The Tour heads into the desert for what should be a solid week of sunshine before tackling the dreary West coast again for a couple more early-season goes. The Waste Management Phoenix Open has been a mainstay on Tour for quite some time now and developed into one of its premier, non-major, stops. The early season event has developed a moniker as “the greatest show on grass” as it typically draws over 200,000 fans per day and enjoys a lot of peculiarities like the stadium Par 3-16th hole where fans interact and even cheer while players hit shots.
This year though, things will obviously be a lot more toned down with Covid-19 still a big issue as there will only be 5,000 fans allowed on the grounds, per day. The fact there’s any fans allowed, at all, will actually help set this event apart right now from its peers although there’s no doubt that the drama at the end will be a lot different without thousands of fans lining the seats and grass on holes 16 through 18.
As for the field, we still don’t have either world number one Dustin Johnson or number four Bryson DeChambeau in the field but world number two, Jon Rahm, is here to give us a solid anchor. The most interesting entrant though is Rory McIlroy, who will be making his career debut here after nearly 12 years on Tour. McIlroy has chosen to avoid the rowdy stop since joining the PGA but may be buoyed by the lack of fans this year.
Each of the last five winners of this event are in the field too as Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama (x2) and Rickie Fowler are a good reminder that this venue typically rewards those who love it back. Each of these golfers had strong results at this venue prior to breaking through for a win here and I wouldn’t put off using course history as a resource this week when picking out golfers for betting purposes.
Waste Management Phoenix Open course details
- TPC Scottsdale, 7,261 yards used from 1965-to present
- Field Size: 130 players
- Purse and Winner’s Prize: 7.3 million (winner: 1.31 million)
- 7,261 yards, Par 71
- Greens: TifEagle Bermuda
- Fairway: Bermudagrass
- Rough: Bermudagrass
- Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish (1986); Weiskopf renovated (2014)
- 2020 – Webb Simpson -17
- 2019 – Rickie Fowler -17
- 2018 – Gary Woodland -18
This venue has a great reputation for drama and rarely disappoints from a viewership perspective. The event has now seen a playoff in four of the last five years and has a great finishing stretch that includes the ruckus stadium Par 3–where players can be aggressive if they need to into a slippery saucer shaped green–and one of the best driveable Par 4’s on Tour on the 17th.
The venue features Bermuda greens and represents a significant venue shift from last week at Torrey Pines which featured big, fast Poa greens and an expansive golf course where the rough was grown up. Scottsdale, on the other hand will also challenge the players with tough green complexes but instead of thick rough, players here will want to avoid bunkers and water off the tee, both of which can be overcome with powerful straight driving.
The field here typically averages near or over 300 yards in Driving Distance as the links style course means players can take driver more often and try to cut corners in various spots as they aren’t contained by doglegs or tree-lined fairways. While off the tee play is important, proximity and strong iron play is still essential. Four of the past five winners here gained +7 or more strokes on approaches and have typically blended that with strong putting to carry themselves to the win. Players with good driving can put themselves in great positions here if they can contain their power but this venue requires a solid all-around effort to overcome.
Players typically don’t come to life here out of nowhere either. While a missed cut at Torrey on its own isn’t a big deal, nine of the last 10 winners here had a top-10 finish in one of their prior five starts before winning. Look for players trending well with their irons who can use consistent driving off the tee to propel themselves to lots of birdie looks this week.
Waste Management Phoenix Open betting discussion and picks
From an odds perspective, here is where the last four winners of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:
- 2020 – Webb Simpson +1200
- 2019 – Rickie Fowler +2200
- 2018 – Gary Woodland +4000
- 2017- Hideki Matusyama +1100
The winners here over the last five years or so have all had one thing in common, and that’s plenty of course experience. Fowler, Webb, Woodland and Hideki (x2) all had posted a T5 finish or better at this venue in a previous season prior to winning this event. It’s an interesting trend to consider and also should keep us from going too deep in the odds this week.
