Waste Management Phoenix Open
The Stadium Course
The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale
Yards: 7,266 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass, Velvet Bentgrass and Poa trivialis (6,350 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass, rye and fine fescue at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architects: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish (1988); Weiskopf (2014)
Winner’s Share: $1,134,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Kevin Stadler defeated Bubba Watson and Graham DeLaet by one shot for his first TOUR victory. Stadler is not defending his title this week due to a wrist injury suffered last fall.
Dates: January 29-Februar 1
Notes: Field of 132 will be cut to the top 70 and ties after 36 holes (stroke play).
Notes II: The Stadium Course has undergone a full renovation so course history will have an angle but not take as much precedence as usual weeks.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, Haas, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed join the 2014 portion winners Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA have won eight of the first 10 events. Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) are the other 20%.
In the first 10 events Bae, Martin, Moore, Walker* and Haas have closed their 54-hole leads. *Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his Monday lead at Kapalua.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 10 events in 2015, Martin, Streb and Taylor have made the breakthrough.
And Now, the Particulars
Tiger Woods and a missing tooth.
Robert Allenby and a missing cellphone and wallet.
The Super Bowl.
A redesigned course by Weiskopf.
Bill Haas’s wrist isn’t healthy.
The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale was closed for business after Kevin Stadler hoisted the trophy last year. Tom Weiskopf, the original designer with Jay Morrish, decided it was time for a freshen to bring the course, for the pros and the public, to modern standards.
Are you ready?
All of the greens were resurfaced.
The greens on holes Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 14 are brand-spanking new so toss out the notes.
No. 14 was shifted left of its original position and will have the mountains in the background.
All the tee boxes were regressed and shaped up.
All of the bunkers were replaced with white sand and reshaped.
Hole No. 13 was modified entirely from tee-to-green.
Hole No. 18 has added church pew cross bunkers in the landing area over the water that should put doubt into the minds of those who aren’t accurate off the tee.
Desert has been eliminated in places and trees have been added in places to add more strategy to the routing.
Literally, there have been changes to ALL 18 holes to affect the aesthetics or the strategy involved.
Two things that jump off the page to me:
TPC Scottsdale opened November 14, 2014. Why is this important? This hasn’t given the pros that live in the area much time to get out and experience it. I wouldn’t lean on the Whisper Rock Mafia as an absolute this week.
The greens have all been regressed and four of them have been completely redone so all those notes in the yardage books will be good for 14 of the 18. I’m not an expert in turf management but I would think the greens will run slower than faster in their infancy. Once the roots mature and get stuck in I could see them slicking them up for tournament play but this might be too soon. If this is the case, the average putter will be in business this week.
Keeping the ball in play off the tee and getting up-and-down around TPC greens are usually the keys to victory. Birdies will be made as the weather, similarly to last week, shouldn’t be a factor.
Again, it doesn’t hurt to know the past winners on the “old” course but it is not going to be the deciding factor for me this week.
2014: Kevin Stadler -16
2013: Phil Mickelson -28
2012: Kyle Stanley -15
2011: Mark Wilson -18*
2010: Hunter Mahan -16
2009: Kenny Perry -14*
2008: J.B. Holmes -14*
2007: Aaron Baddeley -21
2006: J.B. Holmes -21
2005: Phil Mickelson -17
*Won in a playoff
**Not playing this week
The WMPO is the fifth-oldest event on TOUR.
Palmer won his three in consecutive years from 1961-1963.
J.B. Holmes is the only TOUR rookie to win here.
Holmes and Stanley each won on their maiden voyage.
Tournament and Course Records
Mickelson shot 28-under-par 256 in 2013 and that tied the mark set by Mark (Calcavecchia) in 2001. See what I did there?
60: Mickelson, twice (2013, 2005), Calcavecchia (2001) and Grant Waite (1996).
61: Scott Piercy ON SUNDAY in 2013.
Bizarre Stats of the Week:
Mark Calcavecchia made 32 birdies here in 2001; Phil made 29 in 2013.
The only hole-in-one in TOUR history on a par-four happened here (Andrew Magee, 2001; No. 17).
These fellas are playing four weeks in a row (Kapalua/Sony/Humana)
Zach Johnson (7th/T64/MC)
Matt Jones (T11/70th/T41)
Steven Bowditch (T22/T37/MC)
Kevin Streelman (T22/T51/T41)
Nick Taylor (T29/T51/MC)
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses)
Matt Kuchar (B): He finished T3 and T2 in his last two so I see no reason not to saddle him up again. His game is dialed in and IF the greens are slick, even better.
Bubba Watson (A): The 54-hole leader heading into Sunday last year bogeyed two of his last three and missed a playoff by one shot. In 30 rounds here he’s never been over par. He knocked the tournament rust off at HTOC and if he’s in the field, he’s in this column. He won the WGC-HSBC in November and was T10 at Kapalua. All systems go.
Jordan Spieth (B): Some will argue he should be at the top of the heap after winning the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge in dominant fashion last December. He’s making his first start of the season and as well as he scored over the last two years (ninth and 14th last year) he should factor every time he tees it up.
