Coop's Waste Management Pheonix Open Preview
What a finish to the Farmers Insurance Open as for the third week in a row we needed extra holes to determine the champion in a tournament that went five additional holes but had to be halted for darkness. Jason Day came back Monday morning and only needed one hole to defeat Alex Noren to take the title home. For the week I ended up slightly down even though I had seven of the top eleven finishers and I attribute this to widening my player pool last week. Typically I go with 24-27 players but last week I decided upon 33 as I liked several players down low with solid course history. I did a good job hitting on Noren, JB, Keegan, Finau, Leishman, English and CH3 but had no Jason Day and I wasn’t able to put the right players together. I feel like I am getting very close to hitting some good weeks as I continue to have a high cut rate on my player pool, I just need the ones who miss the cut to not be some of my higher owned players like Fowler, Lowry and Ollie last week.
This week we are headed to Pheonix Arizona for the Waste Management Open or as the tournament directors are calling it “The People’s Open” as they are trying to get away from there previous slogan of “Greatest Show on Grass”. This tournament continues to grow each year and seems to break attendance records every year. What many people don’t realize is this tournament is rich in history and is one of the five oldest stops on tour as this is the 83rd edition. This year we have a wonderful field, perhaps the best we have seen at this tournament as we have twenty one of the top fifty players in the world including five of the top ten. On top of that fifty one of the top 100 players have entered the tournament this week making it the deepest field we have had so far this year. Anyone who is familiar with this tournament knows about the par 3 16th hole played in front of a rowdy crowd in a amphitheater setting that sits 20,000 people. This week we have a fairly tough course with the winning score falling around -15 while the cutline has been around Even to +2. Hideki Matsuyama is the two time defending champion while Brooks Koepka was the winner three years ago.
The TPC of Scottsdale is the host course this week and is a par 71 course that plays around 7150 yards. The course features eleven par 4’s, four par 3’s and only three par 5 holes. Five of the par 4’s play at 450 yards or more while there is one that only plays at 332 yards which will provide players with eagle attempts. The greens this week are tifdwarth bermuda and will play faster, more true and smoother than your typical bermuda green. This tournament will most likely be decided on who plays the back nine the best as it typically has the holes that play the hardest and easiest on course. It all gets started on the par 4 eleventh hole followed up by the par 3 twelfth hole as they are the the second and third hardest holes on the course. Hole 13 is a par 5 that is the easiest hole on the course offering up the most birdies last year along with eight eagles. From the easiest hole you now play the hardest hole on the course at 14 facing a long par 4. The final four holes on this course are risk/reward holes that can provide big swings that can either be good or bad. The 15th is a par 5 that is reachable in two which will bring eagles and birdies in play. As mentioned the 16th is a short par 3 but can be extremely nerve racking since you are playing in front of so many loud people. Hole 17 is a short drivable par 4 that is protected by water while the 18th is protected by water and challenging bunkers.
This week I am looking for two types of players, the bombers and the ball strikers. Some of the players who have won this tournament are Hideki, Kyle Stanley, JB Holmes, Phil Mickelson, and Mark Calcavaechia who all fit those descriptions one way or the other. TPC Scottsdale features fairways that are often undulating which will allow for long drives and if the course is dry this will really help the long ball hitters. This week I will be focused on SG approach, greens in regulation, SG Tee to Green, SG off the Tee and proximity to hole.
TOUGH DECISIONS LOOM AT THE TOP
Anytime you have this many top ranked players in a full field event you will see suppressed ownership on a couple of these players. This week I feel it will be fairly easy to define who the lower ownership is going to get passed off to. What’s great about weeks like this is it doesn’t mean the player is bad, after all we are talking about players ranked inside the top ten in the world. Selecting the correct plays at the top is critical because it’s unlikely that all five end up placing in the top ten this week. So let’s get started with the player who should garner high ownership and deservingly so since I already mentioned what he has achieved at this course, Hideki Matsuyama. What I didn’t mention earlier about Hideki was that he finished second and fourth the two years before his back to back wins. Gents, it doesn’t get any better than that in current day golf when it comes to course history. So the big question is can he complete the trifecta? I have absolutely nothing against Hideki but to win three tournaments in a row is just not going to happen in today’s golf world. No doubt he may finish top five and if none of the other four top notch players finish in front then it would be a DFS win for Hideki. I am willing to go against Hideki this week because this tournament is strong, stronger than it ever has been and I feel there are enough strong players to compete with him. Hideki has many great stats over his career at Scottsdale but one that is concerning to me is proximity to the hole. Over his last two tournaments Hideki ranks 110th in the field in this category. Perhaps I am digging to find reasons not to play the guy as it’s really his only bad stat minus putting which is typically not good for Hideki.
