2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open: Preview

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The Farmers Insurance Open is over, and what a sweet finish it was, with Jon Rahm sinking a downhill, double-breaking, 60-foot putt for eagle, and turning a come-from-behind into a three-stroke victory. Okay, we’ll bite… Yes, we did feature Jon Rahm, and did predict a slow and steady climb toward Sunday contention. But in all fairness, we were not the only ones on Rahm. In fact, most everyone in the golfing world has been as high or higher on Rahm, and now you see why. Spoiler alert: we’re back on the Arizona State grad this week as he gets to build on his momentum from the win by essentially having a home field tournament with a significantly Sun Devil-partial crowd.

But aside from Rahm, there were a lot of casualties – as there often are – at Torrey Pines, and our picks were far from unscathed. So we’re not here to gloat. We’re here to show humility, show our respect to the fantasy gods, and to always keep working at improving our craft. So with that, it’s another week, another dollar.

This week the PGA Tour heads to Phoenix, Arizona to take on TPC Scottsdale, in what is easily one of our top five favorite non-majors of the season. Boasting “The loudest hole in golf,” and the “greenest show on grass,” the Waste Management Phoenix Open helps bridge the gap between golf and football on a Superbowl weekend like no other tournament could. The WMPO not only attracts the largest crowd of any golf tournament, at times making the action look more like a scene from Happy Gilmore than a traditional tournament, it is the most sustainable and charitable tournament of the year.

It also has begun attracting deeper and deeper fields, meaning lots of great players to pick from, so let’s get after it.

Waste Management Phoenix Open

TPC Scottsdale Course History

Pick of The Week

Jon:

Brendan Steele $8,200 – Hideki is clearly the course horse at TPC Scottsdale, but Brendan Steele is the guy I’m going to be on this week. Currently sitting at 4th in the Fedex Cup standings, Steele has made 6 of 6 cuts this year, and has not finished lower than 31st. He has great course history at TPC Scottsdale, notching two top-10’s in the last 5 years. Couple that with a high strokes gained, total driving, and GIR %, and I have my golfer of the week.

Tom:

Brooks Koepka $9,100 – Last week, I cautioned that my pick of the week (Jimmy Walker) could blow up in my face. It did. This week, I’m picking a guy who was also in that list of notable golfers who missed the cut last week (which included Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Tiger Woods). Koepka struggled in his title defense of this tournament last year, but it was the site of his breakthrough PGA win in 2015, and since, Koepka has been one of the higher-level golfers on tour, culminating in a Ryder Cup appearance this past fall. I see Koepka as a top-tier option who may have actually fallen a bit under the radar (I’m hoping for <20% ownership), and who’s length can absolutely dominate this course.

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

wm-open

Source: Arizona Sports

Hideki Matsuyama $11,700 – One of us has to put him in here. Hideki will most likely be the highest owned player in the field, and rightfully so. He’s a past winner and has finished in top 10 positions in multiple years. He just seems to really like this course, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we told you to fade him (unless Tom can find a reason). He’s a course horse for a reason.

Jon Rahm $9,700 – Last week’s winner returns to his college state of Arizona. I typically will stay away from last week’s winner, but after watching that 60-foot eagle putt to win, I’m a believer. Rahm ranks high in strokes gained categories, as well as birdie or better percentage. Again, as an Arizona State Alumnus, I see Rahm having another big week.

Tom:

Justin Thomas $11,500 – Elephant in the room: Justin Thomas is teeing it up for the first time since many in the golf world started crowning him as the “next big thing” in golf after two dominant wins in Hawaii, and already three on the season. Whether you buy into that story line or think it’s far-fetched and premature, the dude’s golf game has been incendiary this year. TPC Scottsdale is not exactly the track to humble a hot golfer, either. So I expect JT will continue his birdie-busting play, even if he doesn’t ultimately win the tournament. From an ownership standpoint, though, I would caution overuse of Thomas. A good strategy would be to roll him out in 33-50% of your lineups, and be strategic about which lineups to omit him.

J.B. Holmes $8,800 – I’m not going to lie, thick steak plays are not my favorite this week, and having already used one up as my pick of the week in Koepka, it was hard for me to even choose a second here who I strongly endorse. But as I looked into Holmes a bit more, I may have sold myself. Much like Koepka, J.B. has the length to get into scoring position early and often in Phoenix. On top of that, he’s played this tournament many, many times, has made the cut three years in a row, has two top 10s here (including a T6 last year), and is coming off a Sunday 68 at Torrey Pines. So I like his momentum, and love his history in Phoenix, and finally, believe he will go largely overlooked.

Still, I plan to craft most lineups this week that will pass up the high $ players, and focus on the 7k-low-8k range guys.

Middle of The Road

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Source: Arizona Progress Gazette

 

Jon:

Ryan Moore $8,600 – Another cut-maker of 2017. Moore has great course history here, and like him to round out some lineups. I think Moore has the potential to win here, but overall, I think he’s just a darn safe play. He’s finished with multiple top 10s the past few years at TPC Scottsdale, and ranks well in key metrics that I’m looking at.

