Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.
For years, the WM Phoenix Open has been an elevated event in the eyes of many golf fans. The spectacle in the stadium surrounding the par-3 16th alone sets this tournament apart from all the rest.
The folks in the desert make history or something this week as the site of the first full field elevated or designated or whatever you want to call it PGA Tour tournament. The best have arrived in Arizona to battle for a $3.6 million first place check on the par-71, 7,261 yard layout designed by Jay Moorish and Tom Weiskopf.
The 136-man field features 18 of the top 20 players in the world. Missing are Will Zalatoris (interesting, but probably resting his back) and Cam Smith (LIV Tour). Otherwise, this is the strongest field in a non major, playoff, WGC or the Players since the 2007 Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Championship in North Carolina.
Once players figure out the nuance of TPC Scottsdale they tend to return and perform well year after year. The course should be firm and fast by the weekend when attention starts to drift down the street toward the Chiefs and Eagles.
It’s @WMPhoenixOpen week ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/PjsP4pKexF
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 7, 2023
With a driveable par-4 (17) and three medium length par-5s that will play even shorter due to the altitude and conditions, leaving the players with a mid-iron to the green, expect to see many eagles before the opening kickoff.
TPC Scottsdale demands an all-around skill set, which is why major champions like Scheffler, Simpson, Watson and Matsuyama have done well here in the past. The ability to thrive in big moments is helpful coming down the stretch on Sunday with a hundred thousand spectators gathered around the closing holes.
Also, with little to no wind, players with a high ball flight can attack the green quadrants. SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Around-the-Green are also important. Players must save pars and convert birdies from the collection areas around the greens to contend on what seems certain to be an impressive leaderboard by Sunday afternoon.
Let’s take Three Shots at the Green.
Collin Morikawa Top 10 +250
We’re keeping the card simple and stacked with major champions this week. Morikawa is making his second appearance here. He finished T-26 in 2020 despite losing nearly five shots on the greens. He’s landed in the top-3 in both starts in 2023, gaining 3.6 shots Off-the-Tee and 6.7 on approach two weeks ago at Torrey Pines.
Last season he struggled to groove his familiar left-to-right ball flight off the tee. After he hit 46 of 56 fairways at Torrey Pines, we’re convinced he’s found his fade again.
Hideki Matsuyama Top 20 +160
The 2021 Masters champion loves TPC Scottsdale. He’s won the tournament twice, finished as runner-up and only been outside the top 20 once in eight appearances. Matsuyama also arrives in good form, gaining shots with driver, irons, short game and putter in a T-9 at the Farmers.
He’s proven he can finish in the top-20 here even on a poor putting week. If he gets hot on the greens he’ll contend for the title.
Justin Thomas Top 20 +115
My favorite bet on the board. Thomas is undervalued in the market because he’s been in a slight lull of late and his elite peers are showing tremendous form. Nobody has played TPC-Scottsdale better over the last five years, finishing inside the top 20 each year.
He relishes the big moments and while the recent results are in a slight dip, he’s top-10 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 50 rounds and first in SG: Around the Green. His iron play and short game looked sharp at Torrey Pines. He finished T-25 there on a course that doesn’t necessarily suit him. This one does. Top-10 around +250 also worthy of consideration.
YTD: -3.25 units