This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.314M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Course: TPC Scottsdale
2019 champion: Rickie Fowler
As if the wildest atmosphere on the PGA Tour needed to get any wilder, it did so last year. Under the backdrop of Johnny Miller's retirement after the third round, Rickie Fowler almost blew a seven-stroke lead on Sunday. Things got crazy after he hit it into the water on the 11th hole and then, after his drop, the stationary ball suddenly rolled back in. A long rules discussion ensued, and Fowler was assessed yet another penalty shot. He miraculously made a 17-footer to save triple-bogey, but then bogeyed he next hole. He rolled in two late birdie putts to hang on and defeat Branden Grace by two strokes. It was Paul Azinger's entry point into the NBC booth, and, fair to him or not, Miller was missed not even 24 hours after he had left.
Fowler is back this year, having gone winless since. His world ranking continues to tumble, and he now sits at No. 26, with nine golfers in the field ranked higher than him: Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar and Hideki Matsuyama. The golfer who stands out the most, though, is one who's missing: Phil Mickelson. The Arizona State alum first played this tournament in 1989, has won it three times, holds the tournament scoring record, and played the event 30 times. This year, however, he will head to, of all places, Saudi Arabia to play in thE controversial European Tour event.
Good news for gamers is the fact the field is an uncluttered 132. That's 24 fewer bottom-dwellers than last week, with very few of the 50 Korn Ferry grads on hand. That should create an easier path to filling out your lineups. More than half the field – the top 65 and ties – will probably make the cut. That lends itself to taking some risks on lower-priced guys – and conversely being able to stack two or three high-priced golfers.
TPC Scottsdale is home to "The Greatest Show on Grass" and it's always the most raucous week on the PGA Tour calendar. The tournament has seen weeks with more than 700,000 wild, screaming fans, some of whom might've even had a cocktail or five, including 200,000+ on Saturday. But beginning last year, officials decided to no longer release attendance figures. Rest assured, it's still a madhouse, with the epicenter being the rollicking par-3 16th. That hole alone houses some 16,000 fans in an amphitheater-like setting. Golfers are advised not to miss the green there, as they will face the mega-decibel music. The 16th is part of a fun four-hole finish that can result in big swings atop the leaderboard. The 15th is a reachable par-5, the 17th is a risk/reward drivable/water-filled par-4 and No. 18 is a 442-yarder with more water and church pew bunkers.
TPC Scottsdale has played tougher since course designer Tom Weiskopf made some modifications after the 2014 tournament, and now it ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of difficulty. It really is a ball-strikers' track, and some pretty bad putters have won there in recent years. We'll delve deeper into that in the Key Stats and Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, there will be some chilly mornings before temperatures rise into the low to mid-70s all four days. Otherwise, there's no chance of rain and minimal wind. It is worth considering bypassing guys who have a very early tee time on Thursday or Friday. Even a mid-morning time on a golfer's early day could make a big difference, as it warms up pretty quickly in the desert.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Scottsdale
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Ball striking/strokes gained: tee to green
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling /strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
2019 - Rickie Fowler
2018 - Gary Woodland
2017 - Hideki Matsuyama
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama
2015 - Brooks Koepka
2014 - Kevin Stadler
2013 - Phil Mickelson
2012 - Kyle Stanley
2011 - Mark Wilson
2010 - Hunter Mahan
If Matsuyama won twice and Stadler – Kevin Stadler! – won in 2014, how important can putting be? Not very. Among the last nine winners, only Fowler and Mickelson, in his record-setting 2013 win, were top-10 in putting average. Since the Weiskopf changes, Mickelson's winning score (28-under-par) has been cut almost in half. Woodland has been the lowest of the bunch since then, shooting 18-under. Fowler won at 17-under with an incredible all-around performance outside those Sunday thrills mentioned above. He was first in putting, sixth in scrambling, 13th in greens in regulation and even 11th in driving distance. This week will be all about ball striking and greens in regulation. And if the golfers miss the green, we'll see how well they scramble. A long list of ball strikers have won here. Woodland was fourth in GIR two years ago, Matsuyama was ranked first and second in his back-to-back wins and Koepka was fourth. Fowler was the first winner in the decade not to rank top-10 in GIR. But he was just outside that threshold, and he had that incredible short game to fall back on.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
Rahm made a bonehead move on Sunday at Torrey Pines that may have cost him a chance at the title, thinking he needed birdie, instead of an eagle, on 18 to tie Marc Leishman. But that's tantamount to nitpicking for a guy who has two wins and three runners-up in his past seven starts. Going back a little further, over his last 15 starts, Rahm notched three wins and finished top-13 or better 14 times. This will be a home game for the Arizona dweller, and he's never finished worse than T16 in four visits to TPC Scottsdale. Rahm is playing better than anyone else in the world and can snatch the No. 1 ranking with a win.
Justin Thomas - $11,200 (9-1)
Thomas' recent results are almost as good as Rahm's. While he also won three times in his past eight starts, his overall consistency is a little weaker, as is his record at Phoenix. Thomas tied for third last year, but he previously had two T17s and two missed cuts.
Rickie Fowler - $10,500 (16-1)
Nobody has played this track better than the defending champion Fowler, who also has two runners-up and a tie for fourth through the years. Fowler's recent form has been decent – nothing like Rahm and Thomas – eliciting hope that a poor 12 month-period could be ending. He is outside the top 25 in the world rankings for the first time since July 2014.