Rickie Fowler (B): I wasn’t crazy about his start in the Middle East but at least he has loaded up some tournament golf in 2015. I have a hard time remembering off the top of my head the last time he didn’t finish in the top 10 (T23 DBC). He was T3 at WGC-HSBC his last time out before his T66 at Abu Dhabi. That was the exception, not the rule. Next stop: the winner’s circle.
Ryan Palmer (A): The “what-if” triple on Sunday killed his chances of victory last week at Humana but he rallied to post T10. His last three starts here have resulted in T55, fifth and T48 but each tournament featured 64 or better. He opened his 2015 with a second round 63 at the Sony and added a 61 last week at Humana.
Bill Haas (A): By his own admission he was playing last week just to make the cut. It went just little bit better than that as he fired 22-under to win the Humana. We found out after the tournament that his left wrist is still bothering him from a fall last spring at Hilton Head where he WD. That was the only weekend of 28 he missed last season. His excellent ball-striking should have him right in the thick of things if his wrist doesn’t bother.
Charley Hoffman (C): After his win at Mayakoba to wrap up 2014 and a 63 plus a closing 64 to finish T2 last week is all I need to see. His ball striking has been the key to his very temperate winter and that won’t hurt this week. He’ll be one to embrace the changes here as he’s only finished inside the top 60 once in five tries (T29) since his solo second in 2009.
Hideki Matsuyama (B): This time last year he was making just his 16th start on TOUR and finished T4. I believe ball-striking is going to be a major factor this week so I’ll stick one of the best on TOUR up here and let him do work. The course didn’t bother him as a first-timer last year so he probably won’t notice most of the changes like the veterans might. Ah, to be young and have a swing like that! Sure, he was T78 last time out but he’s never played well at Waialae and I’ve learned that now.
Shawn Stefani (C): He currently sits fifth in the all-around on the heels of super ball-striking (34th strokes gained tee-to-green) and is 11th in GIR. He’s also 11th in scoring average and must, must be on the top of mind after finishes of second, T6 and T15 in his last three. Check this: he opened with 75 last week in the desert and played the final three rounds in 20-under.
Patrick Reed (C): Ah the youth! They’re everywhere! Reed had a noble defense of his title last week at Humana with T24 after winning his previous time out at Kapalua. He has no problem making birdies and getting the ball down the fairways so he should thrive this week.
Hunter Mahan (B): The 2010 champ has played his last 16 rounds here at par or better and finished T4 last year. With a baby on the way, he’s a little bit risk-reward but he’s devoured TPC courses and he loves golf on the left coast. Don’t forget he walked off with a lead at the RBC Canadian when kiddo No. 1 was on the way!
Francesco Molinari (C): The Italian ball-striker extraordinaire has posted eight rounds of par or better to open his full season on TOUR. He was T37 with four rounds in the 60s at Waialae and T10 last week at 19-under. Looks like he’s trending in the proper direction!
Gary Woodland (B): He’s hit the podium in two of his last three starts and should be able to overpower this 7,200-yard layout. He turned 30 last May and is entering his prime with Butch Harmon. That’s a pretty good combo. So is playing the weekend in 26 of his last 28.
Jamie Donaldson (C): The Welshman proved his strong play during the Ryder Cup as he handled the clinching point. I don’t care if you believe/hate/don’t follow but nobody reaches the top 25 in OWGR rankings by fluking it. Donaldson currently sits 24th. He’s proven he has no problem playing American redesigns as he was T2 to Patrick Reed last year at the new Trump Doral (WGC-CC).
Robert Streb: He’s posted five rounds above 70 in 28 tries this season so it’s hardly surprise that he’s bagged a win and added three other top 10s. He was T8 at the HTOC and T17 at Sony in his first two of 2015. He’s third in scoring average and 20th in total driving. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 11th in strokes gained-total and flying high after his first win last fall.
Justin Thomas: You’ve been warned. Again. He’s hit the top 10 in three of his last four but the field is a bit tastier this week. He backed up his 61 and T6 at Sony with a 63 at T7 at Humana, which include a double bogey on the back nine on Sunday. He’s 14th in the all-around and hits it a mile.
Scott Piercy: He backed up his T2 at Sony with T30 last week but was 14-under at each stop. Piercy shot 61 here on SUNDAY in 2013. He has three top 10s in six visits.
Brooks Koepka: The last time we saw Koepka he was finishing T8 at Frys.com and T4 in Las Vegas. He then popped over to Turkey and won for the fifth time on the continent. Before his T8/T4 he left Europe with T9. I’m guessing I’m getting through here. He made over $1 million on TOUR last year without any status. He’s full-bore in 2014-15.
Rory Sabbatini: He’s hit the top 25 in four of his last five and has posted a 63 in the last two. That’s quite warm.
Brendan Steele: He was T6, T6, and T5 his last three and T2 last week. He shot 62 in the third round last year. He looks to be a must in TOAD games this week. His T2 last week was on a course where he had barely any success and he tore it up (21-under). He’s hoping the changes aren’t too extreme!