Jon Rahm came into Torrey Pines as the defending champ and won the week before at the Career Builder while playing exceptional golf over his past ten plus tournaments. Rahm had one very bad hole on Saturday and didn’t play good in adverse conditions on Sunday. Many people are going to look at his two last rounds plus call it a Rahm meltdown and be off him this week. Rahm is very familiar with the TPC at Scottsdale as he is a graduate of Arizona St. Rahm has played this tournament twice finishing 6th and 15th. Over the last three tournaments Rahm ranks number one SG off the tee and number ten SG Tee to green. Rahm has been average at that same time on his approach shots ranking 49th while his putting comes in at 71st SG. One concerning stats for Rahm is that over his career he has putted better on all other surfaces vs bermuda losing almost one stroke on the latter.
Rickie Fowler missed the cut last week at the Farmers Insurance Open for the fourth consecutive year. What has Fowler done after missing each one of those cuts? He has come to Pheonix and played very good golf as he has made 7/9 cuts with three top tens while two of those top tens have come over the last two years. Fowler had around 20% ownership last week so he burned quite a few people, myself included. This should be a very good spot to get Fowler at lower ownership. I am concerned with how Fowler is striking the ball over his last two tournaments as he ranks 114th in proximity to the hole within the field to go with 51st SG off the tee and 71st SG approach.
Jordan Spieth finished 18th and 9th in his first two tournaments of the calendar year at courses he has performed very good at in previous years. This means there must be something wrong with his game and indeed he is having issues putting the ball. If you read my blogs for the tournaments he played earlier this year I mentioned that Spieth struggled putting the ball last year and it continued during these two tournaments. Keep in mind that even though Spieth has struggled putting he is still one of the three best putters in the game and he was still able to post solid finishes. The part of the game that Spieth is not struggling with is his irons as he is striking the ball very good. When Spieth gets the putter back on board, which could happen this week, he will be in contention to win. Spieth has played at Scottsdale twice finishing 9th and 7th. Spieth ranks high in all SG stats career wise at Scottsdale along with his last two tournaments and his putting ranks 124th in the field in SG putting over his last two tournaments.
The DFS community had marginal expectations for Justin Thomas during his visit to Hawaii as he ended up only being owned at around 20-25%. Thomas was the defending champion for both Hawaii tournaments and his play was mediocre at best for a player with his ranking. Seeing what Thomas ownership was in those tournaments makes me believe that this week in a loaded tournament he will be off the radar. Thomas has not played his best at Scottsdale missing two cuts to go along with a finish of 17th. When you look at the stats for Thomas the one thing that jumps off the page is that he has not putted well in his three appearances at Scottsdale. Thomas has a field ranking of 100th SG putting were his tour rank using his last two tournaments is 101st. When you look at his other career stats at Scottsdale he has hit the ball well ranking 12th in SG tee to green, 9th SG approach and 28th SG off the tee. I think it’s safe to say that Thomas results this week will come down to his putting.
LOOKING FOR THAT BIG WIN
Webb Simpson has made 6/7 cuts at Scottsdale including finishes in the top ten in five of his last six appearances. I was shocked that Simpson was priced so low as I thought he would be in the mid to upper 9k’s. Over his last four tournaments the only weak part of Simpsons game has been his approach shots as he ranks 74th in the field. If Simpson can get back on track with his approach shots look for him to post a great result as he already had putted well on these greens when he was a bad putter and since his mid season change of putting grips he has been on fire putting. For his career he has posted a reulst of 17th SG putting and enters this tournament number four in the field strokes gained putting over the last four weeks.
