After two weeks in California — followed by two more weeks in the Golden State — the PGA Tour heads to the biggest party on Tour: the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Famous for the raucous “Stadium Hole” — the par-3 16th that looks and feels more like Fenway Park than a tournament golf course –the Phoenix Open has long been a favorite stop for players and fans alike. This year, the field is absolutely stacked. Names like Mickelson, Spieth, Thomas, Fowler and Matsuyama will all be teeing it up in the desert.
With that in mind, setting your lineup will be tough without some advice. Just because a guy is near the top in the Official World Golf Rankings doesn’t necessarily make them a great choice for the WMPO. As they say — the more stacked the field, the murkier the waters.
Actually, no one says that.
Here’s a look those who will be making fantasy owners happy — and those who will disappoint:
Hideki Matsuyama — Everyone knows by now that Hideki Matsuyama is one of those rare talents who can get hot seemingly overnight and stay hot for quite some time. He’s been quite for a little while — if you consider 4/5 finishes in 2018 of T-12 or better “quiet” — but returns to TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open as the two-time defending champion. His numbers at this place are flat-out insane. In four career stats here, he’s finished T-4, T-2, 1st, 1st. The odds of him winning three in a row are thin, but you’ve gotta believe he’s going to be a fantasy stud in the desert.
Alex Noren — Anyone who watches the European Tour regularly knows that last week’s performance by Alex Noren is more the norm than an outlier, but for most of us stateside, it seemed like a coming out party. It’s not unprecedented for a player to jusssst miss out on victory at the Farmers Insurance Open and then stroll into TPC Scottsdale and pick up a win. If anyone is capable of doing just that, it’s Alex Noren. It may be his first career appearance here, but he can go low with the best of them and comes in confident.
Rickie Fowler — A few years ago, I was watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open at a cigar bar and saw Rickie Fowler dump on in the water on 15, essentially sinking his chances of winning the event. But — at 20-something, Fowler made a statement. He’s been doing the same thing at TPC Scottsdale ever since. Fowler’s last two starts have resulted in a solo second and T-4 finish.
Jordan Spieth — Jordan Spieth tees it up for the first time since the Sony Open in Hawaii this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, looking for career win No. 12. For Spieth, TPC Scottsdale has been a comfortable place to play. He hasn’t won here yet, but that could definitely change come Sunday. In two trips, Spieth has collected two top-10’s.
Phil Mickelson — Lefty is starting to show signs of life and heads to a course and a tournament that, one lip out notwithstanding, has been incredibly kind to him over the years. Looking at his last eight finishes world wide, it seems like Mickelson is figuring it out. The Waste Management Phoenix Open could be a springboard to success for the legend as he tries once again to collect the U.S. Open this summer.
Tony Finau — Entering the weekend, it looked like Tony Finau was poised to put his name on the trophy at Torrey Pines — unfortunately, he wasn’t able to put things together on the weekend. While he did collect a T-6 finish for his troubles, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. As a big fan of Finau’s, I want to put him in my lineup — but can’t. Finau has made just one cut in this event, yielding a T-22 in 2015. I won’t try to dissuade you if you really are adamant about starting Finau, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. There are plenty of great bets this week who ought to pay off more than Finau.
Justin Thomas — Last year, Justin Thomas won the first two starts of the season in Hawaii — then came to TPC Scottsdale and missed the cut. For all that JT has done on Tour in the last 13 months or so, proving he’s a horse for this particular course isn’t one of those things. Like Finau, there’s too much talent for me to really chide you for starting him — but, again, I think there are better options in the desert.
Kevin Na — I’ve seen a couple people predicting a big week for Kevin Na in the desert, but I just don’t see it. He’s made the cut in four of five starts on the season, but hasn’t managed to finish higher than T-35 in any of those events. With that in mind — and no real standout success to speak of at TPC Scottsdale on the resume — I just can’t pull the trigger on Na, regardless of the format.