Waste Management Phoenix Open Preview
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The PGA TOUR stays out West but hops from California to Arizona this week ahead of The People’s Open.
The Phoenix Open is known for its large and rambunctious crowds but we saw a trimmed-down version last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this week.
Due to the limits of the sun, the field is capped at 132 golfers this week. It’s one of the tougher fields to crack. The top 65 and ties will advance past the 36-hole cut line.
Let’s jump right in and talk about the course, The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.
TPC Scottsdale has hosted The Greenest Show on Grass since 1987, so there is plenty of course history to lean on this week.
Situated in the Arizona desert, we see a touch of altitude impacting the ball as well as firm and fast playing conditions. That firmness, especially on the greens, is what gives the ball-strikers such an advantage year after year at this event.
Off the tee, the course is not too demanding but it does reward distance even if it’s not required. There is more than one way to get the job done in Phoenix but driving the ball well is the easiest route to success at TPC Scottsdale.
If you look at the penalty for missing a fairway, it’s a bit of a lottery. On average, the penalty for a miss looks about average but with cacti and bushes lurking off most fairways, you can find yourself in a mess very quickly. That being said, if you aren’t stuck in a bush, the native area is not extremely penalizing and allows for steady recovery shots.
When you look at the rates of double bogey or worse at TPC Scottsdale you notice it’s relatively low. That means we should not expect a lot of those “stuck in the cactus” big numbers or even see many implosions due to finding the water hazards. When you think of the key water hazards in play, one comes at the par-5 15th and the other on the driveable par-4 17th. MAny golfers are still able to recover from water balls and save par or swallow a single bogey.
On approach, the big hitters will see plenty of wedges in hand while shorter hitters will have to lean on the mid-irons. The typical firmness of the greens typically puts a big emphasis on approach play.
Looking at the turf, golfers will see dormant bermuda that has been overseeded with ryegrass and fine fescue. Once they reach the greens, it’ll be a mix of ryegrass and poa triv. The greens are typically set to a target of 12 feet on the stimp but many years play even faster than that.
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Quotes on the Course
Bubba Watson: “You can play out of the rough here, which I’m in a lot. The greens are very receptive, so even out of the rough I can hit some high shots and get them to stop on the greens. "
Gary Woodland: : “Length’s a huge advantage, especially 15’s tough second shot in there. 13, I can take out a lot of the trouble with driver. 3, some guys can’t get to some days and I can. So outside of that, the greens get pretty firm, so you got to drive the golf ball in the fairway. "
Martin Laird: “Early in the morning it’s playing long, really long. 11th hole yesterday I had 3-wood/wedge, and today I had driver/6-iron. That just shows you the difference starting early as opposed to in the afternoon.”
Beau Hossler: ""I think you got to stay patient out here. The golf course has a lot of holes that you can be aggressive on with wedges, but at the same time there’s some really meaty par-4s that you got to try and make pars on. So I think it’s kind of trying to pick your spots and then realizing that the greens are pretty good and you can make a lot of 20 footers out here if you’re rolling it well.”
Chesson Hadley: “These greens are tough to read and they’re fast and they’re very pitched and there’s some roll-offs here and there and some tricky breaks.”
Using historical data from this week’s venue, we can look for other courses across the PGA TOUR schedule with crossover success (or failure). Here are the courses that pop up frequently:
Muirfield Village GC
There are three courses that really stick out this week when it comes to overlapping success. When I see these courses I immediately think of fast greens but they are also three of the best risk-reward courses on TOUR.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 79 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.
Friday:: Sunny with a high of 77 degrees. Calm winds.
The weather looks gorgeous, as you might expect when heading to Scottsdale. As we heard from Laird in the quotes section above, just remember that morning can be a bit chilly here and sometimes give an advantage to the late morning and/or early afternoon starters.