Power Rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open

January 28, 2013

TPC Scottsdale has enjoyed its fair share of memorable moments over the years. Even a casual sports fan is likely to recall Tiger Woods' one-hop, raise-the-roof ace at the 16th hole in 1997, one of many images associated with that famous par 3. A smile and a nod may appear on fans that can remember the loose impediment otherwise known as a boulder that spectators shifted for Woods on the 13th hole two years later.


In 2001, the host course to the Waste Management Phoenix Open also served as the site for Andrew Magee's 1 on the par-4 17th hole thanks to an assist from Tom Byrum's putter. But for as much joy as TPC Scottsdale has furnished, there has been pain, too.

Last year, Spencer Levin entered the final round with a six-stroke lead. He'd go on to card a 4-over 75 and settle for third place, two strokes back of first-time PGA TOUR winner, Kyle Stanley, who started the finale eight swings in arrears. While Stanley's comeback avenged his late meltdown the previous week at Torrey Pines and carried on a theme that would recur throughout 2012, the fact that his success occurred at TPC Scottsdale specifically wasn't news. In fact, it marked the third consecutive year that the 54-hole leader failed to shut the door.

In 2010, Brandt Snedeker led by one after three rounds, and then shot 78 to share 43rd place. The exciting homestretch beat him up. After walking away from the par-5 15th hole with par, Snedeker took a bogey on 16, and then closed with 6s on the drivable 17th and the challenging par-4 18th, a finishing hole that has averaged over par in each of the last four years. Hunter Mahan, who began the last round four strokes back, emerged to win by one.

The following year, Tommy Gainey was bidding for a wire-to-wire breakthrough victory. Also up by one after 54 holes, Gainey turned in a 74 to place T8. He remained in the hunt until a triple bogey at 17. Mark Wilson defeated Jason Dufner in a playoff.

As that litany of contenders illustrates, TPC Scottsdale doesn't cater to any one style of play or skill set. It's annually ranked among the easiest par 71s on the PGA TOUR. However, while it's not without its challenges, it is does manage to avoid pigeonholing on paper. Accuracy off the tee has been down the last two years, but desert golf can allow for aggressive lines, especially when greens average 6,250 feet and run no faster than 12 on the Stimpmeter. Still, because of the trouble areas around the putting surfaces and the fact that TPC Scottsdale has ranked inside the top 20 most challenging in proximity to the hole on TOUR in eight of the last nine years, the tandem of distance control on approach and a confident putting stroke should prove valuable.

Dry, seasonable weather will take hold after an early-week system moves east. Sunshine and calm winds will accompany high temperatures right around 70 degrees.

Power Rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Rank Player   Comment
Jason DUFNER Jason DUFNER Making his 2013 U.S. mainland debut. After a T18 at Kapalua, he posted a pair of T9s on the European Tour's Desert Swing to extend his string of top 20s to eight. Top 10s the last two years at TPC Scottsdale, including a solo second in 2011.
Brandt SNEDEKER Brandt SNEDEKER Even if he didn't own a 5-for-6 record that included two top 10s at TPC Scottsdale, nothing would prevent him from cracking this feature. The 2012 FedExCup champion made his latest noise at Torrey Pines despite a second-round 75.
Nick WATNEY Nick WATNEY Kept his rally rolling at Torrey Pines where he arrived having posted top 20s in his last five starts worldwide. Survived his last five cuts at TPC Scottsdale. Each of his last three resulted in a top 25, topped by a personal-best T5 in his last (2011).
Rickie FOWLER Rickie FOWLER Fought back from an opening 77 at Torrey Pines to elbow into the conversation late on Monday. Despite some inconsistency, it marks his third straight impressive showing since December. Also 4-for-4 at TPC Scottsdale with a solo second in 2010.
Charles HOWELL III Charles HOWELL III Hit a speed bump at Torrey Pines, but it's relative. He opened the season with a T3 and a P2 to extend superb play dating back to the Fall Series. In 11 starts at TPC Scottsdale, he's amassed five top 25s including a personal-best T4 in 2010.
Bubba WATSON Bubba WATSON Hopes to compete for the first time since sharing fourth place at Kapalua to start the season. He was a late withdrawal at Torrey Pines due to an illness. Two top 10s among five cuts made in six starts at TPC Scottsdale, including a T5 last year.
Brian GAY Brian GAY Cited Grant Waite and Joe Mayo for helping him gain 10-15 yards off the tee, an advantage that came in handy en route to a playoff victory at the Humana Challenge. The four-time PGA TOUR champ has logged four top 25s in his last six trips to this event.
Hunter MAHAN Hunter MAHAN The come-from-behind champion here in 2010 has just one other top 25 in six appearances (T9, 2005), but he arrives this week on the heels of a solid run at Torrey Pines. Under par in his last eight rounds at TPC Scottsdale.
Josh TEATER Josh TEATER Chased a missed cut at the Humana Challenge with yet another fine effort at Torrey Pines to extend above-average form that took roots last July. His all-around game fits TPC Scottsdale well despite a forgettable 2-for-3 record. Classic learning curve.
Bo VAN PELT Bo VAN PELT Off to a bit of a slow start considering how he put a lid on 2012. However, in his last two starts at TPC Scottsdale, he's finished T18 (2011) and T8 (2012). Co-led last year's field in greens in regulation and ranked first in proximity to the hole.
Vijay SINGH Vijay SINGH Now less than one month before he turns 50, he's hardly slowing down. He's survived 14 consecutive cuts, a stretch that includes four top 10s. Two-time winner at TPC Scottsdale (1995, 2003); six top 10s overall, including a T3 in 2011.
Martin KAYMER Martin KAYMER Shared ninth place at the Qatar Masters for his sixth top-11 finish in his last seven starts worldwide. He said that his putt to secure victory at the Ryder Cup saved his career, but it's quite possible that it's just as important to the here and now.
Scott PIERCY Scott PIERCY Run of six straight top 15s ended at Torrey Pines. Perhaps the uncharacteristic missed cut allowed for a few extra days of prep time for TPC Scottsdale where he's recorded three top 15s in four appearances and has carded 11 of 16 rounds in the 60s.
Ben CRANE Ben CRANE A horse for a course. While he's started 2013 with two missed cuts in as many starts, TPC Scottsdale has agreed with his game. In his last five appearances, he's posted three top 20s, including a T4 in 2008 and a solo second a year ago.
Pat PEREZ Pat PEREZ Once upon a time, his inclusion here would have seemed impossible. He missed the cut in his first six appearances (2002-2007) but hasn't since. What's more, he's posted top 25s in each of his last three. Strong start to 2013 as well.