Waste Management Phoenix Open ⏤ Expert's Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf

Phx Blog Hero

An annual Super Bowl week tradition continues when the PGA TOUR returns to the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Rickie Fowler will defend a hard-earned title from last year—in which he overcame a final-round double and triple bogey to hang on against Branden Grace and Justin Thomas. Rounds of 64-65-64 gave Fowler just enough of a cushion to survive the Sunday 74 that edge out Grace by two and Thomas by three.

This golf course certainly rewards the player who can make birdies and it will take a low score to win here. The highest total that has taken home the trophy in the last five years is the 270 (-14) total posted by Hideki Matsuyama back in 2016. Just a few years earlier, Phil Mickelson won the 2013 edition of the event at an astonishing total of 256 (-28). Driving accuracy isn’t at much of a premium at TPC Scottsdale—the rough is rarely too penal and successful players in this event have tended to be more of the bomb-and-gouge style of player.

Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are the betting favorites coming into this year’s tournament. Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish in the Farmers Insurance Open and went to nearby Arizona State University. 

Group A 

This group packs the hardest punch of the six available in this tournament’s slate. It includes Rahm and Thomas (the two highest-ranked players in the field) as well as past champions in Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler. Xander Schauffele is coming off a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, but his career track record coming off a missed cut is strong and a good week from him would hardly qualify as a surprise.

Bryson Dechambeau seems like a guy in this group you can rule out. He’ll be playing for the third straight week and coming back from a two-event swing through the Middle East. The travel alone makes him an unlikely candidate for success here and the premium placed on putting pressures a weakness in this methodical player’s game.

Jon Rahm is a pretty appealing choice coming back to his old stomping grounds in Phoenix on the heels of a great week in San Diego. That having been said, we’re going with Rickie Fowler. His record here is strong, his putting prowess makes him a threat in any low-scoring tournament and he’s already showed some flashes of form with two top-ten finishes in his first three events of 2020.

Group B 

Our pick of Ryan Palmer here is driven by his form early in this 2020 season. Rounds of 72-62-71 last week got him into the final group in San Diego, but a disappointing final round 77 (+5) sent him careening down the leaderboard to a T21 finish. He threatened in his previous start as well—finishing fourth at the Sony Open behind rounds of 67-68-68-68. He also posted top twelve finishes in Asia earlier in the fall series (12th at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges and 10th at the ZOZO championship) and seems to be sharpest of the six journeymen in this group.

Group C 

This group features six players for whom the best years may be behind them. Each of the six reached various heights in the game across the previous two decades but haven’t made much noise in the better part of the last five years. KJ Choi and Luke Donald could probably be considered the two players with the most impressive resumes in this group—but both lack the length to keep up with today’s game and will likely struggle to keep up the birdie pace required to put together a strong showing here. Colt Knost and Sean O’Hair are two guys who haven’t been heard from in eons and can likely be ruled out of a strong performance anytime in the near future.

That leaves Keegan Bradley and Aaron Baddeley as the two best options here. Among them, we’re going to have to go with Keegan Bradley as he still has the length to compete on the PGA TOUR and has put together a couple of quality starts in 2020. His T12 at the Sony Open and T16 last week at the Farmers Insurance Open make him a pretty safe bet between these two.

Group D 

This group features six promising young players all of whom join the PGA TOUR with high expectations. Fair cases can be made for most of the players in this group, but those fantasy players who most value recent form would be likely to give Scottie Scheffler the nod here. He had a strong fall series that culminated with a T5 finish at the RSM Classic and then opened his 2020 campaign with a third-place finish at the American Express. However, some of that momentum was lost last week behind a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Viktor Hovland had a breakout season in 2019 and might be another fine choice among the players in Group D. After a top-fifteen finish as an amateur in the U.S. Open, Hovland turned professional at the Travelers Championship and rattled off a run of four strong tournaments to close out the season. The highlight was a fourth-place finish at the Wyndham Championship on the heels of three top-sixteen finishes. He also competed in two events on the Korn Ferry Tour and finished 11th and 2nd in his two starts on the junior circuit. The only cause for concern is that form did not translate to success in the fall series and Hovland will be looking to reverse that negative trend coming into the new year.

Group E 

This is probably the next-strongest crop of players behind the all-stars lined up in Group A. Tony Finau seems destined to win one of these days and Webb Simpson seems to have shrugged off the dip in his game that came in the wake of the anchoring ban a few years ago. Matt Kuchar is a perennial top ten machine and never seems like a bad choice. Bubba Watson didn’t have a great 2019, but still managed a win at the Genesis Open and showed some form last week with a 6th place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Jordan Spieth is the most accomplished player of the bunch, but its been a while since he’s been the player he used to be. He recently fell out of the top 50 in the world for the first time since he burst onto the scene in 2013.

It may not be a resume pick on our part, but we’re going to go with Brandt Snedeker. He may have among the weaker resumes of the players available in Group E, but he always seems to play well during the West Coast Swing and early signs in 2020 indicate he’s on his way to another fine start to the year. He finished 12th in Hawaii at the Sony Open and 3rd last week at the Farmers Insurance Open—posting six rounds in the 60s across the two events.

Group F 

This group feels like an easy pick to us—Gary Woodland is probably the longest player of the group (alongside J.B. Holmes) and really started to come into his own as a player in 2019. He picked off his first major at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and opened his fall season with five straight made cuts and four top-ten finishes. His first start of the calendar year was a disappointing missed cut last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, but he’s likely to find far more forgiving rough at TPC Scottsdale as compared to Torrey Pines. Moreover, he’s had success at the venue—winning the event back in a playoff back in 2018.


Winning Score Prediction: -18