Xander Schauffele - $9,900 (18-1)
There are so many options toward the top of the board. The first page of the Phoenix leaderboard is annually dominated by big names. So bypassing a recent runner-up (Webb Simpson) and a two-time winner (Hideki Matsuyama) is not easy. But we turn to Schauffele, who appears to be getting the hang of TPC Scottsdale, tying for 17th in his debut two years ago and for 10th last year. He is ranked second on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and third in SG: tee-to-green.
Tier 2 Values
Gary Woodland - $9,300 (30-1)
Woodland didn't make it past Friday last week at Torrey Pines, his first missed cut since the Open Championship. We don't expect the same at TPC Scottsdale, where he won in 2018 and followed that up with a tie for seventh last year. Woodland's ball striking has been pretty good so far this season. He is not as long as he used to be, but ranks eighth on Tour in driving accuracy and 10th in greens in regulation.
Sungjae Im - $8,800 (30-1)
Im has not missed a cut since Royal Portrush in July. Since then, he's placed top-25 in 10-of-14 starts worldwide, including a second and a third during the fall season and a win in Korea. Last year in his event debut, Im tied for seventh.
Scottie Scheffler - $8,500 (50-1)
Scheffler arrived at Torrey Pines on the verge of cracking the top 50 in the world. He fell back to 53rd after his first missed cut since last August on the Korn Ferry Tour. Scheffler ranks ninth on Tour in ball striking and 26th in greens in regulation. A word of caution: Scheffler had a great fall season with three top-10s, then a fourth at The American Express. If he follows up last week's missed cut with another weak performance, we may be seeing someone struggling because the fields are getting tougher. For one more week at least, though, we're on board with Scheffler.
Viktor Hovland - $8,400 (40-1)
Hovland has cooled since his late-summer surge on the PGA Tour. He had only one top-10 in five fall starts. He played the past two weeks on the European Tour, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi before notching a top-25 (T23) in Dubai. Presumably, Hovland will now turn full attention to the PGA Tour. In very few measured rounds so far this season, he's ranked top-20 in five of the six strokes-gained categories – all but SG: around-the-green. And last year, his tee-to-green numbers were even better. This will be Hovland's Phoenix debut.
Tier 3 Values
Matthew Wolff - $8,000 (60-1)
Wolff has some really bad strokes-gained numbers. But SG: off-the-tee is not one of them – he's ranked third on Tour. He has not come close to contending after his breakthrough win in Minnesota in July, but he's also never missed a cut in 14 career PGA Tour starts, including those as an amateur. Wolff's first start was in this tournament last year on a sponsor's invite while still at Oklahoma State, and he tied for 50th. Wolff is coming off a tie for 21st at tough Torrey Pines.
Corey Conners - $7,900 (80-1)
Conners has the game to do really well this week. He's among the best on Tour from tee to green. It's when he has the putter in hand that trouble ensues. Despite being a very short hitter, Conners ranks 14th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 11th in greens in regulation. In his past six starts covering the fall season and Hawaii, he has finished top-20 every time. Conners didn't play in Phoenix last year.
Kevin Na - $7,600 (100-1)
Na has made eight straight cuts at Phoenix, and finished top-26 or better in five of those instances. Unfortunately, his two worst finishes in that stretch came in the past two years, but he made it through to the weekend nonetheless. Na has horrible numbers off the tee, but he does pretty much every year. He's made five straight cuts, beginning with his win at the Shriners Open and culminating with a T17 at The American Express a couple of weeks ago.
Tom Hoge - $7,400 (100-1)
Hoge's solo fifth last week at Torrey Pines gave him a third straight top-12 cash, clearly the best run of his career. He hasn't shined in two visits to Phoenix, though, with last year's tie for 44th his best finish. But Hoge never arrived in the Arizona desert with numbers like these: he sits ninth on Tour in strokes gained: approach, 19th in SG: tee-to-green and 13th in SG: total. We don't envision this Hoge surge to continue much longer, but we think it will this week.
Sung Kang - $7,100 (150-1)
Kang added a tie for 16th last week at Torrey Pines to a pretty decent run for him. He's finished in the top 30 in five of his past six starts. Kang is ranked a very impressive 15th on Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee and 28th in ball striking. He missed the cut here the past two years but tied for 12th in 2017.
Chesson Hadley - $6,900 (200-1)
Hadley has had a so-so season, making 5-of-8 cuts and notching two top-25s. That's not what caught our eye, though. He ranks 15th on Tour in strokes gained: approach and 22nd in SG: tee-to-green. Hadley finished tied for 20th last year at TPC Scottsdale and fifth the year before.
Brian Stuard - $6,600 (200-1)
Stuard has made it to the weekend in all six of his visits to Phoenix over the past 10 years, and finished top-16 in two of them. He's also made his past nine cuts on Tour after a season-opening miss at The Greenbrier. Stuard has poor stats off the tee, mostly because he's one of the shortest hitters on Tour, but he's otherwise ranked in the top-50 in four of the six strokes-gained categories.
Adam Long - $6,400 (200-1)
Long made eight straight cuts to start the season before missing the past two at the Sony Open and The American Express. You're not going far at La Quinta if you can't putt, and that's Long's weakest discipline. In four of the other five strokes-gained categories, he ranks top-80 on Tour, including 57th in SG: tee-to-green. Long missed the cut in his Phoenix debut a year ago, but the numbers suggest this time could be different.