Pat Perez $8,000 – Where the F did Perez come from? Tom picked him last week, and I am all in on Perez this week. Again, he has yet to miss a cut, and also has great course history here, coming in notching a bunch of top 50 showings. Following a missed cut last year, I look for Perez to give the course the business, and have a very strong showing at 2017’s version of the Phoenix Open. Oh, and it helps he was born in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tom:

Scott Piercy $7,900 – Piercy is a chalky play this week. First, he is 6 out of 7 in this tournament, including three top 10s and another T15 (granted, these high finishes go back a few years). Second, he has made the cut in every tournament he’s entered this season. There is a lot of clutter (that we will talk about) in this mid-range, so a steady hand like Piercy’s is preferable to taking a flyer on someone near his price.

Cody Gribble $7,100 – Gribble is my example of a sneaky play this week. Jon talked about him at the beginning of the season, as were most of the golf talking heads at that point. Gribble is a rookie from University of Texas who already won (Sanderson Farms Championship), back when most of us were not yet playing fantasy golf. He followed up that win with a couple top 15s, then missed the cut at the Sony Open, and then took a couple weeks off. It is pretty rare for a rookie to get a break like that early in the season, but the win granted Gribble that fortune, and thus I like his chances as he returns to the action this week.

Tom’s Fade of The Week

Rickie Fowler $9,500 and Bubba Watson $8,300 – These are probably considered bolder-than-usual fades, but that’s the kind of fade I like! Both Fowler and Watson are course horses at TPC Scottsdale (Fowler of course losing to Matsuyama in a playoff last year), both are extremely popular in the golfing world (especially with the casual fan), and – although it’s not relevant here – they are both really good friends! What that means is that they will likely carry high ownership, and because of their track records, that could really hurt if you fade them and they both end up contending. It ALSO, of course, means that a fade that pans out could give you an especially strong edge, so be bold, and fade the golf boys!

Jon’s Flyer of the Week

Lucas Glover $6,500 – I can almost guarantee that even mentioning Lucas Glover will draw groans from the DFS crowd. To this day, I have not mentioned Glover’s name without some sort of “really?” from Tom. And it’s true, Glover’s putter may as well be the wrong end of a ball-peen hammer, but the guy has been getting it done this year! He’s been cut once this year — back in October, mind you — and since then has done no worse than a 41st place. He ranks high in strokes gained tee-to-green, and GIR%, which are both metrics that he’ll need this week. I’m not saying Glover comes out ready to hit the winners circle, but I think he could be a sneaky, sneaky play.

BONUS! “7 and 7”

We’re going to add a little section this week (named after one of Tom’s favorite drinks) because frankly, the prices on DK are extremely bizarre for this tournament. It was going to be a tough week to judge anyway, as there is a predicted uptick in players transitioning from daily NFL leagues, and these prices are just adding to the challenge.

For instance: As we’ve continued to gather data on DK GPP leagues, including both our own lineups and others that finish at the top, one theme has become clear: lineups are often won and lost with how you pick players in the 7k range.

The problem with this week is… there are a whopping 47 golfers in this range! So Tom is going to highlight 7 golfers to consider, and 7 to avoid in the 7k range. They are as follows:

Yay:

Tony Finau ($7,600), Matt Kuchar ($7,400) – this is almost a defensive pick, because Kuch will likely be a huge favorite at this ridiculously low of a price, Luke List ($7,400), William McGirt ($7,400), Ryan Palmer ($7,100), Byeong-Hun An ($7,100), and Marc Leishman ($7,000).

Nay:

Webb Simpson ($7,900), Kevin Na ($7,500) – this is partially a strategy play (unlike the yay for Kuch) based on projecting high ownership, James Hahn ($7,300), Robert Garrigus ($7,300), Jason Kokrak ($7,100), Graham DeLaet ($7,100), and Daniel Berger ($7,000).

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Waste Management Phoenix Open: Preview and Predictions

Photo courtesy of Experiencescottsdale.com.

Photo courtesy of Experiencescottsdale.com.

It is time for “the Greatest (and Greenest) Show on Grass.” The ‘greenest’ part is a new addition to this now long-sounding tournament tagline, and was added some time after Waste Management took over as the tournament sponsor and turned this raucous, hot-mess of an event into the most sustainable, eco-friendly stop on tour. That is saying something, considering the course sees a whopping 500,000+ spectators come and go throughout the week, and further considering the undeniable fact that this tournament is known as one of the loudest and wildest events of the year. That loud and wild of an environment can only be created, and exacerbated, by the consumption of millions of plastic cups (as well as a specific drink that usually goes in them).

