PGA Angle of Attack: Waste Management Open
So Jon Rahm. Guy is pretty good. Listen, FanVice is fairly new to the PGA advice game and I’ve been hoping to start off with a bang. As I surveyed the bloodbath happening on Friday I wasn’t entirely sure I was still going to have a job. Luckily for me, Adam Hadwin and Martin Laird eventually turned back into pumpkins, Rahm pulled out the win, and by the time the fog of war cleared five of the top eight finishers were guys written up in my article. Nice to see you all again!
This week we get what is arguably golf’s most fun tournament, the Waste Management Open at the raucous TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course in suburban Phoenix. This course is probably most famous for having the hole with the highest spectator BAC on the entire tour, the famous par 3 16th. The entire hole is literally encased in stadium seating and people act like it’s a college football game. Amazing.
The course is a 7,266 yard par 71 (trade one 5 for a 4) with pretty average fairways, quicker greens, and lots of driving alleys. There aren’t many trees and water doesn’t come into play on many holes. However, this is real desert, not the California this-should-be-a-desert-but-we-are-man-conquering-nature-so-we-put-a-massive-botanical-garden-in-it fake desert. There is some trouble in store for those that stray too far off the tee. I will be weighing my accuracy metric a little bit more this week than last. The redesign a few years back also made some landing spots tighter, and the bunkers are said to be a little tougher. Good sand players are a plus. Most iron shots will be coming from far out, with a pretty similar distribution to last week. The wind looks non-existent at the moment, but is always worth checking back for. This is our first tournament in a while with a large field taking place entirely on one course, so there will be distinct morning and afternoon tee time waves. If there looks to be a significant difference in wind forecast when finalizing your lineups, feel free to attack that ang—oh wait, uh, go after that.
Length: Yep. A dozen or more drivable holes again. A bunch of these are long enough that only certain players will be able to reach the green in two, which is going to give a big advantage to guys that can knock it. And as always, an approach from 30 yards closer is going to be much easier to stick on the pin.
Fairways: These don’t appear too hard to hit, but if your dude is way off we could be looking at some intense “other” to be working out of. I’m docking the extreme sprayers a little.
Greens: Last week’s description still applies, I have reposted below. As a rule I never look much at putting, but with fast greens the guys that routinely smash prayers from 40 feet (Spieth, Rahm, Reed) may be more likely to get one or two to fall. If you’re into that sorta thing.
We have some quick greens this week. Approach shots will be bouncing further than guys want, and misread putts will sail by the cup. To me this is another argument for distance. The closer one is to the hole on the approach, the higher the loft they can put on the ball. In physics terms this means the relationship between the horizontal and vertical velocity of the ball is going to skew vertically, and the ball won’t travel as far after landing.
Weather: Again, doesn’t look like we have anything on the horizon, but always be ready to adapt on the fly. The biggest sharks v fish feed of last season was at the British Open, when it became apparent late that winds could differ by 10-15 MPH by tee time.
On to the golfers:
I’m not in love with the upper tier this week, with Hideki Matsuyama-$11,700 and (oh god, please don’t make me say it) Rickie Fowler-$9,500 the only two rating as top 15 values in my model. ‘Deki hits very straight and is one of the best approach players in the game. As we’ll get into, there are a bunch of odd prices which should make fitting in a stud pretty easy. Mine will likely be Mr. Matsuyama. Rickie is just a little bit above average at everything. I never play him. In fact I think I hotwired the anti-Rickie bandwagon when I first started geeking on PGA numbers a year and a half ago. But he does line up for this course and it makes sense he has done well here. I also think a long string of tepid results and a price tag that on the surface seems steep should keep ownership down some. GPP only but I’m buying.
We need to talk about-
Jordan Spieth-$12,000 and Jon Rahm-$9,700: This is where the week can be won or lost. I have both rating out as decent, top 30ish values. Where I usually want to focus on no more than 15-20 players, I wouldn’t consider them must haves. However, I think these could be the two most popular plays on the slate and goddam are they dangerous fades.
We all know what Spieth can do, and these greens play right into his rabbit’s-horseshoe-7-rainbows short game.
Rahm I’ve run right with lately. I advocated the fade at CareerBuilder where I didn’t love his fit, and wanted to get back on last week where his driver could really shine. He is not way up top for me currently because a) there are a bunch of cheaper guys that have egregious prices and b) he thus far in his career has not impressed with the irons, and got many of his results from ridiculous putting. Now despite that 60 foot eagle to clinch it on Sunday, he didn’t get by on ridiculous putting last week. In fact, he killed on the approach. If he can consistently hit the irons like that then he is already a top 10 golfer in the world. My model is always going to be a little slow to pick up on that stuff, but if you believe, go for it.
I want to believe, but I’m not 100% sold. Also I’m a killjoy and I hate fun. Leaning towards being a little underweight in tournaments and playing in maybe half of my cash games.
Bubba Watson-$8,300: Get used to Bubba being in my write-ups, as his price has steadily dropped over the past year and he is as good as anybody on tour T2G. Seriously, like Rory and Deej level good. Just don’t watch him. He makes mistakes, he gets pissed, he complains. So so talented though, the Boogie Cousins of golf.
J.B. Holmes-$8,200: I love J.B. Holmes. He’s one of the very longest drivers, with a surprisingly refined short game. Always a threat to take down a tournament. That said, he is definitely one of those types I warned about that could get his ball lodged in a cactus or eaten by a rattlesnake. I may not have the stones for it in cash, but he will be one of my highest exposure GPP plays.
Webb Simpson-$7,900: If you can’t mash off the tee here, you’d better be very, very, very accurate and have a great long iron game. Meet Webb Simpson. This guy can be a disaster putting, and faster greens can exacerbate that, but if you can stomach the idea of someone losing you like 25 DK points because he repeatedly misses the dumbest shot in golf by an inch, this is your man.
Also consider: Brendan Steele, Russell Knox, Emiliano Grillo, Tony Finau
Cheapies (7.4k and below)
Keegan Bradley-$7,400: When you can roster one of the greatest golfers of our generation for 7.4k,
Hot take: Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler are basically the same golfer. Keegan hits a tiny bit longer and a tiny bit straighter, Rickie has had better putting success. Whatever. He’s had some good results on the greens lately, and really has been fine there since last summer. Get in.
Ryan Palmer/Jason Kokrak-$7,100: These two have been the bane of my existence the last three weeks, but their profiles are still good and I’m going to be really angry with myself if one has 20 birdies and I’m not on him. Both potentially in the J.B./Woodland native area trouble club. I’m tempering expectations and exposure, but I think both will be ownership bargains with upside.
Matt Kuchar-$7,400: Really can’t argue for cash, has the most stable projection down here.
Roberto Castro-$6,900: Similar game to Kuchar, fine cash play if you are hoping to jam in two studs
Louis Oosthuizen-$6,900: This is a tough one for me. Obviously the skills are far better than the players around him, and he shows up as my #6 value/dollar in my initial run. BUT, that price is so wacky that I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get some extremely inflated ownership, and the standard deviation on his results is mammoth. Strong reputation for having a lot of DGAF in him. Not sure the floor is stable enough for cash, and the ownership percentage might be too much for GPP. If I can get a good sense of ownership in the next couple days I may try to wipe him off the slate by matching my exposure to the field’s.
Also consider: Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Lucas Glover, Byeong-Hun An
Pro Tip: This is known as a great tournament to watch, but if you go with a lot of plays from this article (Bubba/Webber/Keegan/JB etc.), maybe don’t tune in for all of it unless you have a particularly strong constitution.
Go and get it everybody.