Waste Management Phoenix Open
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Bentgrass (6,250 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass 3”
Water Hazards: 6
Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish (1986; 1995)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Kyle Stanley chased down and passed 54-hole leader Spencer Levin to post 15-under-par 269 to collect his first victory on TOUR.
Dates: January 31 through February 3
Notes: The Stadium Course consistently ranks in the easier half of courses played since its inception in 1987.
The TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course has hosted this tournament since 1987.
Since 1980, only Jeff Mitchell (1980) and Kyle Stanley (2012) have won the WMPO in their first attempt.
Since 2000, J.B. Holmes (2006) and Jonathan Kaye (2004) join Kyle Stanley (2012) as the only first-time winners in the desert.
Since moving to TPC Scottsdale in 1987, nobody has successfully defended their title here. The only folks to defend their titles in the desert over the years have been Hogan, Demaret, Mangrum, Palmer and Miller.
Rank and File
Twenty of the top 50 in the OWGR (as of Monday) are playing this week.
The TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course was designed with the fans in mind and boy have they responded. With crowds over 400,000 expected over the four days, the fans are eager for great golf in a great setting and they will get both this week. TPC courses are known for extensive bunkering surrounding the greens; runoff areas adjacent to the greens and false-fronts protecting the greens. Oh, and the fans are a bit crazy! The 16th green hosts upwards of 30,000 per day and you better not have rabbit ears if you hit a mediocre shot from that tee box. If you do, it’s best for you to throw free stuff into the crowd to beg them for mercy. A drivable par-four is next at 17. This all follows a par-five No. 15. Exciting and scoring times!
Getting the ball in the fairway is great but hitting these multi-tiered greens and putting will be the keys this week. Over the last four years, the winner here has been in the top three in GIR so there’s you trend of the week. Mark Wilson (2011) and Hunter Mahan (2010) have shown that length here is not the ultimate factor. JB Holmes, (2006, 2008), Kenny Perry (2009), Phil Mickelson (1996, 2005), Vijay Singh (1995, 2003) and Kyle Stanley (2012) will argue differently. Yet, Stanley and Perry were T3 in GIR in their victories.
The more GIR you hit, the more chances you have to make birdie putts. To find the last winner to be higher than 14-under I’ll have to go all the way back to Rocco Mediate (-11; 273) in 1999. The multi-tiered greens will make iron play and putting a premium this week.
Top 10, Plus One
Jason Dufner: Welcome back to the mainland! Dufner finished 2012 with a second and T2 in Australia. He began 2013 with a rocky T18 in Hawaii at the HTOC but his recent visit to the Middle East saw him finish with a pair of T9s to gather some momentum to his first full-field event on TOUR in 2013. He was defeated in a playoff here in 2011 by Mark Wilson and was T8 last year.
Nick Watney: He missed last year’s edition because of illness but Watney is back for the eighth time in nine years. In his last three outings he’s posted 63, 63 and 65 while finishing T12, T24 and T5 in 2011. Watney has been working with Butch Harmon and has been looking good the last few months.
Brandt Snedeker: He’s had a fabulous open to 2013 (3rd, T23 and T2) and all that’s missing is a win. Needless to say he’s playing well.
Hunter Mahan: His ball-striking is always his bread and butter. He won here in 2010 and had the putter going last week at Torrey Pines (T15). The last time he was in Arizona on Bentgrass greens he was lifting the WGC-Match Play title.
Bubba Watson: After withdrawing last week, Watson, according to his Twitter account, has been fighting illness since he was in Hawaii for the HTOC. Watson is such an excellent ball-striker that he should have plenty of chances to get low at the Stadium Course, pending he’s healthy.
Rickie Fowler: His rebound in the final three rounds last week showed me what I needed to know about Fowler for 2013. He’s now the owner of consecutive top 10s in as many starts this season. He’s made the cut in all four appearances here including par or better in his last 12 rounds. I’ll ride the momentum.
Jimmy Walker: DY-NO-MITE! He was a 10-footer from his best finish on TOUR last week before settling for T4. He’s heating up T26, T23 and T4 to open 2013 so I’ll go with his form over his modest history here. Butch Harmon’s tutelage is having a positive effect.
Bill Haas: After fighting through the doldrums of his first two tournaments, Haas rebounded for T9 last week. He’s trending in the right direction.
Aaron Baddeley: Last week he posted the low weekend at Torrey Pines to finish T6. The Scottsdale resident is looking to take off on a course where he won back in 2007.
Charles Howell III: T12 sounds about right this week or will it be four straight weeks in the top 10? I’m putting him at 11 and HEDGING! His course record here isn’t as superior as the previous three events but his play trumps his history.
Martin Kaymer: He was the “weak link” on the 2012 European Team until he slayed the U.S. team with the winning putt. He mentioned in interviews afterwards that putt could have saved his career. He’s taken the ball and ran with it. In six starts since the Ryder Cup, he’s tallied five top 11s and his other start was T26. The German has taken up residence in Scottsdale as he plays on the TOUR this season.