Tony Finau came into Torrey Pines with high expectations and had everyone excited after his first round were he shot a 65. Unfortunately Finau was not able to get anything going for the following three rounds and finished T6. Finau’s has missed his last two cuts at Scottsdale while he placed 22nd in his only other appearance. Finau continues to putt well as he gained two strokes last week and that makes six of his last seven tournaments were he has gained strokes putting. I think it’s time to remove that bad putter tag from Finau. What Finau is not doing well is striking his irons as he lost two strokes last week on his approach shot and ranks 52nd SG off the tee and 59th SG approach over his last three tournaments.
He is back, no not Tiger Woods but JJ Spaun in my blog as I will continue to ride him until that win comes. Last week I was able to get Spaun at 5% and he played good golf minus his fourth round were he played his last four holes at three over to finish 23rd. If you remove the fourth round from Spaun he gained strokes off the tee, on his approach and putting. The putting is important as he had not been putting well at all and on Sunday he actually gained four of his five strokes for the week. In addition Spaun has gained almost one stroke over his career putting on bermuda vs other grasses. Spaun has only played at Scottsdale once and that was last year finishing fourth.
PLAYERS I WILL FADE
Gary Woodland is a tough player to fade but I feel comfortable doing so this week. Woodland has played some disappointing golf recently although his results don’t indicate this. At the Sony Open he started round two off making bogeys and even one double only to catch fire and go seven under on the back nine to make the cut. Last week at the Farmers Insurance Open he didn’t play good in round one and had to shoot a 68 in round two to make the cut. Woodland should be popular and has solid course history making 6/8 cuts but over his last four trips to Scottsdale he has missed two cuts and finished 33rd and 37th. If you look at his pre tournament history he has always arrived in Scottsdale playing well but he just doesn’t seem as comfortable at Scottsdale as he does at the Sony Open and Farmers Insurance Open were he has better course history than Scottsdale. If he continues to struggle in the early rounds I think his luck will run out and the variance will overcome him this week.
When you are competing for a win, especially in challenging conditions and come up short and or win, it takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. For this reason I will be passing on Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer this week. Yes they may be playing well but I feel with all that went on for them this past week it will be to much to overcome and post a T20. I also looked at there results over the last several years when they post a T10 and play the following week. What I found was neither played very good, some cuts missed and some finishes of 30th-60th but no back to back T10’s. I feel that there ownership will increase over last week and I can find other players who can produce better results.
Not a huge hot take but I had 20% JB Holmes last week and I will fade him this week. All was going well for JB until the 14th hole and then his game fell apart. JB ended his round with his now well known debacle around how long he took to play his shot on the 18th from the fairway. JB has solid history at Scottsdale making 9/12 cuts including two wins but I feel his debacle on the 18th is going to affect him mentally and he had several peers tweeting at him about his decision to take so long on 18. I don’t know if JB will be owned highly this week, only 5% last week, because many players may be staying away because they didn’t care for his actions on 18 either. I will give JB the week off to get over these issues and I am sure he will be back in my player pool at Pebble Beach.
I played 20% Keegan Bradley last week verse his field owned 8%. Bradley has solid course history at Scottsdale making 4/6 cuts while finishing between 15th and 24th when making the cut. When you look at Bradley’s career he has followed up a good T5 showing with another good T10 showing but it is rare. Bradley will most likely be higher owned this week falling in the 10-15% range which I will pass on and let my fellow peers sweat out if he will make the cut.
Fading Zach Johnson this week is nothing more than a ownership fade as I expect to see him at 20% plus ownership. Johnson has been playing good golf recently and has good history at Scottsdale. I am banking on a couple things not working out for Johnson this week. First he doesn’t win or contend in tournaments in today’s game unless it’s the John Deere Classic so I know he won’t be near the top. The course isn’t the greatest fit for Johnson as he is a short hitter playing on a course that needs you to hit driver heavily. He has three consecutive T20 finishes at this tournament, variance will happen over a period of time. This is a much deeper field than the past three years making it more challenging for him to get another T20. In order to succeed in DFS gpp’s you have to make bold stands and this week it’s Johnson and Hideki for me.
