Quick look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
January 31, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
16 reasons to watch the Waste Management Phoenix Open
The most sudden-death playoffs in a single PGA TOUR season came in 2011, when 18 playoffs were needed in the 46-event schedule - a rate of nearly 40 percent. Based on the current trend, we might be headed for a record number this season.
Of the first 12 tournaments played in the 2017-18 season, five have gone to a playoff - including the last three events. That's a rate of 42 percent.
Last week's winner of the Farmers Insurance Open, Jason Day, needed six extra holes and one extra day to finally subdue Alex Noren (with Ryan Palmer eliminated after the first hole). Those six holes matched the cumulative total needed for the other four playoffs this season (won by Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Patton Kizzire and Jon Rahm).
No one would be surprised if the playoff streak continues at this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open. Hideki Matsuyama is the two-time defending champ, and each of those wins at TPC Scottsdale required four extra holes - in 2016 over Rickie Fowler and last year against Webb Simpson.
Both years, Matsuyama began the final round having to make up significant ground - he trailed by three strokes after 54 holes in 2016 and by four strokes after 54 holes last year. Simpson was even farther off the pace, by six shots going into Sunday.
The fact that both players emerged as the playoff participants speaks volumes about the leaderboard volatility at TPC Scottsdale.
"I knew that the birdie holes for this golf course were on the back and they were in front of me," Simpson explained after shooting 64 in the final round last year. "You know, the reason it's a great course is because those birdie holes have trouble, so a lot can happen."
Fowler agrees that the back nine offers chasers the opportunity to make up big chunks of ground while tempting the leaders into dangerous territory. Of the last eight winners at TPC Scottsdale, seven have come from behind in the final round.
"The back nine here, there is so much that can happen," Fowler said after his T-4 finish last year. "It can be tough playing out front because this golf course allows you to be very aggressive, and playing from behind, if you drive it well, you're going to have a lot of looks at birdies and have potentially three looks at eagles.
"You can shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under on the back nine pretty quickly. If you get through the front nine a few under par and catch up with some guys, it's kind of a shootout 'til the finish."
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
Chasing history this week -- Australia’s Stuart Appleby is the only non-American in the last 100 years to win the same PGA TOUR event three straight years.
Of the world’s top four players, he’s the only one who hasn’t won a TOUR event this season. Time to kick it into gear.
Not the most decorated Arizona State alum in the field (that would be Phil) but certainly the hottest on TOUR.
The focus is so much on the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale that we tend to forget about the surrounding holes. After completing the most difficult hole on the course (the par-4 14th; see Landing Zone below), players get to finish with the easiest four-hole stretch on the course - the shortest par 5 (553-yard 15th), the shortest par 3 (163-yard 16th), the shortest par 4 (332-yard 17th) and then the challenging 442-yard 18th. Last year, that stretched played about a half-stroke under par. Last year, the 17th was the fourth-easiest par 4 among the 538 par 4s on TOUR last season. Here's a look at the final four-hole stretch.
TPC Scottsdale - The finishing stretch
THE LANDING ZONE
When Tom Weiskopf redesigned TPC Scottsdale, he toughened up the par-4 14th hole. He made it longer - by 46 yards to a total of 490 - and built a new elevated green. "Uphill tee shot, uphill second shot, well-bunkered, small green," Weiskopf described at the time. "… You better get your work done at 13 and 15 because if you play 14 even-par for the week, you will beat the heck out of the field." No surprise that the hole has been the most difficult on the course in the three years since the redesign; last year it played to a stroke average of 4.177. Here's a look at where all tee shots landed in 2017.
From PGA TOUR meteorologist Wade Stettner: "Dry weather is forecast in Scottsdale through the weekend. Expect sunny skies each day with light winds and an afternoon high in the lower 80s." In other words, perfect weather all week.
For the latest weather news from Scottsdale, Arizona, check out PGATOUR.COM's Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKIt's going to kind of be weird to play with them on Thursday and Friday but hopefully we can all play together and play well to be there together on the back nine on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS
655,434 - Weekly attendance at last year's Waste Management Phoenix Open, setting a TOUR record. More than 200,000 fans were in attendance for Saturday's third round.
29 - Number of starts Phil Mickelson has in the WMPO (including this week's start). That ties the tournament record shared by Gene Littler, Jerry Barber and Jim Ferrier.
3 - Number of players who won this tournament in their first attempt - Jeff Mitchell (1980), Kyle Stanley (2012) and Brooks Koepka 2015). Rookie of the year Xander Schauffele will be among those looking to join the list.
12 - Birdies made by Chad Campbell at the raucous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. That's the most by any player since 2003.
95 percent - Percentage of greens hit in regulation at the 16th hole by Cameron Tringale (19 of 20 attempts). That's the highest percentage of any player since 2003 (minimum 12 rounds).
Phil Mickelson's two lowest career rounds on the PGA TOUR have come at TPC Scottsdale - 60 in 2005 and 2013. He won both times. In fact, of the six 62-or-better rounds Mickelson has recorded in his World Golf Hall of Fame career, he ended up winning five times. The only time he didn't? The 2014 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, when he shot 62 in the final round to finish T-15. …
Tiger Woods has the most famous ace at TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole (way back in 1997, two months before his first major win), but he wasn't the first, nor certainly the last player to record a hole-in-one there. Since 1987, there have been 12,851 tee shots at the 16th, and nine of them have finished in the bottom of the cup. Hal Sutton (1988) was the first; Francesco Molinari (2015) was the last. Steve Stricker has the only ace in the final round - he did it the day after Tiger's ace in '97. …
Of the 6,146 tee shots since 2003 at the drivable par-4 17th, nearly 10 percent (592) have ended up on the putting surface. Meanwhile, 7.4 percent (453) have found the water. Three players who found the water with their tee shots still managed to make birdie - Stewart Cink in 2007, Rickie Fowler in 2009 and Kevin Na in 2012.