And just like that, fans in attendance at the Greenest Show on Grass have even more reason to whoop and holler. Not that they ever really need any motivation at the most attended tournament in the history of the PGA TOUR.
Fresh off a punctuating eagle to secure his breakthrough victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, Jon Rahm struts into the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, site of his T5 as an amateur in 2015. More importantly, it’s contested in the backyard of his college stomping grounds. The 22-year-old Spaniard won 11 times in his career at Arizona State University.
He’ll face off in the 132-man field that includes fellow wunderkind Justin Thomas, 23, he of the three titles already this season. The combined age of Rahm and Thomas is still eight months younger than ASU legend, WMPO all-time earnings leader and three-time tournament champion, Phil Mickelson, who is making his 28th appearance, the last 27 consecutively.
POWER RANKINGS: WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Hideki Matsuyama 2 Justin Thomas 3 Jordan Spieth 4 Jon Rahm 5 Ryan Moore 6 Russell Knox 7 Phil Mickelson 8 Brendan Steele 9 Keegan Bradley 10 Tony Finau 11 Harris English 12 Gary Woodland 13 Pat Perez 14 Zach Johnson 15 Brooks Koepka
You’ll find Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar and many more in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
When diving into what yields success at TPC Scottsdale, a par 35-36=71 measuring 7,266 yards, we’re encouraged to focus on just the last two years. One of Tom Weiskopf’s objectives during his redesign of the course in 2014 was to retain a scoring average worthy of the test, at the same time producing winners well into double digits under par. He’s 2-for-2.
Last year’s field essentially parred the track at 71.030, but it officially was the first time the scoring average was over par since 2005. (TPC Scottsdale’s clip in 2015 was 70.752.) The iron game matters more on the still-maturing, TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. Last year’s field average just over 11 greens in regulation per round, down more than one as compared to the last edition before Weiskopf got to work. The 2016 field also averaged 41 feet, 5 inches on approach, the second-longest measurement of any course all season. Yet, TPC Scottsdale isn’t entirely a second-shot test. Weiskopf’s strategic bunkering has reeled in distance of the tee measurably, thus emphasizing the full tee-to-green skill set.
So, while mainstream attention tilts toward the enclosed, par-3 16th hole, the guys chasing the trophy also will be pursuing balance throughout. Before outlasting Rickie Fowler in a playoff last year, defending champion Hideki Matsuyama led the field in greens in regulation and strokes gained: tee-to-green. He also ranked T6 in proximity and T3 in bogey avoidance. Brooks Koepka built the model with similarly impressive splits en route to his breakthrough title here in 2015.
Phenomenal weather is in store all week. Seasonable high temperatures at right around 70 degrees will be accompanied by sunshine and barely a breath of wind. It’s always a challenge for PGA TOUR officials to get 36 holes in the books in two days what with one course hosting 132 golfers in limited daylight hours at this latitude in early February, but they’ll have every opportunity this week.
Rob Bolton's writing schedule
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.