Power Rankings: WM Phoenix Open
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Editor's note (Feb. 9): Webb Simpson has withdrawn.
It’s still the “Greenest Show on Grass” and #ThePeoplesOpen, and it still excites all the senses, but now it’s known as the WM Phoenix Open.
Spectacular weather in the Valley of Sun – what else! – is expected for the most-attended sporting event in the world. As usual, TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course serves as the stage to 132 entrants.
Details on the course, what it takes to prevail and more can be found beneath the projected contenders.
Recent winners Tom Hoge (Pebble Beach), Harold Varner III (Saudi International), Luke List (Farmers) and Hudson Swafford (American Express) will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades on Tuesday.
Compared to most of the rest of the country, any winter in Phoenix is preferable, but to locals, it doesn’t take much more than a daytime high in the mid-60s to generate conversation about finding a sweater and something thicker than a light jacket. That’s also almost too cold for the ubiquitous hoodie/jeans/flip-flops combo in these climes. But not this week.
A warming trend with temperatures approaching 80 degrees will bridge all four rounds of the tournament. Believe it or not, that’s well above average for this time of year. Wind will not be a factor.
The weather, or lack thereof for anyone who defines it as requiring something other than glorious sunshine, parallels expectations inside the ropes at TPC Scottsdale. The course is the same as it was last year, and it’s perfect. The par 71 with three par 5s tips at 7,261 yards. Greens will roll at 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. Primary rough is trimmed to 2½ inches.
Last year’s field averaged a cool 69.455, easily the lowest since Tom Weiskopf’s renovation was unveiled in 2015. However, that was in part due to a wet season immediately preceding it; that is the Stadium Course really didn’t have a chance. Greens that average a sizeable 7,000 square feet were hit on an average of almost 13 times in regulation per round. Those scoring opportunities yielded close to an average of four par breakers per round. With a drier pattern a year later, the track should punch back a bit.
Brooks Koepka likely largely is remembered for holing out for eagle on the par-4 17th hole in the final round en route to his second victory on the course – he recorded his first PGA TOUR title here in 2015 – but he wouldn’t have been in position to pay off that 2 unless he put all the pieces together beforehand.
As is often the case on the Stadium Course, distance off the tee is rewarded. Although cacti and other desert flora await the most wayward of tee balls, it serves more as the visual routing in contrast with the rich greens of the overseeded bermuda that blanket every hole.
Koepka has the muscle, of course, but he also co-led the field in greens in regulation, missing only 10 all week. He ranked second overall in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and the all-around to post 19-under 265, lowest since Weiskopf went to work.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws and Fades
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.