Waste Management Phoenix Open
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass mixed with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa annua; 6,350 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass, ryegrass and fine fescue at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Jay Morrish & Tom Weiskopf (1986; 1995)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson tied the tournament record by firing 28-under-par 256 to defeat Brandt Snedeker by four shots.
Dates: January 30- February 2
Format: 132 players; 72 holes, stroke play
Notes: Keep an eye on the alternate’s list this week as most of those guys were top 10 at Torrey Pines last week. Plenty of pros make their home in Scottsdale but that’s not going to be a determining factor this week.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 10 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (2), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and now Scott Stallings have kept the perfect start rolling for the crimson, white and indigo. Only Walker and the Johnson Twins (not really, relax) are not teeing it up this week.
After racking up 12 first-time winners in 2013, only Jimmy Walker has broken his maiden in the first 10 events of 2013-14. Plus, he’s the only player with multiple wins!
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua. Walker added title No. 2 to catch the youngsters last week but that lasted one week. Scott Stallings, 28, joins Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) as the twenty-somethings on the board. The Young Guns now have six of 10 wins to start the season. The Old Guys were led last week by 43-year-old K.J. Choi and his T2.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
Jesper Parnevik (1998), Vijay Singh (2003) and Aaron Baddeley (2007) are the only three foreign-born winners here since 1998. #wavethatflag
Only Parnevik, Jonathon Kaye (2004), J.B. Holmes (2006) and Kyle Stanley (2012) have chalked up their first victories on TOUR at WMPO.
The only rookie to win this event was J.B. Holmes in 2006. He had so much fun he came back and won in 2008 as well.
The only three time champions at WMPO are Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Mark Calcavecchia and 2013 champion Phil Mickelson. All of those folks are major champions.
The last player to defend their title was Johnny Miller in 1974-75.
The OWGR sends 22 of the top 50 this week to the Arizona desert.
The course record, 60, was matched last year by Mickelson in round one. Calcavecchia and Grant Waite have also fired 60 here but Mickelson’s done it twice.
Past Champions in the Field
2013 Phil Mickelson
2012 Kyle Stanley
2011 Mark Wilson
2010 Hunter Mahan
2008 J.B. Holmes
2007 Aaron Baddeley
2006 J.B. Holmes
2005 Phil Mickelson
2003 Vijay Singh
2001 Mark Calcavecchia
1996 Phil Mickelson
Inside the Ropes
The TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course has been known for years as the biggest party in Scottsdale in late January/early February. Each year, the TOUR crams as many party-goers and golf fans in, around and on top of this Jay Morrish-Tom Weiskopf creation that was developed with said fans in mind. Over 538,000 showed up in 2008 to set the tournament record and last year included the one-day record of over 179+,000 in round three. Most of them will gather around the famous 16th hole that is now completely surrounded by hospitality tents, mounds and galleries, giving it a “coliseum” feeling. The hole doesn’t play the hard but the crowd “buzz” will force even the top pros to keep their concentration on this par three. It is fun, once a season in my opinion, to have a place like this on TOUR where the fans can get lose and get after it. The players know exactly what goes on here and the ones that embrace the atmosphere generally are the ones who perform.
The course itself is not that demanding as evidenced by Mickelson’s 28-under runaway last year. TPC Scottsdale only has three par fives but the perfect greens, fairways and weather make for perfect scoring conditions. Rocco Mediate’s 11-under in 1999 is the worst winning score here in 15 years and is the only score higher than 14-under. The Stadium Course was the 40th-easiest of the 43 courses used on TOUR last year and historically finishes in the easier half. Heck, Mickelson played the par THREES last year in nine-under, same as he played the far fives. After this season’s tournament, the Stadium Course will close in April for major renovations which will include the repositioning of certain holes and resurfacing all of the greens. For in-depth details on the course renovations, be sure to check Rob Bolton’s column this week as he will break it down. Those changes will not affect the 2014 edition of this tournament so gamers will still get to enjoy the final six holes that include two par fives, No. 16 and the drivable No. 17. This is where the tournament will be won and lost because of the risk-reward.
The last four winners here have been in the top three in GIR and last year’s top five were the five best in number of total feet of putts made for the week. I think I’ve cracked the code! The 2013 WMPO was the lowest scoring tourney of all time at TPC Scottsdale.
