagles. Fowler should also make plenty of putts leading to plenty of birdies this week. He’s a great all-around player who I would have ranked higher but I’m siding with history and first-time-winners here.
North of the Cut Line:
Mark Wilson: The defending champion has had another fantastic early start in 2012 just like he did in 2011. With his win at Humana two weeks ago, he joined Steve Stricker as the only players on Tour with three wins in the last calendar year. His victory at Humana was classic Wilson, destroying GIR and holing tons of putts. In winning here last year, he led the field in GIR and only made four bogeys. His last four outings here have been WIN, T14, T48 and T9. History says repeating here is most difficult, but on his recent form and his history at this course, I can’t put him any lower.
Webb Simpson: He started the year off going toe-to-toe with Steve Stricker and falling just short at Hyundai. His T38 at Sony was due to an uncooperative putter yet only had one round over par. His game probably needed a couple of weeks off to get re-charged after a whirlwind 2011 season. His T8 last year included 22 birdies and was T2 GIR.
Cameron Tringale: I swung and missed with Tringale last week after he led the field in bogeys at Torrey Pines in 2011. An excellent iron player and putter, Tringale suppressed those memories of 2011 and finished T4. Speaking of learning from mistakes, I won’t be making that same mistake this week. Even though Tringale had a nightmare five-over par to close at WMPO last year, it looks like, after last week, he can keep the past in the past.
Nick Watney: After finishing a disappointing T60 at a course he plays awfully well historically, I expect Watney to bounce back this week. He’s made six of seven cuts here in his career, including the last three years all in the top 25. Last year’s fifth place finish was his career-best at WMPO. No way I will bail on Watney yet. Note: Withdrew Tuesday.
Bill Haas: Rode an opening round 63 at the North Course last week to T4 finish. Showing signs of regaining his 2011 form. A birdie paradise should help him get back on track. His career record is not spectacular, just two made cuts in five, but has the solid all-around game to break out at any time.
Bubba Watson: Four steady rounds last week ALMOST made him enough money to pay off his new toy, The General Lee. Watson’s weakness has been the flat stick but if he gets that going he can go low anywhere. He is way long and hits too many greens and should be able to overpower this course. The Scottsdale resident has his “home” meet of the year. He has a new car, is relaxed and at home and has plenty of game to offset his decent record here, four cuts made in five events with his best finish in 2007 being T8.
John Rollins: He finished T10 at Sony and backed that up with T66 at Humana before making 24 birdies (T2) last week and finishing solo third. I’m slightly confused but am taking a look this week. Two top 10’s in three weeks will get my attention. So will nine consecutive cuts here and four top 15’s. His best finish was 20-under second place in 2007.
Camilo Villegas: Make it eight consecutive cuts for Camilo since late last season. His T19 at Humana and his T22 at Torrey Pines last weekend continues his streak of steady golf. In those eight cuts, he’s hit the top 25 every time. He WD in the WMPO last year citing a back injury but he’s fit and ready to go this week. His career numbers here include a T2 in 2006 and T8 in 2010.
Johnson Wagner: After the start he has made in 2012, I will give him one more week to cool off. How can you turn your back on T9, WIN and T2 out of blocks? I can’t do it. He has absolutely no history here but I will overlook that. The moustache is on mayjah fire! Blindfold him and he’ll still make putts and he has been great around the greens as well this season.
Bud Cauley: Tied Brandt Snedeker for the low round on Sunday (five-under par 67) at Torrey Pines to quietly finish T13. I gave him a look at his first event at the Sony and he’s shown his mettle by not finishing outside the top 30 in his only three events so far. I like guys who go low on the weekend on the following week. He’s trending in the right direction.
Phil Mickelson: By Phil’s standards, he’s off to a terrible start. By fantasy golf standards, it’s not much different. In his first two starts, Phil was T46 at the Humana and CUT last week at Torrey Pines. After hearing Phil was going to play at Humana, I thought he would come out of the gates flying. After that finish at Humana, I was convinced his “home” course would cure what ailed him. Now, he’s back in Scottsdale at another track he’s dominated and I have no idea what to think. Somebody else can try him this week; I’m off to look at his house that’s currently up for sale.
Dustin Johnson: I’m still on the fade train with D.J. this week. T46 doesn’t help me get to where I need to be especially considering his putting numbers. When he’s healthy, I don’t need any convincing. Not sure he’s there yet.
Kyle Stanley: I was torn on this one for multiple reasons. One, I like the kid. He stood there, took his medicine and got on with it. He probably saw the filled out “Happy Gilmore” check on the internet. Two, he’s hit the interview tent Tuesday morning. That takes nuts and guts. What’s NOT to like about him? He’s a great talent but I just think it’s too soon mentally to jump on him after what happened only last weekend. He’s definitely on the radar either way this week.
Jerry Kelly: He played this event in 1996-1999 and was cut in three of four events. He teed it up again in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and was cut all three times. Great short game or not, that’s a bad track record.
Panning for Gold:
Bill Lunde: I have absolutely no problem taking a punt on the only player in the field that shot in the 60’s in both days on the weekend at Torrey Pines.
Jeff Maggert: He’s made 11 of 15 cuts here including three top 10’s. He started the season on a positive note with a T13 at Sony and a T5 at Humana. Can really roll it and has no problem making birdies.
Scott Piercy: Off to a solid start with three made cuts in four events. He finished T12 at Hyundai, T23 at Sony, cut at Humana and T13 last week. Ranks second on Tour in birdies made in 2012.
Chris Couch: He was T8 in 2011 and T4 in 2010. He’s made three of six cuts career here, but I’m going on most recent form at Scottsdale. Yes, I noticed he hasn’t made a cut this year. That’s why he’s in THIS section and not mentioned above! He’s a horse for this course.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Team Name: Mike Glasscott
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Brandt Snedeker
Group 3: D.A. Points
Group 4: Bill Lunde
Ned Said, “…
Webb Simpson-- He has continued his hot play from the end of last season with a T3 at the TOC. Last year at the WMPO he tied for eighth so he is a pretty safe play this week.
Camillo Villegas-- Most players will take Watney in this spot, but his lackluster finish at the Farmers has me looking elsewhere. I am torn between Villegas and Y.E. Yang sd both have good records at the WMPO, but Villegas is in better form right now.
Y.E. Yang, Nick Watney WD Tuesday, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson
Mark Wilson-- Not only is he the defending champion at the WMPO, but he also won last time out at the Humana Challenge.
Brandt Snedeker-- A great start to the season with a T8 at the Humana Challenge and an improbable victory last week at the Farmers. His recent record at the WMPO includes at T9 in '08 and a T8 last year.
Rickie Fowler-- Opened his season last week at the Farmers where he finished T12. His record at the WMPO is solid with a second place in '10 and a T13 last year.
Ian Poulter-- Poulter played well in the off season with the highlight being a victory last time out at the JB Were Masters. His only start at the WMPO was in '10 when he finished T24.
Bill Haas, D.A. Points, John Rollins, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson
Martin Laird-- He is playing well right now with a second place at the TOC and T14 last time out at the Humana Challenge. He missed the cut in his first two starts at the WMPO, but did well last year with a T3 finish.
Scott Piercy-- A bit of a tossup for me between Vijay Singh and Piercy. Both players were T13 last week at the Farmers, but I’m giving the nod to Piercy based on his last two WMPO finishes of T6 in '09 and T8 in '10.
Vijay Singh, Jason Dufner, Johnson Wagner, Ben Crane, Cameron Tringale, Brian Gay
“And Another Thing”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with Mike Glasscott on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CHANGE! They will be breaking down the field at the WMPO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.