THIS WEEKS WILDCARDS
Bubba Watson did not play good golf at the beginning of last year but over the second half of the year his game improved. Watson has made the cut in nine of his last eleven tournaments and now heads to Scottsdale were he has played good golf over his career. Watson played mediocre golf in his only tournament this year at the Career Builder and missed the cut. What Bubba did do well at the Career Builder was hit the ball off the tee as he ranks fourth in SG off tee in the field for tournaments played this calendar year. This is important piece to succeeding at Scottsdale and if he can continue to do that he could have a solid outcome.
Over his last four starts Austin Cook has finished 1st, 22nd, 18th, and 14th and is coming off his worst round of the four tournaments firing a 75 in round four of the Career Builder. As mentioned previously this is a deep field plus Cook is making his first appearance at Scottsdale. If I get the sense that Cook is going to go overlooked this week and come in with low ownership I will be more than happy to play him. Because of the round I mentioned earlier I feel that Cook’s stats are inaccurate because if you look at his SG stats he ranks between 50th and 75th in the field for tournament played this calendar year. In addition Cook is missing two rounds worth of stats were he played very well at the Career Builder because they didn’t have shot tracker data on those courses.
Chez Reavie is on a roll as he continues to make cuts with solid finishes. Reavie has a horrible history at Scottsdale but has never arrived at this course playing as he is now with his confidence. Reavie comes in leading the field in SG total over the last four tournaments and is third SG approach. Were Reavie is struggling is with the putter as he is ranked 121st SG putting within the field over those same tournaments. When you look at his history at Scottsdale he has struggled to putt and ranks in the low 100’s. If Reavie can be had for 5% or less and I can go in at 10% I will take my chances that he finally makes some putts at Scottsdale.
I am hoping Scott Piercy flies under the radar this week with all the other great plays right around him. Piercy resides in Las Vegas and is familiar with the type of grasses played at Scottsdale. Piercy has a solid history at Scottsdale making 8/9 cuts with three top tens. Many will be looking at the recent course history for Piercy which is not the greatest with finishes of 73rd, 45th and his missed cut. Piercy comes into this tournament hitting the ball well as over his last two tournaments he ranks 2nd SG tee to green, 10th SG approach and 37th SG off the tee. Piercy has been struggling with the flat stick as he ranks 108th SG putting over those last two tournaments but the good thing is he has putted well over his career at Scottsdale as he ranks 10th SG putting over his career. Final note, Piercy played well at the Career Builder a few weeks ago contending for the title on courses that are similar to Scottsdale as they were also played in the desert.
I must say that I typically play Patrick Reed in the summer months as that is when he plays his best golf but I have interest in him this week due to his price which I feel is egregiously cheap. Reed has made all three cuts at Scottsdale with no great result. I feel Reed is someone who may go under the radar as he is in a loaded price range. In two tournaments so far this calendar year Reed has shown to do well SG approach and total ranking 11th and 13th within the field.
When you look at Kevin Chappell’s stats over the last couple weeks they are off the chart as he played extremely well in the Career Builder, specifically the PGA West Stadium course were shot tracker tracked stats. Chappell ranks 2-5th in SG total, off the tee and approach in the tournaments he has played this calendar year within the field. When you look at his course history at Scottsdale he has made 3/6 cuts with no great finishes. If this sounds familiar it’s pretty much the same history type he had at the Career Builder a couple weeks ago. Chappell was fairly popular that week as he was under priced for his talent in a weaker field. This weeks field is stronger and he is priced around some other players who will be popular so we may be able to get Chappell at a reduced price with lower ownership this week.
I BURNED YOU LAST WEEK CLUB
As I mentioned in a previous blog one of my favorite strategies is to go back in on players that either burned myself or the community the previous week. Last week the three players below had ownership of approximately 12%, 10% and 5%, in the order I will discuss them. Typically when you burn the community you get put on the don’t play next week list. If I see that these players projected ownership will be at 5-8% this week I will be happy to go back in on them at 10-15%. This week Ollie Schnierdjans is the captain of the club as he had the highest ownership last week plus he really stuck the dagger deep in your back as after a horrible first round he came out on fire in round two. At one point Ollie was at -4 during round two only to finish at E to miss the cut by one stroke. Ollie is ranked 15th in SG total within the field and has posted solid numbers but not impressive SG off the tee and approach over his last couple tournaments.