Russell Henley: He’s 30-under in 2015 after T3 and T17 on the Hawaii swing. He’s live anywhere possibly slick Bermudagrass is on the menu because once that putter gets hot, look out.
Harris English: He didn’t fire last Sunday but his T3 at Sony showed that he might be heading back to Olde English 800 that we knew and loved early last year. Do you not care for malt liquor jokes? Well then the joke is on YOU!
Martin Laird: Three of his first five events in the new season have been T18 or better. He picked up T15 last week at Humana and excels on courses where ball-striking matters (Valero, Quail,).
Graham DeLaet: His T2 here last year followed a T2 at Torrey as the schedule was in a different order. I like the fact that he’s knocked the rough off twice at Sony and Humana and should be ready to fire in the desert. With ball-striking a major factor this week, he’ll be quite comfortable.
Jason Kokrak: He’s made five cuts on the bounce but really hasn’t put it all together in one week yet. He was 10-under heading into Sunday here last year before 73 knocked him out of the top 10.
Boo Weekley: He’s banged the top 15 in five of his last six worldwide, including a pair in Australia last December plus T7 last week at Humana in a putting contest.
Horses for Courses
Phil Mickelson: He made 29 birdies to win here in 2013. He made 26 birdies to lead the field last week at Humana. He also made 11 bogeys on the easiest courses on TOUR (69th). These three sentences sum up Mickelson’s recent record on TOUR, all or nothing or something in between. He shares the course record and tournament record but was T42 last year. Before his win he racked up four years of T26, T29, T24 and MC. Sigh.
J.B. Holmes: He won here as a rookie in 2006. He won here again in 2008 after MC in 2007. He added a T5 in 2011. #BombandGouge
Kevin Na: He has four top 10s in nine trips and has made eight weekends. He would have been higher up the list but with T64 and T48 to open 2015, I don’t need to stretch.
Pat Perez: Make it start No. 14 for this Sun Devil. Apologies to Pat in Seal for talking him out of Perez when he was T17 at Sony. He backed it up with T30 last week so he’s nibbling. It’s amazing that he’s never pegged a top 10 here. His T11 and four of the last five years inside the top 25 makes him a nice value in deeper formats.
Charles Howell III: He’s disappointed gamers in this early part of the season as he hasn’t bagged a top 10. He was T6 here last year and hasn’t had a round over par here in the last five years. #bangsheadagainstwallagain
Bryce Molder: He’s six-for-six and only has one round over par in 24 tries. Making the cut has value in about every format out there!
Matt Every: He’s played three times and each tournament has posted a round of 66 or better. T8, T9 and T37 for this Bermudagrass putter works but he’s been FROZEN to start the new season. #LetItGo
Off the Radar
Outside of the OWGR top 100; AKA “long shots”
James Hahn (No. 323): Known for his dancing on No. 16 two years ago to Gangham Style (remember that dross?), Hahn is quietly knocking it around to begin 2015. His second round 64 let to T26 at Sony and his closing 65 at Humana saw him claim T20. Oh, he closed with 62 here in 2013…
Jon Rahm (1,546): Another Sun Devil playing this event as a Sun Devil, the Spaniard will be the sentimental choice this week. He MC at Mayakoba so this means he’s on his second sponsor’s exemption of the new season. He shot 61 in the NCAA as a freshman. He broke Jack Nicklaus’ individual record at the World Team Championship last summer. He’s currently a junior at ASU. You are now aware.
Nick Watney (134): He’s down here because every time in the recent past that he’s found a modicum of success he’s quickly gone in reverse. He was 14th last week and didn’t make a putt, which isn’t surprising. He’s made seven on the bounce at TPC Scottsdale and is a calculated flier this week.
Michael Putnam (220): He entered Sunday tied for the lead at Humana on the back of excellent ball-striking. His even-par 72 on Sunday will have other gamers forgetting him. He’s posted 67 twice here in six rounds.
Not this week for these guys…
Robert Allenby: Golf is the least of his worries right now.
Tiger Woods: Last time out he couldn’t find it on a course where he played over a million rounds (Isleworth). I’m not convinced practicing is what this man needs. This week is a step in the right direction for the rest of the season. I’ll save him for places where he has dominated throughout his career and I have plenty of chances for that moving forward.
Ryan Moore: Don’t be surprised if he WDs just after this column posts. He WD last week with a neck problem at Humana.
Keegan Bradley: I’m in the minority here but he’s too premium of a player to “hope” he fixes this week. Shot 80 here last year on Friday to MC after T15 and T24.
Aaron Baddeley: He’s one of the TRAP defending champions this week as he’s posted nothing better than T35 in seven starts since winning. His T31 at Frys.com is his best finish in four events in 2015.
Kevin Streelman: Nothing better than T35 in seven trips and hasn’t found any form (T22, T51 and T41) in calendar 2015.
Zach Johnson: Form is temporary and class is permanent but the last two weeks haven’t inspired gamers to hitch the wagon up again. Field is deep enough to omit.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Nick Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the WMPO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.