We have had some solid mid-tier players hit here with Woodland being the biggest value return of the last four years or so, but this hasn’t been an easy event for longshots to close out on. Similar to last week, you likely don’t want to stray too far from the top in the outright betting market this week.
Betting favorites to win the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Rahm withdrew pre-event from the Amex and then returned to action last week at Torrey Pines. The Spaniard has been treading water of late and for him that means finishing T7 instead of somewhere in the top-3. Rahm’s an Arizona State product so the venue here is a familiar one. He’s played here five times already and never finished worse than T16, however, his best result here remains his debut in 2015 when he finished T6.
Thomas is returning to action after taking nearly a month off the PGA after the TOC. Thomas was involved in a controversy over a gay slur he used at the TOC. Thomas did play in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC event the week after the TOC but missed the cut there. The American has finished T3 at this venue the past two years but at this price, I’d rather not be backing a player whose mind could be distracted by off-field issues.
Schauffele continues his amazing run through the PGA. He finished T2 at last week’s Farmers event, shooting rounds of 68 and 69 on the weekend. He gained over +4 strokes on his approaches and putting at Torrey Pines and has finished T10 or better at the WMPO over the last three years. X’s price makes him tough to fit on the cards but if you’re planning to only stick close to the top for your outright picks, including him isn’t the worst idea.
See below. I’m pretty bullish on McIlroy’s chances here and think there’s a good chase he’ll take to this more links style venue (with little to no fans this year) right away.
Simpson’s the defending champion here. On top of winning this event last season, Simpson also lost in a playoff at TPC Scottsdale in 2017, so the venue clearly suits his eye. The 7-time Tour winner gained over 7-strokes on his approaches at this venue last season but hasn’t been quite as sharp with the ball-striking over his last few starts, as he was at this time last year. Webb can do it so many different ways that he likely makes for a solid top-20 bet, but I’d rather go elsewhere for outright targets.
Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)
For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more).
Rory’s making his debut at TPC Scottsdale and I think he’ll take to the venue right away. While he’s struggled with his Sunday psyche and iron play over the past six months, one thing remains very true for Rory and that’s the fact that he remains one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the game. In fact, Rory comes into this event ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats over the last 50-rounds and hasn’t gained less than +3.4 strokes OTT in each of his last four starts.
That kind of sickly good consistency is certainly going to lead to a run of wins (at some point) and betting on the trophy floodgates to start at a venue where players can take driver on the majority of non-par 3’s seems like a good idea. The average Driving Distance at this venue often tops 300+ yards and if players here are gripping it and ripping it off the tee on a majority of the holes then there’s no one who will have a bigger advantage because of that than Rory.
While his iron play again left him down last week, Rory’s shown improvement with his approaches and the +2.1 strokes he gained on Approaches last week marked his best week in that category since late August 2020. The outright number here isn’t huge, but it’s still bigger than we’re used to getting on Rory, when he’s not a year removed from a win, and given the way favorites or slight outsiders have dominated at TPC Scottsdale over time I think starting cards with an outright on him makes a ton of sense this week.
While we’ll have to skip the rest of the +2000 range–given our Rory bet–I’m definitely fine making room for SungJae Im at these prices. The South Korean has looked fitter and more consistent to me in the first few events of 2021 and the stats bear out that his ball-striking may have taken a bigger turn upwards. Im’s another player who won’t hate the fact he’ll have driver in his hand a lot this week either, as he ranks 10th in SG: OTT in this field over the last 50-rounds. While the increased consistency off the tee will come in handy, it’s his iron play that should make us take notice here. He was dominant with those clubs at the opening TOC event in Maui and looked sharp again with them at the Amex two weeks ago.