If you have never tuned in to the Waste Management Phoenix Open before, WATCH it this year. You will not be disappointed, especially if you enjoy this scene in Happy Gilmore, or this atmosphere at the Ryder Cup. In fact, just to get the “party” rolling, take a look at some memorable moments from the tournament.  The WMPO is best known for “the loudest hole in golf,” the 16th hole, an unassuming, 160 yard par 3 that has turned into one of the most exciting atmospheres in the game.

This year, we have as star-studded a cast as the greatest show on grass has seen. Understandably, the headlines are consumed by Tiger Woods making his PGA return, and first return to this tournament since 2001. Excited as we are to see how Tiger’s game unfolds, you will not see any further mention of him in our predictions – if 2014 taught us anything, Tiger’s game has entered the “wait and see” category, though as always, nothing would surprise us. We will also get our first looks at Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, two of the most highly anticipated golfers of the season, and perhaps some other big names, like Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker, or Billy Horschel can get things going in Arizona. Only the next 108 hours will tell.

We decided to continue our strategy of “going against the grain” with our picks. Sure, we have some big names on the board, but they aren’t exactly the big names you’d expect. Even in such a strong field, there are going to be serious favorites this week: Bubba Watson will be expected to get revenge on his own collapse last year, crowd-favorite Phil Mickelson is hard to bet against in Scottsdale, and Jordan Spieth comes in after winning the Australian Open and the Hero World Challenge late in 2014.

Although certain things, like Padraig Harrington kicking footballs into the crowd, have been banned on the 16th hole, expect a good time to be had by all. Photo courtesy of nytimes.com.

Although certain things, like Padraig Harrington kicking footballs into the crowd, have been banned on the 16th hole, expect a good time to be had by all. Photo courtesy of nytimes.com.

Still, you cannot be “that guy” who tries to win fantasy golf by going after a bunch of sleepers, and don’t worry, we will not be those guys. We’ve taken some steady hands, some hot golfers, and sprinkled in a few hunches. Here are our teams for this week:

PGATour.com:

Zach JohnsonHard to believe a player like Zach Johnson could ever fly under the radar, but alas, here we are. Johnson has gotten off to a tough start in 2015, missing the cut last week, and finishing in an irrelevant T64 at the Sony Open. But ZJ doesn’t stay down long, which is exactly why we think he is going to fly under the radar to steal a win in Phoenix. Unless he’s hiding an injury… gosh we hope not.

Rickie FowlerProbably the most heavily favored player we took for this week. Do we think Fowler is going to jump right into 2015 with his second win on the PGA Tour? No (well one of us, who drafted Fowler second overall, might). But we do believe in the new-and-improved Butch Harmon-Rickie Fowler. This Rickie Fowler has played solid golf, through top 5 finishes in all four majors, to top 10s in both the November WGC and the Hero World Challenge. And frankly, Trickie Rickie is a fun guy to root for, especially in this tournament where he will get into it with the fans, so we’re going to give him a shot.

Scott PiercyComing off an injury that kept him out of the ropes for most of 2014, Piercy is at the top of his game early. He has two top 10s, including the solo runner-up in Hawaii, and returns to a course where he’s had plenty of success in the past. In seven career starts, Piercy has three top 10s, has never missed the cut, and even had a T15 last year before his injury.

Brian HarmanOkay, chalk up Brian Harman as our big flier pick… Harman has only had two starts on this track – a missed cut last year, and a T32 the year before that. But as one of our projected break-out players this year, we think Harman has the kind of game, and personality, that would lend itself to such a pressure-filled, raucous environment that is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He’s also a lefty who went to UGA, which can’t hurt.

Golf Channel:

Matt KucharHow do you not put Kuchar in one of 8 possible spots (technically 5, because he’s a lock to be in the top tier on Golf Channel for the forseeable future)? We’ve already used him twice on PGATour.com, and want to save some use for the summer, but it seemed impossible to pass on him here when he continues to be lights out every week. Maybe this will be the week he lets us down, but we doubt it.

Zach Johnson. You know it’s a strong field when there are players like Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, and… Tiger Woods… in the second tier. Well, in maybe the toughest tier to predict thus far, we are going to stick with ZJ, our prized pick from the PGATour.com league.

Brendan Steele. Granted we had no idea about this until researching on ESPN’s website a little bit, but Steele has some seriously strong juju on this course. He’s been in the top 10 for three straight years (3 out of 4 tries), and he’s coming off a runner-up at the Humana. Sometimes these are the kind of “clever” picks that can burn you in the fickle sport that is golf, but in the third tier Steele appears to be the best guy on the board.

Pat PerezSomehow, thanks again to the strength of the field this week, Perez fell to the fourth tier. We’ve said it before – Perez is one of those guys who just feels good in the first two months of the year. Part of that is personal history; Perez was born in Phoenix, spent a lot of time in California growing up, and went to Arizona State for college (the chants of ‘ASU’ will be just as – okay, nearly as – loud for Perez as they will be for Phil), but regardless, TPC Scottsdale is definitely a place where he feels at home. It is rare to find such a horse for the course in the bottom tier, and one who is coming off a runner-up finish, which Perez is.