It’s party week on the PGA Tour, aka the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The tour makes its annual pilgrimage to the Arizona desert this week for what is annually the most raucous event of the season. In fact, over 700,000 fans flooded the gates at TPC Scottsdale a year ago once again creating the biggest four-day outdoor bash in sports.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler headlines a field that will include five of the top-15 players in the world including world No. 3 Jon Rahm. It will be a quick turnaround for Rahm who after birdieing the 72 hole on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open mistakenly thought he had played his way into a playoff. He finished one stroke behind winner Marc Leishman despite holding the 54-hole lead heading into the final round.
World No. 4 Justin Thomas also will tee it up following two weeks off. Thomas has already won twice this season and returns to Arizona where he finished solo 3 a year ago, three strokes behind eventual champ Fowler.
These are the players to keep an eye on this week at TPC Scottsdale.
Nuts and bolts:
January 30-February 2
Waste Management Phoenix Open
Like: Hideki Matsuyama
There’s something about the Arizona desert that brings out the best in Matsuyama’s game. Hideki won back to back WM Phoenix Opens in 2016 and 2017 and reeled off consecutive top-five finishes prior to that.
Surprisingly, Matsuyama hasn’t won on tour since 2017, but has shown signs that his game could be rounding into form. He finished T-12 at the Sony Open a few weeks ago and currently ranks 12th this season in strokes gained: tee to green.
Value: Matt Kuchar
Did you hear that Matt Kuchar won two weeks ago? Most people hadn’t since Kuchar’s win at the Singapore Open was not widely publicized but Kuchar was indeed victorious and heads to Scottsdale playing some impressive golf.
Kuchar kicked off 2020 with a T-14 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions before missing the cut at the Sony Open. He now returns to TPC Scottsdale where he has reeled off three consecutive top-10 finishes including a T-4 a year ago. Kuch’ hasn’t missed the cut at the Waste Management since 2004 and should be in the fairway all week long as he currently ranks fourth in driving accuracy on tour.
Sleeper: Chesson Hadley
Despite missing the cut at the Farmers, Hadley’s ball-striking ability should make him a factor this week. The 32-year-old currently ranks 15th in strokes gained: approach the green and 29th in greens in regulation percentage. He finished T-29 at the American Express which was highlighted by a third round 64 and now returns to Arizona where he’s run off consecutive top 20s including a fifth place finish in 2018.