Power Rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open

January 30, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

TPC Scottsdale serves as host of this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open for the 26th time. It's hardly a stretch to state that the face of the course is its par-3 16th hole.

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It was stapled on the map for the current generation of golf fans when Tiger Woods famously aced it in 1997. Last year, it was Jarrod Lyle's turn as he became the eighth ever to record a hole-in-one at the 16th in his second round. Later that same day, while wearing an Arizona State University football jersey with Pat Tillman's name and number, Billy Mayfair lipped out his tee ball at the hole, and then drilled the birdie putt.

That bury-the-needle potential transcends throughout the course as scoring is always low. However, while nothing stands out as a primary challenge, the layout isn't without its intangible tests.

TPC Scottsdale is a par 35-36=71 measuring 7,216 yards and ranks perennially among the longest in average driving distance. Despite victories in recent years by sluggers like Kenny Perry, J.B. Holmes (twice) and Phil Mickelson, just eight of the 58 that finished inside the top 10 in the last five years ranked inside the top 10 in distance off the tee the same week.

Fairways-hit splits have bobbed up and down in recent years but they have been neutralized by consistently average ranks in greens in regulation. While hitting GIR is among the priorities, TPC Scottsdale has also ranked among the easiest in scrambling, sitting outside the top 35 most difficult in four of the last five years. This relationship allows for aggressive approaches.

Furthermore, there isn't anything notable when it comes to putting. This encompasses conversion percentages of every length, three-putt avoidance and putts per GIR. Indeed, TPC Scottsdale is a bit of an enigma.

One commonality on which the 132 in the field can rely is experience. While most rookies don't have the opportunity to compete due to their respective positions in the reshuffle, all it takes is a cursory peek at leaderboards in recent years to understand that veterans tend to shine.

Regardless of age, tenure or number of reps at TPC Scottsdale, superb course management is rewarded. Like a few of the critters in the Sonoran Desert in which it is situated, the track can bite if guys fail to respect it. With a bit of irony poked at the boisterous 16th hole, boring golf is the objective.

Mother Nature is not expected to present any problems this week. No rain is forecast, high temperatures might hit 70 degrees and winds will be light to moderate.

MORE: Rookies | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers

Power Rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Rank Player   Comment
The antithesis of boring but he's a great fit. Shared 13th at the Farmers. Went bogey-free 8-under in a 43-hole stretch. Had just five bogeys all week. Shared 13th at last year's WMPO; second-round 62 was a field low. Solo second in 2010.
Failed to break 70 in his last three rounds (all on Torrey Pines South) and still finished in a share of fourth place. Sunk 11 birdies in his opening 63 at Torrey North. Sat two strokes off 54-hole lead here last year, then shot 76 to finish T29.
Overlooked in his unlikely victory at Torrey Pines is that he birdied the par-5 18th in regulation to post a number. He birdied it all four times he played it (thrice in regulation, once in playoff). Two top 10s in five starts here, including a T8 last year.
Talk about converging trends. The defending champion took last week off after winning the Humana Challenge. Led this field in greens in regulation last year and swallowed just four bogeys. Has recorded a pair of top 15s in three other appearances.
Opened 2012 with a solo second at Kapalua, then tied for 14th at the Humana where he hit 14 greens in regulation in every round. Shared third place at last year's WMPO, playing his final 30 holes in bogey-free 12-under.
First start since a T38 at the Sony Open. Started the year with a T3 at Kapalua. Hasn't gone consecutive starts without a top 10 since June. Had only one two-event stretch without a top 20 in all of 2011. Shared eighth place here last year.
Struggled throughout his bag in the last two rounds of the Farmers, settling for a share of 60th. Hasn't finished outside the top 25 in consecutive weeks since the 2010 PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. Note: Withdrew from WM Phoenix on Tuesday.
The first-timer at TPC Scottsdale gets back on the horse after his crushing defeat at the Farmers where he ranked third in greens in regulation and led the field in both putting and birdies. Top 10s in three of his last seven PGA TOUR starts.
His T4 at the Farmers matched a career-best finish on the PGA TOUR. The second-year player ranked T8 in both greens in regulation and birdies for the week. Early on, he ranks 44th in GIR and 29th in Strokes Gained-Putting.
Posted a T13 at the Farmers Insurance Open where he opened with a nine-birdie 64 on Torrey North and played the 18th hole at Torrey South eagle-birdie-birdie. Two-time winner here. Top 10s in six of 15 starts including a T3 last year.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open:

Johnson Wagner: Only golfer with three top 10s this year. After winning the Sony Open, he shared second place at the Humana Challenge. Active streak of 10 consecutive rounds in the 60s. Lone cut made in four tries at TPC Scottsdale was a T60 in 2010.

Scott Piercy: One of two making his fifth start of 2012; Chris Kirk is the other. Piercy is coming off a T13 at the Farmers, his third top 25 of the season. Superb record at TPC Scottsdale with a T15 in 2005, a T6 in 2009 and a T8 in 2010.

John Rollins: Recorded a solo third at the Farmers where he ranked T2 in fairways hit, T4 in greens and T2 in birdies. Hasn't missed a cut in nine consecutive appearances at TPC Scottsdale. His last top 25, however, was a solo second in 2007.

D.A. Points: Off to a torrid start: T12 at Kapalua, a T6 at Waialae and a T8 at Torrey Pines. Under par in all 12 of his rounds. Survived his first cut in four attempts at TPC Scottsdale last year, finishing in a tie for 18th. Under par in every round and had just four bogeys.

Matt Kuchar: Second start of the year following a T22 at the Humana Challenge. In his last five starts on the PGA TOUR, he's finished no higher than T20 and no lower than T25. Placed T6 at the 2009 edition of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.