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Read The Line

Wasted Management ♻️

Published 22 days ago • 8 min read

Let the games begin

SCOTTSDALE, AZ

I cannot believe the rain has followed us all the way to the desert! It's true, PGA TOUR officials have some wet weather forecasted for the start of the WM Phoenix Open. Keep in mind, it is the desert, and the water will wash away quickly, but after the week I had in Monterey, any rain is far from welcome. When the AT&T grabbed "signature" status, they had to take the elevated purse away from another event. That event is the WMPO. A field of 132 players will be competing for $8.8 million dollars instead of the $20 million that was handed out Sunday at the weather shortened Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The top 65 and ties will make the weekend at TPC Scottsdale. Those playing the final 36-holes will have a chance to take home the $1.584 million dollar first-place prize. WMPO has always been a polarizing week on TOUR. Without signature status, certain players are just not going to make the trip. Early in the week two favorites: Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland withdrew. The carnival atmosphere is not for everyone. If you have never been, it’s truly wild. The WMPO is the second largest attended sporting event in the world behind only the Summer Olympics. Those take two plus weeks with multiple venues. Here in Scottsdale it’s just one venue and we all know it quite well.

WMPO starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-08T14:30:00.000Z

TPC Scottsdale is the third most predictive course on the PGA TOUR. Only Waialae (Sony) and Augusta National Golf Club (Masters) have more repeatable leaderboards than the Tom Weiskopf/ Jay Morris design (1986) in Scottsdale. A large part of that is the skill set needed to win, but I also believe it has to do with a player's personality. We have 10 of the top 20 in the OWGR here. Not all of them like loud noise when they play. Adrenaline can be an adversary if you don't know how to channel it properly toward performance.

TPC's scorecard displays a par 71 layout covering 7,261 yards. We are playing at elevation (1,500+ ft) and in the firm desert so shorter hitters get a little longer and the bombers gain even more of an advantage. The greens are an average 7,069 sq/ft and covered in the winter months in Poa trivialis. Sixty-nine bunkers are placed inside the desert terrain, and six of the last eight holes have water in play. Most love this layout for tournaments and television. Aggressive play is rewarded here, and you can see that in our list of all-time winners.

The field has three score-able par 5s, four attention grabbing par 3s, and host of 11 challenging par 4s. Par 4 scoring leads my list of important player traits, but don't go to sleep on those other holes. Scoring on the par 5s and surviving the par 3s are imperative to contending come Sunday. The average winning score over the past decade is 17 under par. In that same time period, our average winner's pre-tournament odds were +3800. Six of the last 10 winners had odds of +2800 or lower, and only one winner had odds over +5000. This is not a true birdiefest, players make bogeys here and the closing stretch can boost or bottom out your chances of winning.

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Course conditions

TPC Scottsdale

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"How to watch?"

Coverage times

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Real-time weather

Scottsdale, AZ

For the second week in a row, I'm on-site to cover the course conditions and player practice sessions prior to Thursday. More than half the field who competed in the AT&T made the trip down here alongside me. Walking around yesterday, the course is in perfect condition. The little rain we received will only soften the top layer of those greens. Over four days it might yield a couple extra birdies, but for the most part the course is ready to present plenty of challenges. Ten holes have a bogey rate over 15%. Thirteen holes have a birdie rate over 15%. In the last five years, the winners have averaged 23 sub-par scores for the week.

Before I get into the archetype player, just take a look at the recent winners. Brooks twice, Hideki twice, Scottie twice, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson, and Rickie. These are all players who attack golf courses. The first five are all major champions. TPC Scottsdale is the only TPC course that truly measures risk reward golf away from Sawgrass. The par 5s have an average birdie rate over 40%. As often as the field will score on these holes, players will have problems. Scoring always remains tight at TPC. Two years ago, when we won with Scottie at +2500, RTL also predicted a playoff (+300). Eight of the last 16 WMPOs finished in extra holes. Very good players win here, and it takes all 72 holes.

