Between the serenity of Torrey Pines last week and Pebble Beach next week, we find ourselves in raucous, anything-but-serene Scottsdale, Arizona, for the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Johnny Miller’s farewell from the television booth coincides with Hideki Matsuyama’s return to the place he has dominated over the past several years, and Sunday’s Super Bowl appetizer should be a good one.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Waste Management Phoenix Open | When: Jan. 31 – Feb. 3
Where: TPC Scottsdale — Scottsdale, Arizona
Ranking the field (odds)
Field strength — B: It’s a nice field but it’s not a great field. Several U.S. stars including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are actually in the field at this week’s Saudi International.
Three things to know
1. Matsuyama the king: I cannot believe the numbers I’m looking at, but apparently they’re real. According to Data Golf, Rahm is second in strokes gained on the field per round at this course at 2.4. He’s 0.23 ahead of third place. In first? Matsuyama at 3.4! A full stroke better than second. That’s impossible! He’s never finished outside the top four at this tournament.
2. Mickelson endurance: Remarkably, this is Mickelson’s 30th (!) Phoenix Open. He’s almost played in as many Phoenix Opens as years I’ve been alive! If he follows his great Desert Classic performance with a win here, it will be his second in seven years and fourth overall at this tournament (which would be a new record).
3. No. 17 > No. 16: You can keep the more famous 16th, but I’ll take the action at the short par-4 17th, where Andrew Magee made the only ace on a par 4 in PGA Tour history. This is such a great 71st hole because it gives so many options and forces you to make a possibly uncomfortable decision late in the golf tournament on a Sunday (or Saturday).
One story I’m following
For the second consecutive week, a current Oklahoma State golfer is in the field as an amateur. Last week, it was Viktor Hovland, who missed the cut at Torrey. This week, it’s Matthew Wolff who is going to wow some folks with his swing and his play. I can’t wait.
Tiger is sitting out for a bit before returning for the Genesis Open at Riviera in two weeks.
- 2018: Gary Woodland
- 2017: Hideki Matsuyama
- 2016: Hideki Matsuyama
- 2015: Brooks Koepka
- 2014: Kevin Stadler
Phoenix Open picks
Winner: I love Woodland this week, especially at that number. He won here last year and is quietly one of the five or eight hottest players in the world right now.
Top 10: You can keep Matsuyama, I’ll keep riding Rahm. I picked him to win last week, and he nearly did. The only thing that concerns me this week is the back-end of a three-tournament stretch where he might run out of gas.
Sleeper: As was pointed out by Rob Bolton, Laird has a sneaky four top 10s since 2011. He’s a good play on a lesser name in a strong field.