Since there’s only one course in play and the daylight hours are still shorter than usual, this tournament has a smaller field with just 125-130 golfers teeing it up this week. The scene at this year’s WMPO is going to be much different than usual as the venue generally sets attendance records every season, with more than 200,000 people on the course every day. This year, though, only 5,000 fans will be allowed daily, which will drastically change the atmosphere of the event — especially the 16th stadium home, a par 3 where fans often cheer as the player makes their shot.
This year’s event sees many of the regular faces in the field like former champions Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama, who have dueled many times at this venue. Joining them this year though will be the likes of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, the latter of which is making his first-ever start at the venue. Justin Thomas will also be returning for his second start of the season after taking nearly a month off after the opener. Daniel Berger, Bubba Watson and Jason Day — who is making his first start here since 2013 — round out what is always one of the more competitive fields of the non-major/non-WGC events.
TPC Scottsdale: Scottsdale, Arizona
Par 71, 7,200-7300 yards
TPC Scottsdale underwent some minor renovations four years ago that were aimed at “toughening up” the golf course and resulted in a few holes being lengthened. Some bunkers were also moved to provide better protection for pins and to challenge players off the tee. Even with the changes though the players have still managed to put up some low scores at this track with the winners hitting 17 or 18-under the last three years.
One of the main features that makes this such a fun event is the setup of the course. TPC Scottsdale is a traditional par 71, made up of three par-5s, four par-3s and eleven par-4s but contains several scoring holes that encourage aggressiveness and awards great shots with chances at birdies and eagles. All of the par-5s are reachable in two by most players (especially the longer hitters) and this trio of holes are generally three of the easiest to score on. The par-4s are mostly between 410 and 490 yards in length and this can be where the big hitters gain their biggest advantage, if they find the fairway off the tee.
There are also a couple of unique holes players encounter down the stretch here too. The 16th is a very easy par-3, except for the fact it’s set in a stadium. The lack of crowds in 2021 will take away some of the draw from this hole but it will still be pivotal down the stretch. The drivable par-4 (the 17th) is also a gem, as it presents players with a huge risk vs. reward scenario coming home and always plays a huge role scoring wise later in the round.
The wide-open nature of the course gives it a semi-links like in feel—although water does come into play on six of the final nine holes—and gives players with good distance off the tee lots of chances to hit driver. The average driving distance here is 10 to 12 yards more than the PGA TOUR average so the course does seem to cater to bombers a bit, although we’ve seen shorter hitters compete here just as regularly (see Webb Simpson last season). Ultimately, hitting a ton of greens with good proximity stats here seems to be the most important factor. Three of the last four winners here gained +7 or more strokes on their approaches over the field (see below under winners stats) so looking for players trending with great mid-to-long iron play seems to be the name of the game here.
2021 outlook: The weather this week looks like it will mostly be a non-factor. As one would expect with Phoenix, there’s sunny skies projected for all four days. The wind here can be a factor, and has in past years, but this year none of the four days have any significant gusts attached to it, with winds expected to stay under 10 mph. The only thing to monitor might be the actual air temperature. Morning highs in the desert are set around 40-45 degrees F which could cause frost delays and make morning scoring tougher. Longer hitters may have a bigger advantage than normal this year as highs for the week are only expected to be in the high 60-range.
LAST 5 WINNERS
2020—Webb Simpson -17 (over Tony Finau playoff)
2019—Rickie Fowler -17 (over Branden Grace -15)
2018—Gary Woodland -18 (in playoff over Chez Reavie)
2017—Hideki Matsuyama -17 (in playoff over Webb Simpson)
2016—Hideki Matsuyama -14 (in playoff over Rickie Fowler)
- Nine of the last 10 winners have had a T7 or better in one of their last five starts before their win at the WMO.
- Eight of the last 10 winners have ranked inside the top 50 for Greens in Regulation in the year of their victory at the WMO.
- Each of the past five winners of the WMPO had finished T5 or better at this event in a season prior to their win.
Winners Stats and Course Detail
2020: Webb Simpson (17-under par)
2020 lead-in form (T3, T10, 2nd, T7, T16)
SG: Off the Tee—+2.1
SG: Tee to Green—+9.5
· Players will need solid ball-striking weeks here as each of the past three winners ranked inside the top-5 for the week in at least one non-putting, Strokes Gained stat during the week of their win.
· Approaches seem the most vital though as three of the past four winners here have gained +7.0 strokes or more on their approaches.
· Driving Distance also tends to get emphasized here more than other venues and only two of the past six winners ranked outside the top-20 for the week in DD (Matsuyama 2016, Webb 2020).
· Shorter hitters can compete here, as evidenced by Webb Simpson and Chez Reavie (on top of Webb’s 2020 win, both lost in playoffs here in ’16 and ’17) but have will have to be sharp with longer irons.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,800; best finishes: win-2017, 2016): Matsuyama deserves final boss status for this week at TPC Scottsdale. The Japanese superstar has won this event twice and has finished T4 or better four of the six times he’s started and finished the event (WD-2018). Incredibly, he’s gained +5.6 strokes or more on approaches here in every one of his starts.
2. Rickie Fowler ($8,600; best finishes: win-2019, 2nd- 2010 and 2016): Fowler’s course history at Phoenix is nearly as impressive as Matsuyama’s. After his win in 2019, he’s now finished T11 or better here in four of the past five seasons, a run which also includes a playoff loss to Matsuyama in 2016. His history suggests we may see some life from him this week.