Read The Line recap 🗞️

Scottie Scheffler is your two-time defending champion of the WM Phoenix Open. Inside those eight rounds, Scheffler has played the par 3s at even par. More importantly, when it comes to the crazy sixteenth hole, Scottie has played the wild arena even par all eight times. Handling the atmosphere is a major edge when it comes to the WM Phoenix Open.

B - E - A - GG - R - E - SS - I - V - E!

I am taking outright winners who love to play the WMPO. They have a "Let's go" mentality and always play aggressively. One fact about TPC Scottsdale that most handicappers will skip over is strokes gained off the tee. Past champions over the last decade have gained an average of three and a half strokes on their competitors OTT. Most courses do not offer the opportunity to differentiate with the driver. This course does, and the more power you have, the better. TPC Scottsdale will allow little misses. Good drives gained is an excellent analytic for the WMPO. Those are the guys who just miss by a little off the tee. The last five winners have gained over five strokes in this category (on average).

TPC Scottsdale always ranks in the top three for driving distance on TOUR. Going back to those recent nine winners, each gained an average of 41 yards on the field OTT. I know Webb and Rickie aren't the longest players, but the other four are! Looking back at all the leaderboards, they are populated with players who have tremendous speed. It allows them a better opportunity to score on the 5s, and get closer on approach for the tough par 4s. Speaking of which, par 4 scoring is at the top of my skill list. This is such a good representation of well-rounded play.

The last five winners gained an average of 12+ strokes on the 4s against the field. The biggest gains came on the 450-500 yards 4s of which TPC has five. The most common proximity bucket statically falls in the 150-175 yard range. But don't get fooled, the biggest gains on approach by the recent winners came from over 175 yards away. Winning is about separating yourself from the field. Possessing an excellent long iron game going into the WMPO is an edge. It will allow you to play the longer holes much more aggressively leading to lower scores.

TPC Scottsdale contenders will need to make plenty of birdies and balance that scoring with a competent short game. The leaderboard doesn't separate around the green, but do you remember Scottie's up and down on 16 last year in the final round? Nick Taylor failed to make par and that essentially sealed the repeat win for the world’s number one player. Watching a bunch of these guys at Pebble miss those small greens and not get up and down was telling. In Phoenix the greens are twice as big. If you miss one, that's extra pressure to keep that round momentum going.

Players make a ton of putts at TPC Scottsdale. It has one of the highest conversation rates on the green from over 15". When we see this, an age-old argument ensues. The easier it is, the more it favors the weaker putters. Don't forget it also allows better putters to make more putts as well. I go back and forth on this, and my conclusion is Scottie Scheffler is your two-time defending champion. He is one of THE worst putters on TOUR. Last year, WMPO was his best putting performance by 2X! I can't call it a full "no-putt" week, but some of our outrights aren't close to leading the PGA TOUR in strokes gained putting.

Instead, I went for pure scorers. Those same ten recent winners gained an average of 7.5 birdies over 72-holes. The fast-paced environment of the WMPO is not for everyone, but these four men all fit the mold. They have great par 4 scoring capabilities and a strong BoB%. They avoid bogeys consistently and own plenty of ball speed. I love this list. Good players win at TPC Scottsdale and all of our outrights are absolute flushers of the golf ball. I watched them all practice a little yesterday and feel confident. I am ready to drop the pro-ams, mutli-course events, and bad weather. The WMPO is a truly entertaining experience, one that we will make even more memorable with a win.

Outright winners - WM Phoenix Open

Justin Thomas has four top 8 finishes in his last 5 starts at the WM Phoenix Open.

  • Since September, Thomas has finished fifth, fourth, third, third, and sixth.
  • JT was ranked second in SG:T2G at the AT&T.
  • Thomas is gaining ands average of 7+ strokes against the field in his last five starts.
  • JT loves the crazy atmosphere, he mentioned it in the press room and embraces all week.

Data Golf has JT Poston ranked as the twelfth best player in the world.

  • Poston's recent success is based upon improved approach play. He has gained with his irons in eight of his last 10 events.
  • JT is ranked second in the field for BoB%.
  • Guys on the range at Pebble Beach were talking about how good Poston is hitting the ball.
  • Top 5 putter at any tournament he plays in.

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