Following a weather-shortened week at Pebble Beach, the PGA Tour returns to action for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the most distinctively engaging events of the season. TPC Scottsdale provides an ideal setting for tournament golf, providing the perfect playbook for TPC-style architecture. The famous 16th par-3 ‘Stadium’ hole is one of the most recognizable settings in professional golf, yet the drivable par-4 17th truly steals the show, making for one of the most exciting and atmospheric finishes on tour.
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World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler headlines the field as the two-time defending champion. The former Masters champion looks to become the first PGA Tour golfer since Steve Stricker (John Deere Classic, 2009-2011) to win the same tournament in three consecutive years. Despite the Monday morning WDs from Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, Scheffler will still be met by a stout field. Justin Thomas enters on the heels of back-to-back top-six finishes to open the season, while Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns and Max Homa will also be looking to build off an impressive track record at TPC Scottsdale. Consistently the PGA Tour’s highest attended and rowdiest events on the schedule, the WM Phoenix Open is sure to provide plenty of fireworks.
Public TPC Scottsdale: Stadium Scottsdale, AZ 3.9 232 Panelists
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The famed home of the WM Phoenix Open boasts probably the most well-known stadium hole in golf: the par-3 16th. Tiger Woods’ hole-in-one in 1997 put it on the map for casual fans, who now flock to Scottsdale during Super Bowl week. The layout has architectural merit, too, with its risk-and-reward-filled back nine. Tom Weiskopf, who designed the course with Jay Morrish, has overseen renovations of the course—making tweaks to please the tour player and resort guest alike. Explore our full review
Here are my favorite plays and fades for the WM Phoenix Open.
$10,000 range Play: Scottie Scheffler, $11,600:
With Xander Schauffele’s WD, the $10,000 range this week is now solely populated by Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas. Both players are incredible options with immaculate track records at TPC Scottsdale, yet there’s no need to overthink this one. I could easily argue that given the Schauffele withdrawal, Scheffler should be $12,000 in this tournament. The former Masters champion is the top driver of the ball and No. 1 middle iron player, two crucial pillars of success at TPC Scottsdale. Even more encouraging is the fact the Bermuda over-seeded greens have been Scheffler’s strongest putting surface by a healthy margin.
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$9,000 range Play: Jordan Spieth, $9,500:
Make no mistake about it, Jordan Spieth disappointed last week at Pebble Beach. Yet I still remain cautiously optimistic that the three-time major winner is in store for a big season. Through two rounds at Pebble Beach, Spieth gained over a stroke in both ball-striking categories, while falling victim to a faulty putter. Now he returns to a track where he has recorded a fourth- and sixth-place finish in two of his past three appearances. Spieth has gained strokes ball-striking in all seven of his appearances at TPC Scottsdale. I’m willing to take my chances that the putter finally heats up this week.
Fade: Cameron Young, $9,200:
I remain a big believer in Cameron Young’s talent, but until he puts a few weeks of strong PGA Tour golf together, I see no reason to pay this type of premium. Young is coming off another disappointing 70th-place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he lost over 2.5 strokes on approach. While his driver remains a weapon, I have far too many concerns about his irons and putter to deploy him in this spot.
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$8,000 range Play: Hideki Matsuyama, $8,400:
I’m not typically a course history truther, but it is worth mentioning the fact that TPC Scottsdale ranks top-five on the PGA Tour in terms of its predictive nature of prior success. It’s no coincidence that 60 chance of Phoenix Opens over the past decade have been won by just three players. One of those players is Scheffler, the other is no longer a member of the PGA Tour (Brooks Koepka), and the third is Hideki Matsuyama. The former Masters champion won back-to-back Phoenix Opens in 2016 and 2017, and his elite combination of total driving and middle iron player makes him always a threat to add to his impressive resume at TPC Scottsdale.
Fade: Beau Hossler, $8,000:
I’ll continue to miss out on the Beau Hossler experience. Despite a 14th-place finish at Pebble Beach, Hossler still lost over a stroke in both ball-striking categories and got by largely by the strength of his short game and putter. This feels unsustainable, particularly at a track such as TPC Scottsdale, which is far more dependent on ball-striking. Hossler remains one of the worst long-term middle iron players in this field, one of the highest correlated skills with success at TPC Scottsdale.
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Similar to the disrespect we were able to take advantage of last week with Wyndham Clark, Shane Lowry is a much stronger class of player that many of his similarly priced peers. The former Open champion is coming off a rock-solid 25th-place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, and now he returns to a golf course where he already recorded two top-20 finishes in four appearances. Still one of the best overall drivers and approach players in this field, there’s a tremendous amount of value on Shane Lowry at this price tag.
Fade: Daniel Berger, $7,700:
I will continue to take a wait-and-see approach with Daniel Berger, who showed some signs of life at the American Express, before finishing toward the bottom of the field in his last start at the Farmers Insurance Open. It’s only a matter of time before Berger regains form, but there should be zero urgency to be coming off a major injury who is still clearly to still finding his footing in competitive golf.
Flier: Kevin Yu, $7,300:
With multiple top-six finishes already under his belt to start the 2024 season, Kevin Yu carries some great momentum into a golf course that fits his game to a tee. The Scottsdale resident is one of the best overall drivers in this field, and despite a 58th-place finish in his last start, Yu still nearly lead the entire field in approach play at Pebble Beach. We’ve seen how a player with Yu’s ball-striking upside can come to fruition if the putter can cooperate.
$6,000 range Play: Sam Ryder, $6,900:
Sam Ryder continues to rate out as one of my best values on the board, and he is once again carrying a generous price tag. Ryder is one of the better middle-iron players in this entire field, and he has recorded top-25 finishes in both of his two most recent appearances at TPC Scottsdale. Coming off a solid 31st-place finish in an elevated event where he gained over a stroke on approach, I expect Ryder to thrive in the desert.
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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also a data analyst and writer for Run Pure Sports, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for RickRunGood.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com