Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ Waste Management Phoenix Open

Fantasy Golf


In what has become an annual tradition the week of the Super Bowl, the PGA TOUR visits Scottsdale, AZ for what is usually the rowdy Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course. The event is known for its massive crowds and party atmosphere, but this year's edition will feel markedly different thanks to COVID-19. Instead of the hundreds of thousands of fans that we've come to expect, we will get the first ever decaf edition of the WMPO. The world-famous sixteenth hole, usually home to the most raucous of tournament patrons, will feel like a ghost town in comparison to prior years.

While the caffeine may be removed from the cast of characters outside the ropes, the field inside the ropes remains pretty high octane. In fact, some could argue that the field saw an uptick in quality this year thanks to the absence of fans. Not all of the PGA TOUR's best relish in the fraternity-like atmosphere usually seen at the WMPO. For example, despite a win here in 1999, Tiger all but stopped showing up in Phoenix for the next couple of decades in the wake of the discovery of a handgun in the possession of a member of his gallery.

Scoring conditions are expected to be ideal this week. Temperatures will range from highs in the upper-60s all the way up to early week highs near 80. Next to no wind is expected on any of the four tournament days and recent wet weather in the area over the past few weeks should keep the greens soft. The golf course generally yields to the PGA TOUR's best anyway, but this week in particular we wouldn't be surprised to see scoring records set if someone can get hot.

The Field and the Favorites

The Group A players this week are unusually strong for this event as stars like Rory McIlroy make rare starts in the Arizona desert. Instinctively, this event would seem like a great fit for Rory as low-scoring desert events (like those in Dubai) have always seemed to play to his strengths. He's in good form with top-ten finishes at both his European and his American calendar year debuts and can make the birdies in bunches that it seems are frequently required around the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. We expect him to be the betting favorite when the books open their lines for the week.

He'll be joined at the top of the board by a stout group of contenders that includes Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele. Rahm contended for much of last week's Farmers Insurance Open and went to college at nearby Arizona State University. He's sure to feel at home this week and obviously his game is on form. Schauffele had a good week at Torrey Pines and merits consideration as well, but it's worth mentioning two other Group A players. Both Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson are likely to be low-ownership picks among Group A, but both have incredible track records at this golf course. They've got three wins and two runner-up finishes between them at this event alone and we wouldn't be surprised to see either one atop the leaderboard at week's end.

Group B is an interesting mix of guys all of whom may have been considered Group A players at one point. Brooks Koepka finds himself demoted to Group B for the first time in the history of Forelinx Fantasy Golf in the wake of his third missed cut in a row last week. Video surfaced of him trying to snap his driver on one of the tees and a recent split from Claude Harmon III supports the idea that Koepka is lost in the forest. Jordan Spieth continues to be mired in a now multi-year slump, and Matt Kuchar isn't cashing top tens at the rate he once was. Rickie Fowler is struggling as well, but he has had a ton of success at this event and might nudge himself in front of the other strugglers in Group B.

The Golf Course

This Tom Weiskopf design is a fairly typical desert golf course on its opening nine holes, but the returning nine at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course is where the real fun begins this week. Danger lurks around nearly every corner on the closing stretch, but so too do birdie opportunities for the player who can control his golf ball. Water awaits the wayward player on nearly half of the closing holes, but so too does two reachable par-fives and a drivable par four. Those three holes (the 13th, the 15th and the 17th) will be major difference makers this week and success there will be key for those who hope to find themselves atop the leaderboard on Sunday.

The thirteenth hole is a very reachable par-five, but the drive is absolutely critical in setting up the easy birdie opportunity most of the field will hope for. An outcropping of rocks and cacti splits the fairway into two distinct parts with the better angle on the right buttressed by water and that desert area. Misses into the water or the desert area can make pars tough to come by while those who hit the fairway will have birdies and eagles more than available to them. Four drives in the fairway there this week should yield a four-day score near -4 on the hole (maybe better), but just one or two misses off the tee could be a three or four shot swing over the course of the week.

The par-five fifteenth hole is even more exciting as the risk/reward dynamic is not just in play off the tee, but also into the island green on the approach. Players will have to find the fairway in order to have a crack at the green in two, but water left awaits those who manage a quick hook from the tee. Blowing the ball right to bail out from the water on the left will force a lay up in most cases and box out the player from the opportunity to make an eagle at a critical point in the round.

The drivable par-four seventeenth is almost always a huge factor in the outcome of the tournament on Sunday. It's reachable for almost if not all players, but a pond that begins about 40 yards short and left of the green and wraps all the way around its backside lurks for those who pull the ball trying to drive the green. They won't have to pull it by much to find the hazard and frequently many drives that appear like they might find the putting surface roll off its left side and into the water. Those who bail out to the right will have difficult pitches depending on the hole location, with back pin positions the most difficult to access from the bailout area on the right.

Those three holes also highlight how this may not be a great golf course for the left-to-right player. All three of these critical holes feature hazards that lurk to the left of the player and those who play a fade will find themselves uncomfortably aiming at the water more times than most of us would like. The ability to work the ball from the safe side (frequently the right) to your target should be able to swing more freely than those who have to make their start lines closer to the round-killing hazards on the second side.

Our Forelinx DFS Cheat Sheet for the week will be posted on Tuesday once the tee times are revealed.