Additionally, while his T32 at Torrey shouldn’t have been unexpected, as big Poa stricken golf courses haven’t been his bag of tea to this point, the fact he did make 11-birdies over the weekend at Torrey–and finished T6 in birdies made for the week–should also give us confidence that his game is in good shape. The fact is, Im looks mighty undervalued here in the outright market. He’s played this event twice already (finishing T7 here in 2019) and yet remains 10-points bigger in price than peers like Daniel Berger and Hideki Matsuyama, whom he’s equaled or bettered in form of late. Simply put, Im’s a great value, sets up better for this test than the one last week and looks to be building towards another breakout type of week.
There were lots of names I bandied around this week for my last mid-tier target. I mentioned Louis Oosthizien on my video released earlier in the week (check it out on the linemovement youtube channel) as a possible target in this range (and I’ll probably bet him too), but ultimately the guy I’d rather recommend this week here is Rickie Fowler. It’s admittedly been a long hard road since the beginning of 2020 for Rickie, who enters the week without a top-10 on Tour in over a year. Fowler’s “swing changes” began around this time last season and while his issues on the course have stemmed from more than just inconsistent iron play, his last couple starts suggest an end to the funk he’s in could be near.
His first two events of 2021 have yielded just a T21 at the Amex and a T53 at the Farmers, but they’ve been marked by him gaining over a stroke in the main ball-striking categories (APP and OTT) in both starts. To put that in context, the last time he achieved this feat was back at the API in 2020 (he finished T18) and you have to go back to 2019 to find an example prior to that. Shortly put, two weeks with solid positive ball-striking numbers feels like a milestone and it’s one we should be trying to capitalize on given this week’s venue.
Rickie may have even found himself in contention early in 2021 if he could have found his putter, a club that has left him high and dry during this cold spell, but it’s also a club that has treated him well at TPC Scottsdale, a venue where he’s gained +2.5 strokes or more putting in each of the last six seasons. It’s an amazing stat and his record here over the last five seasons (two top-5’s and a win in his last three starts) suggests that if his start has led to an increase in confidence this will be the place where that confidence finally leads to results. At 50-1, the each-way here looks too tempting to ignore, on such a talented player whom the market has finally let drift to reasonable betting numbers.
Longshots and top-20’s
Steele’s finished T6 or better here in four of his 10-career starts at this event and has gained over +5.0 strokes putting on the greens here three times.
Started 2021 strong, gaining +5.4 strokes on approach his last time out at the Amex.
A great driver of the ball who will be putting himself in a ton of good spots off the tee and if his iron play continues should put himself in a good spot to make a run on the weekend.
An’s started the season well with a T8 at the Amex and a made cut at the Farmers. More importantly, he’s started to look consistent in various aspects of his game again, including around the greens where he ranks 5th in rolling stats (50-rounds) and on approaches where he ranks 12th.
Finished T6 here on his debut and has a good record at desert like links venues. Has two top-10’s here in four starts and never finished worse than T23 at this event.
A buy-low opportunity that seems worth taking. Comes in off the back of four straight poor starts, but looked better with his ball-striking last week despite missing the cut on the number.
T34 in his debut here last season and ranks 20th in SG: Ball Striking stats over the last 50-rounds.
I’m quite happy to take a little juice to take Im in this matchup. Horschel’s put up solid results to start 2021 but they’ve been born from good weeks on the green. He comes in having lost strokes on his approaches in three straight starts, while Im has been the exact opposite in that regard. At a venue like Scottsdale, where the winners here tend to dominate with their irons, Im should shine through and makes for a great MU bet if you can get him against the overvalued Horschel.
From a long-term perspective, I’m still of the opinion that anytime you can get Rory McIlroy at plus-money over Xander Schauffele you should take it. The venue last week certainly favoured Schauffele, who is a West coast kid and a US Open guru, but the tide turns in McIlroy’s favour this week, at least in my opinion. The two have posted similar results of late but Rory maintains a significant off the tee advantage and if his putter fires at all here, he could win going away.
Check out our other Waste Management betting content
- Matchups & Outrights betting preview from Matt Ramos