Shane Lowry battled Ollie hard for the captain position as he had the ultimate breakdown last week going bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey, and bogey over a five hole stretch to shoot a 78 after finishing round one with a 69. Lowry had one bad round and I can get over that as he has played solid in his two appearances at Scottsdale finishing 6th and 16th. Due to the one bad round round Lowry had his stats for tournaments played over the last four weeks are not good as he has only played in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Peter Uihlen is the final member as he had the lowest ownership of the three. Uihlen shot a opening round 68 last week only to come out in round two to fire a no birdie all bogey round of 76 and miss the cut by one shot. Uihlen didn’t hit the ball bad in round two as he couldn’t putt the ball and lost three strokes on the green and an astounding five around the green. Uihlen is extremely cheap this week and it will be interesting to see what % flock down to him. I feel TPC Scottsdale is a good course fit for his style as he played well at the Career Builder a few weeks ago and finished T10 at the end of year Euro tour championship in Dubai, both dessert courses. The biggest positive I found was that Uihlen has much better stats when playing on bermuda grass vs other grass as he improves tremendously with the putter and his approach shots.
THROWING DARTS AT THIS WEEK
Last week I opened up my player pool and threw darts with several players. This week I am not seeing the need to with all the good value above 7k and the course history is not as good for the players below 7k this week were it was last week. I am sure that Chesson Hadley, Brandon Harkins and Kevin Streelman will be the chalk for players under 7k. Below are a few I am considering but I will probably be no more than 5-10% on any of them. Peter Uihlen who I already discussed would fall in this category.
I was on Ryan Blaum at the Career Builder and he played solid golf but came up short missing the cut. This will be Blaum’s first visit to Scottsdale and being a big hitter I feel he will fit in well. Blaum has performed quite well in his last two tournaments when it comes to hitting the ball as he ranks 8th in SG total, 6th in SG off the tee and 18th in SG approach within the field. Blaum also shows better numbers on bermuda surfaces vs other surfaces. Blaum will not be owned more than 2% and if he can continue to strike the ball well and get some putts to fall he will easily pay off with a made cut.
My boy Si Woo Kim is playing solid golf making all three cuts this calendar year. Si Woo has been solid off the tee, with his approach shot and gaining total strokes as he ranks between 25th-43rd in all of those stats within the field so far this calendar year. Si Woo is in a good spot this week as his price is under 7k, his ownership will be under 3% and he is playing on bermuda. This will be Si Woo’s third appearance at Scottsdale finishing 67th two years ago and missing the cut last year while fighting through back issues.
Kevin Na, like Scott Piercy is very familiar with the TPC Scottsdale as well as the course style this week as he also resides in Las Vegas. Na has been ok over his first first few tournaments of the year missing the cut at the Sony Open while finishing 42nd at the Career Builder. Minus the third round Na played solid golf at the Career Builder and he has solid field ranks of between 25th-42nd in SG Total and SG approach. Na has made 9/10 cuts at this tournament posting three T5 finishes several years ago while recently posting several T25 finishes. I feel confident Na will play solid golf this week posting solid results that can be better than the chalky under 7k plays.
My final under 7k play is William Dirt McGirt who has never missed a cut at this tournament, making all six while finishing between 19th-32nd in all six. I feel McGirt will fall right behind the chalky plays I mentioned at the top but still under 5%. I am only playing McGirt based off his course history as he only has one start so far this calendar year and his stats are not good.
That’s all for this week, I hope everyone enjoyed. I will leave you with a little info on one certain tournament that is on the horizon. It’s time to start counting down to the Masters as there are only nine tournaments left until the magical week. So far we only have 80 players qualified for the Masters, which is quite low as we typically see 90-95 players tee it up. As of now there are only two guaranteed ways to get into the Masters for players who have not qualified. Win a PGA tour sanctioned tournament that full FedEx points are received and be ranked top 50 in the world golf rankings the week before the tournament. Current players ranked inside T50 who need to stay there to receive a invitation are Satoshi Kodaira (35th) and Dylan Fritelli (47th). Players on the outside of the T50 looking in would include Ian Poulter (57th), Cam Smith (58th), Peter Uihlen (59th) along with bigger name players such as Brandt Snedeker, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry. The Masters committee can also give out special invitations but this is extremely rare and only for international players.