3. Webb Simpson ($10,100; best finishes: win-2020, 2nd-2017): Simpson has an impressively consistent history at TPC Scottsdale that includes a playoff loss here in 2017 and a win here last season. The 2018 PLAYERS champion has played here in six of the last seven years and only failed to crack the top-20 here on one occasion. There may not be a safer pay-up option on the board this week.
4. Daniel Berger ($9,600; best finishes: 2020-T9, 2017-T7): Berger’s never won here but he’s taken to this venue quite well over his career. He was in contention on Sunday in 2017 before fading and has absolutely dominated on the greens here gaining +17.5 strokes putting (combined) over his last four appearances.
5. Byeong Hun An ($7,300; best finishes: 2020-T9, 2017-6th): An was in the lead at this event back in 2016 with nine holes to go before imploding. He’s played here four times now though and never missed the cut while landing two top-10’s. He’s a possible dark horse candidate to grab his first PGA TOUR win this week.
1. Xander Schauffele ($11,000, Recent finishes: T2-T5): Schauffele racked up yet another runner-up finish last week at Torrey Pines. He’s now finished inside the top-5 in five of his last seven starts and hasn’t missed a cut on the PGA TOUR since THE NORTHERN TRUST back in Fall of 2019.
2. Ryan Palmer ($9,200, Recent finishes: T2-T41): Palmer also finished T2 last week and comes in with three top-5 finishes over his last four starts. He’s playing very consistent golf and has really fired up his putter of late, gaining three or more strokes on the greens in three of his last four starts.
3. Rory McIlroy ($10,600, Recent finishes: T16-T3): Rory couldn’t put together a big Sunday for the second week in a row and fell into a T16 finish. He’s finished T21 or better in each of his last eight starts now.
4. Henrik Norlander ($7,500, Recent finishes: T2-T12): Norlander comes in playing well, having landed T12 and T2 finishes in his last two starts. He’s gained over a stroke on his approaches in each of his last five starts.
5. Jon Rahm ($11,200, Recent finishes: T7-T7): Rahm put in another top-10 finish last week, his fourth in a row. He feels like he’s just treading water right now but once his irons start firing he’ll likely be right there to contend.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Berger and Sungjae a nice double dip in cash games
Daniel Berger ($9,600) comes in having missed exactly one cut now in his last 20 PGA TOUR starts. He’s also played the WMPO six times now and finished T9 here. As mentioned above, he putts extremely well on the Bermuda here and should be in contention if that club is firing. I mentioned Sungjae Im ($9,400) below and after a solid start, his price here looks like a good discount for cash games. Ryan Palmer ($9,200) and Gary Woodland ($8,300) could also both be considered for this format given their recent form and history at this week’s venue. Other potential cash game targets here include the likes of Corey Conners ($7,900), Sam Burns ($7,700), and Brendan Steele ($7,400).
Tournaments: Rory set to make a splash for GPPs
McIlroy ($10,600) will be making his first ever appearance at the WMPO this week but the course should set up well for him. He hit his irons more consistently last week and will be able to smash plenty of drivers here. Given the lack of course history, ownership should stay low. Scottie Scheffler ($9,100) is another player whose sentiment should stay low off two missed cuts. He missed the cut by one stroke at the Amex and shot a 65 in round one of the Farmers though so his game isn’t as far off as the record would indicate. Other potential GPP targets this week include Bubba Watson ($8,500), Byeong Hun An ($7,300-see below) and Doc Redman ($6,600).
MY PICK: Sungjae Im ($9,400)
Im’s now played in each of the first four events to begin the season with this week marking his fifth straight start in a row. With any other player fatigue may be a concern but Im has ridden this kind of schedule since coming on the PGA TOUR with little negative effect. In fact, it was just under a year ago that he came into the Honda Classic having played in seven of the first eight events to start the year and picked up his first PGA TOUR win. We might be in store for something similar this week too as Im’s ball-striking has looked solid of late and a big week feels due soon. Overall, this is a player who has now made nine of his last 10 cuts on the PGA TOUR and is averaging 92.25 DKFP per start in 2021.
While he may have only finished T32 last week, he ranked 6th in birdies made and recorded 11 birdies on the weekend alone at the tough Torrey Pines South. Additionally, this week he’ll now be on his preferred putting surface as TPC Scottsdale features Bermuda style greens. The 22-year-old has played this event twice already, finishing T7 here in 2019 and T34 here last season and gained strokes in every major category in both of those starts. With his approach game ramping up and a venue that feels well-suited to his all-around talent, firing Im up at under $9.5K in price on DraftKings feels like a no-brainer here to me.
MY SLEEPER: Byeong Hun An ($7,300)
An’s been trending well since the start of the season and comes into this week ranked 12th in SG: Approach stats over the last 24 rounds. The South Korean has his consistency issues on the greens, but this is also an uber-talented player who has now racked up three runner-up finishes (two playoff losses) and numerous other top-5’s since he joined the PGA TOUR in 2016. His short game is also generally a good barometer for his form and right now that short game seems to be clicking as he comes in ranked fifth in SG: Around the Green stats over his last 24 rounds and has gained strokes in that area in 10 of his last 11 starts.
Benny’s real attraction this week though is the venue, as TPC Scottsdale has been one of the best stops for him on the PGA TOUR. He carried the lead here in 2017 with nine holes to go and has gained +2.4 strokes or more on his approaches here in each of his four starts, while also dominating around these greens with some stellar scrambling. Everything seems to come together for An when he visits this course and given the solid form his irons have been showing of late I really see no reason not to recommend him again at this price. He’s a great GPP value and a player more than capable at busting through for a big week here.
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