The Punter

Phoenix Open: Tee-to-green brilliance required in the desert

The 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale
The drivable par four 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale

After a couple of weeks on the Californian coast, the PGA Tour heads for the arid Arizonian desert for the Phoenix Open so read Steve's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • GIR & SGT2G the key stats in Phoenix

  • Major winners shine at Scottsdale

  • Read my Singapore Classic preview here


Tournament History

Originally known as the Arizona Open and first staged 91 years ago, the Waste Management Phoenix Open is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour.

Famous for its raucous crowd alongside the infamous par three 16th hole, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is an enjoyable event and there's nearly always a tight finish.

Venue

TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Course Details

Par 71, 7,261 yards
Hole averages in 2022 - 70.29


Best known for its barmy par three 16th hole, this Stadium Course was built specifically for this event and this year it hosts the event for the 35th time.

It's a links style desert track with an exciting finish. The 15th is a reachable par five with water in play (averaged 4.71 last year) and the 17th is a drivable par four (averaged 3.85 12 months ago) but that too has water in play. And it nearly always has a say in who lifts the trophy.

TPCScottsdale16thHole1280.jpg

The 17th is the hole that tripped up the 2019 winner, Rickie Fowler, seven years ago when he found the drink with his drive, having been matched at just 1.031/33 in-running, but it won him the event four years ago when Branden Grace found the drink, having hit a low of 1.42/5.

Martin Laird also found the water in 2015 when leading having been matched at odds-on but it was where Brooks Koepka sealed the deal two years ago when he holed out for an eagle two.

Sahith Theegala wasn't so lucky last year when his tee-shot ran into the drink after he'd been matched for the win at just 2.0421/20.

Even though the course was tweaked and lengthened prior to the 2015 edition, look out for low scores. Jordan Spieth hit a ten-under-par 61 in round three to hit the front in 2021 and there have been four rounds of 60 here, the last by Phil Mickelson, 10 years ago.

The Bermuda greens are of an average size and they typically run fast at around 12 on the stimpmeter.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky all four days, starting at 15:00 on Thursday.

Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2022 - Scottie Scheffler -16 26.025/1 (playoff)
2021 - Brooks Koepka -19 50.049/1
2020 - Webb Simpson -17 24.023/1 (playoff)
2019 - Rickie Fowler -17 16.015/1
2018 - Gary Woodland -18 70.069/1 (playoff)
2017 - Hideki Matsuyama -17 12.011/1 (playoff)
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama -14 27.026/1 (playoff)

What Will it Take to Win the Phoenix Open?

Length off the tee has proved slightly more important than accuracy given the average Driving Distance ranking for the last eight winners is 16.6 and the average Driving Accuracy ranking is 21.1 but neither metric is crucial and it's all about approach play.

Up until 2010 Putting was the most important stat but that's changed of late and as Justin Ray's tweet before the off last year shows, hitting plenty of greens is the key to success now.

Scheffler ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and only 11th for Greens In Regulation but Xander Schauffele in third and Billy Horschel in sixth ranked one and two for GIR.

Strong putting might not be as crucial as it once was here but it never hurst and Scheffler ranked number one for Putting Average last year and second for Strokes Gained Putting.

He also ranked number one on the par fours and that's always a key stat too given nine of the last 10 winners have ranked inside the top-seven for Par 4 Scoring.

Is There an Angle In?

Anyone that enjoys desert golf must be considered and given the recent American Express, won two weeks ago by Jon Rahm, is also played in the desert and as part of the West Coast Swing, it's perhaps not surprising to see that a number of players have performed well at both events.

Phil Mickelson, Mark Wilson and Kenny Perry have all won both this event and The American Express fairly recently and a number of players have come close to winning both.

Jason Dufner, who won the American Express in 2016, was beaten in a playoff here by Wilson in 2011, Charley Hoffman was beaten by Perry in extra time here, two years after he'd won The American Express in 2007, and Justin Leonard is another to win The American Express and finish second in Phoenix.

Last year's playoff protagonists here, Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay, have both traded at odds-on in-running at The American Express (Scheffler in 2020 and Cantlay in both 2021 and 2022) and Cantlay, Jesper Parnevik, John Rollins and Ryan Palmer have all finished runner-up at both events.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

We've seen plenty of high-class winners of late and lots of major champions have taken the title.

Rickie Fowler, once dubbed the best player not to have won a major, is the only winner in the last eight years who hasn't won one.

This is a horses for courses track and already this century we've witnessed as many as six players take the title at least twice although Hideki Matsuyama, who won the title in 2016 and 2017, is the only back-to-back winner since Johnny Miller in the 1970's.

Miller's successful defence in 1975 was an emphatic one given he won by 14 strokes but incredibly, he's not the only US Open winner to win by a double-figure margin. Steve Jones romped to an 11 shot win here in 1997!

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2022 - Scottie Scheffler tied third - trailing by two 8.615/2
2021 - Brooks Koepka tied 7th - trailing by five 46.045/1
2020 - Webb Simpson solo 2nd - trailing by one 3.711/4
2019 - Rickie Fowler led by four strokes 1.422/5
2018 - Gary Woodland tied 8th - trailing by three 42.041/1
2017 - Hideki Matsuyama tied 3rd - trailing by four 8.415/2
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama tied 2nd- trailing by three 5.85/1

In-Play Tactics

If any of your picks start slowly this week they might not necessarily be down and out.

Scottie Scheffler was matched at a whopping 300.0299/1 when he trailed by nine strokes at halfway last year and he's far from the first to rally from off the pace...

Scheffler wins Phoenix.jpg

Having sat outside the top-20 and five off the lead after round one, Koepka was matched at a high of 180.0179/1 in-running in 2021 and he was matched at 320.0319/1 when he won the event for the first time in 2015, when he trailed by seven strokes after rounds one and two.

And having ended the first round tied for 66th and ten off the lead, the 2020 winner, Webb Simpson, was matched at 250.0249/1.

Kyle Stanley was tied 33rd and five back after round one in 2012, Hunter Mahan was tied for 29th and six back after round one and seven adrift at halfway in 2011 and Kenny Perry sat 74th and seven back after round one in 2009.

Although Rickie Fowler was in front through 54 holes four years ago, he was a very lucky winner in the end and TPC Scottsdale has been a graveyard for third round leaders in recent years.

Fowler opened up the 2019 renewal with rounds of 64, 65 and 64 to take a four-stroke lead into Sunday but he needed Branden Grace to mess up the 17th hole to eventually get him across the line, having double-bogeyed the fifth, tripled the 11th and bogeyed the 12th.

Stress-free finishes are rare at Scottsdale and Phil Mickelson, when six clear in 2013, is the only other 54 hole leader to go on to win in the last 13 years. Plenty of players have messed up in front here recently and taking on the third-round leaders has been a licence to print money of late so bear that in mind when assessing the situation on Sunday morning.


I'm on holiday for a week so there'll be no selections for this event but Matt Cooper will be back later in the week with the In-Play Blog.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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