The players that should be on your fantasy rosters and should be making the most noise come the weekend. Yahoo! gamers, each player’s Yahoo! group is in ( ).
Keegan Bradley (B): He’s teed it up five times in 2013-14 and has not finished worse than T18. After T15 (-8) in 2012 he moved it to 13-under last year and T24 but that included a round of 63. He kills three and four pars and will have no problem eating up this track of 7,216 yards. This is his third tournament of 2014 so I expect big things this week.
Webb Simpson (B): After showing a penchant for going low with his win in Las Vegas, Simpson backed up that 24-under performance with 17-under at Kapalua to finish T3. He was only T23 at Humana on his last venture out but his weekend consisted of 67-64 so he’s trending in the proper direction. He didn’t play here last year but he was T8 in 2012 and 2011 with only two rounds in the 70s.
Graham DeLaet (B): Course history is null and void to me when evaluating the Canadian ball-striking machine as DeLaet has shown over the last year that he is one of the best tee-to-green players on TOUR. His last three events over the last three months back up that statement as he’s posted T7, T6 and T2 in those starts. He’s currently 14th in GIR and 17th in strokes gained-putting. Maple syrup for ERRYBODY1!1!
Chris Kirk (B): In his last three events on TOUR he’s won, T16 and finished solo second. The only misleading number in that group was his T16 at Kapalua because that was a 30-man field but he backed up that performance by firing 16-under at the Sony. He’s sixth in scoring average and 11th in the all-around. He was T24 here last year with four rounds in the 60s. His monster year shows no signs of slowing down. Get on board with THE CAPTAIN!
Harris English (C): He’s seven-for-seven which includes a win, a solo fourth and a T7 this season. He’s first in GIR and first in strokes-gained putting. In eight career rounds at the Stadium Course the last two years, only one of those rounds is over 70.
Ryan Palmer (C): Coming off back-to-back top 10s with T8 at Sony and a solo second at the Humana, Palmer’s game sets up perfectly for a run at a title this week. In his last eight rounds he’s fired 65 or lower in half of them and that’s exactly what it will take to win around here this week. Last year, Palmer opened with 64 and closed with 62 to finish fifth for his second top 10 in seven starts. He’s the OAD pick as well this week. #choochoo!
Ryan Moore (A): His solo fourth last year saw him post 66-66-65-65 as he racked up his second top 10 in eight starts at the WMPO. Moore has been an early season beast over the last couple seasons and his trend continues. He’s five-for-five with a win and two other top 10s in this young season. He likes desert golf as he’s won in Las Vegas. He has no problem making birdies and he crushes three and four pars. Moore please!
Bill Haas (B): There’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of him on the West Coast or in the desert. Haas is trending the right direction here as he’s finished T29, T19 and T6 last year in his last three starts. He’ll need a hot week from his putter but he’ll have plenty of chances as well as he strikes it off the tee and from the fairway.
Gary Woodland (A): He’s been close three times now to backing his Reno-Tahoe victory with a second win but he’s come up short each time including last week on the 71st hole at the FIO. He returns to the Stadium Course where he’s played 15 of 16 career rounds at par or better. The last three seasons have seen him finish T5, T26 and T16 last year. This will be the perfect panacea after Torrey and he’ll look to pull a “Kyle Stanley” and win this week.
Brandt Snedeker (A): In seven starts in the desert, Snedeker is six-for-seven and has three top 10s including his solo second to Mickelson last year. I’m a big believer that form is temporary and class is permanent so I’ll endorse Snedeker to bounce back this week. A nice, flat stroll across the desert on slicker-than-normal greens should be just the cure for what ails him. Plus, I like going against the grain early in the season.
Hunter Mahan (B): Knocked the rust off last week in San Diego so I’ll be interested to see how the 2010 gets back on it this week. In two events here after his W, Mahan has posted seven of eight rounds in the 60s and has finishes of T29 and T16.
Billy Horschel (B): One bad round on the toughest day, Saturday, last week at Torrey killed his chances for a top 10 but his eagle hole-out on the 72nd hole should give him momentum heading to Phoenix this week. He was T10 in birdies last week but cranked out three doubles to finish T23. In his first appearance at WMPO he fired 64-67 on the weekend to finish T11.