If it’s Super Bowl week that can only mean one thing for golf fans: It’s time for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.
Or should we say the newly renamed WM Phoenix Open.
The tournament may not rival the Super Bowl as far as an overall viewing audience goes, but with 500,000 fans on site over the tournament’s four-days, there’s not a more impressive fan outpouring in golf.
To say these fans love golf is an understatement. To say they love the PGA Tour and a great party…well, just tune in and see for yourself.
While most golf venues, like Augusta National, feature toned-down atmospheres (except for the occasional ‘fan’ yelling ‘get in the hole’ after his favorite player hits a drive on a par-5), it’s anything but that at TPC Scottsdale.
And the action is the most intense at the famed 16th hole. Go ahead, Google Tiger Woods’ hole-in-one there 25 years ago on this hole to get a taste of the bedlam that can erupt.
The numbers of fans coming to the tournament are staggering. In recent years, those numbers haven’t been released but here are some numbers that are just amazing: The record crowd for the tournament came in 2018 when almost 720,000 fans were on site for the week including more than 215,000 on Saturday (always the busiest and loudest day).
So, when we’re looking at possible players to win come Sunday, adjusting to the raucous crowds definitely figures into the equation.
Let’s get started.
Odds To Win The WM Phoenix Open (DraftKings)
Jon Rahm +600
Justin Thomas +1000
Hideki Matsuyama +1400
Patrick Cantlay +1600
Viktor Hovland +1600
Jordan Spieth +1600
Xander Schauffele +2000
Scottie Scheffler +2200
Daniel Berger +2500
As always, shop around the betting market for the best odds on your plays.
Adjusting To The Return Of Fans
At last year’s WM Phoenix Open, attendance was limited to about 5,000 fans per day. This year, it’s full speed ahead with limited restrictions on the number of fans coming through the turnstiles.
That’s good and bad news. It’s good news because the charities will now be getting a boatload of cash to help those in need in the area. The bad news is not all of the players handle the pressure of being in this bright spotlight the same.
This spotlight doesn’t get any brighter. It’s going to be a big factor, especially around the 16th hole where great shots are cheered and bad shots are jeered. It’s a par-3 hole but when you’re surrounded by 20,000 fans–many of them knocking back a few brews–it can be very intimidating.
The buzzing of the crowd and all of those eyes on you can make the green shrink to postcard size. Kind of like the 17th at TPC Sawgrass…but without the water.
Watch the players exhale deeply if they hit the green and grimace if their shot misses the green. Oh, don’t worry, the fans’ reaction will let you know if the shot was successful.
Played Here Before? You’ll Have An Edge
If this is a player’s first time teeing it up in this event, it’s going to be intimidating. They can say it won’t affect them, but once they see and hear these fans it’s a different story.
That’s why we’re looking at a couple of players who have had success here.
And there are plenty of options. This is where the PGA Tour’s big guns hit the ground running. Thirteen of the top 20 players in the world will be on hand.
Last year, Brooks Koepka beat Xander Schauffele and Kyoung-Hoon Lee by a stroke for the title.
This year? Well, we’re going back to Schauffele. He’s +2000 this week and that’s a great price for someone who seems to be in the top five every time he tees it up.
Sure, he hasn’t won since the 2019 Tournament of Champions on Maui, but he’s been close enough that we aren’t going to abandon our support.
Since that win on Maui, he’s got 12 top-10 finishes. And it gets better. He’s been T-2 or solo second an astounding seven times and that includes here last year.
We’ve picked him six or seven times over the past two years (including a pair of second-place finishes that easily could have been victories), so we’re still going to drive the X-Man’s bus for a little while longer anyway.
World No. 1 Is Coming Home
Jon Rahm, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, is coming back for a home game.
At +600, he’s the favorite and for good reason. He’s always in the hunt no matter the event. Add in the fact the tournament is being held on familiar turf (he’s an ASU grad) and his eyes have to be lighting up.
He was T-5 his first year here in 2015 in just his second event as a pro. He didn’t play in 2016, but since then he’s gone T-16, T-11, T-10, T-9, and T-13 last year.
Rahm’s in top form right now. Only a balky putter and a couple of errant shots have kept him out of the winner’s circle in 2022. He has a solo second (Tournament of Champions) and a T-3 (Farmers Insurance Open) that could easily have turned into victories.
Now back on his old stomping grounds and surrounded by family and friends, look for him to be in contention come Sunday.
Time For The Comeback Kids
Looking down the odds list, the names Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson stand out.
Spieth is +1600 this week, which is great value for a player whose game is coming back to what we’ve come to expect. He was solo second last week in the AT&T event at Pebble Beach.
Watson, who is at a healthy +4000, is coming off a second-place finish at last week’s Saudi International. He’s been MIA since missing the cut at the Northern Trust last August and is now going to be making just his second start of 2022. FanDuel had Watson at +4100 as of Tuesday morning.
And after both of them finished second last week in their respective events, there’s no reason they both shouldn’t have positive attitudes heading into this week.
The main difference between the two is Spieth has to just jet from Pebble Beach to TPC Scottsdale while Watson will be flying in from Saudi Arabia to tee it up.