Phoenix Open 2024 Tips: Can Wyndham go back-to-back?

 | February 06 | 

21 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

Jamie Worsley picked up an 80/1 winner on the PGA Tour last week, as well as a 150/1 shot on the DP World Tour. He's back with another comprehensive preview of the legendary WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale and is hoping to go back-to-back, with one of his five each-way predictions. 

Phoenix Open Betting Tips

  • 1.75 pts Wyndham Clark each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 28/1 
  • 1.75 pts Sahith Theegala each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 30/1 
  • 1 pt Hideki Matsuyama each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 40/1
  • 1 pt Si Woo Kim each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 50/1 
  • 1 pt Daniel Berger each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1

Weather once again played havoc with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am last week, causing it to be shortened to 54 holes and with that, the crowning of Wyndham Clark as champion of the second Signature Event of the year without having to play the fourth round.

We knew the conditions were going to be a problem prior to the start of the event, with predicted winds of close to 60mph coming to fruition on Sunday, but they stayed away just about long enough for us to witness one of the most remarkable rounds of golf in recent years.

Heading into what turned out to be the third and final round of the event, Wyndham Clark sat in 23rd spot on the leaderboard, trailing the trio of Ludvig Aberg, Scottie Scheffler and Thomas Detry by six strokes.

Clark then produced simply mind-blowing golf on the Saturday to move into the lead, holing just shy of 190ft of putts and matching it with some quality approach play to shoot a magnificent 10-under-par 60, which included nine birdies, two eagles and a bogey. Even doing so by leaving three putts marginally short on his final three holes, that could’ve resulted in a frankly ridiculous round of 57 with a few extra rolls.

It would have been a memorable day for the reigning US Open champ had he shot this round anywhere, but to do it at one of the most iconic and recognisable courses on the planet certainly made it that little bit more special. Especially considering it turned out to be the round that won him the title, when the decision was made to cancel the rescheduled fourth round on Monday due to the battering the area had taken on Sunday.

Clark is back in action this week as the tour moves slightly eastwards to Arizona, for the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

A version of the Phoenix Open was first staged in 1932 and the event has been a mainstay on the schedule from 1944 right to the present day. It has developed to become the most well-attended golf tournament in the world, bringing with it a party atmosphere that is more raucous than your average PGA Tour event.

There have been several multiple winners of the event but four are tied together at the top on three wins apiece. The first player to achieve this feat was the legendary Arnold Palmer, who reeled off three wins in a row in 1961/62/63. He has since been joined by Gene Littler (1955, 1959, 1969), Mark Calcavecchia (1989, 1992, 2001) and Phil Mickelson (1996, 2005, 2013).

This is an event that just seems to produce top-class champions and other notable winners of the Phoenix Open include Ben Hogan (1946, 1947), Jack Nicklaus (1964), Sandy Lyle (1988) and Vijay Singh (1995, 2003).

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Scottie Scheffler (-19); runner-up: Nick Taylor (-17)
  • 2022 – Winner: Scottie Scheffler (-16, playoff); runner-up (Patrick Cantlay (-16)
  • 2021 – Winner: Brooks Koepka (-19); runners-up: KH Lee, Xander Schauffele (-18)
  • 2020 – Winner: Webb Simpson (-17, playoff); runner-up: Tony Finau (-17)
  • 2019 – Winner: Rickie Fowler (-17); runner-up: Branden Grace (-15)

Scottie Scheffler successfully defended his title last year, to become the third player in the last nine years to win the Phoenix Open twice, following Hideki Matsuyama (2016, 2017) and Brooks Koepka (2015, 2021). Scheffler returns to defend again this week, aiming to replicate Arnold Palmer by winning three straight editions of the event.

THE COURSE

The Phoenix Open has had several homes throughout its history but has been stationed at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course since 1987. It opened for play in the previous year and was designed by the duo of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish; Weiskopf then returning to oversee renovations to the course in 2014 after Phil Mickelson destroyed it with a -28 winning score in 2013.

It will again play as a par 71 and measures 7261 yards. There are 11x par 4s (332-490 yards), 4x par 3s (163-215 yards) and 3x par 5s (553-558 yards).

After the renovations in 2014 – which were primarily done with the aim of making the course more demanding off-the-tee – TPC Scottsdale has provided a fair test of golf. Scoring opportunities are still there if conditions allow but it stands up a little firmer to the modern pro, with no winning scores exceeding -20 since then and averaging a winning score of -16.9 over the last nine renewals.

The biggest key to this has been the strategic fairway bunkering that actually makes these generally generous and gently undulating landing areas difficult to find, possessing the thirteenth-lowest driving accuracy percentage on tour over the last five years. Though the rough isn’t too thick, those bunkers need to be avoided and there is further danger for the most wayward, with sandy waste areas lining most holes, which are packed with cactus and other desert shrubbery.

The large and speedy greens – which use a poa trivialis overseed on a bermudagrass base – are pretty easy to find despite the fairway-side dangers and the fact that many are elevated/crowned, and littered with run-off areas and bunkers for protection.

Having said that, some are multi-tiered and have reasonably severe slopes, which aid in making them the fifth-hardest greens to putt on the PGA Tour; requiring high-class approach play to get it close to the hole and leave yourself with an easier putt.

The layout of this largely exposed and flat course is a story of two halves. Whilst the front nine is very bland, with one hole blending into the next, it becomes considerably more exciting on the back nine as the six holes on which water is in-play come into the equation.

The nervy 472-yard par 4 11th gives us a first taste of this, protecting the entire left-hand side of the hole. It is immediately followed by the tough 193-yard par 3 12th, where water sits long, left and right. Following a couple of calmer holes, we hit the exciting finish where crowd noise will be at its loudest.

The 15th hole is a reachable 553-yard par 5 that has water left of the fairway and surrounding the island green; where anything from an eagle to a double bogey can make or break your tournament.

Then comes the most famous hole on the course, the innocuous 163-yard par 3 16th. In ordinary circumstances, this little par 3 would be simple for most but with the amphitheatre-like atmosphere created by the rowdy spectators, it becomes considerably more testing.

The drivable 332-yard par 4 17th provides one final risk/reward opportunity. Water sits left and long of the putting surface, though avoiding that is no guarantee of a birdie, with two-putts frequent on the huge putting surface, and bunkers littering the fairway for those lacking the aggression (or length) to take the hole on.

Finally, the slightly right-to-left doglegging 442-yard par 4 18th asks one final question. Penal bunkers protect the fairway – as well as water for those who go short and left – whilst further sand awaits to the right of the heavily sloping green. You need to make sure to leave your ball below the hole or else you’ll have a task to avoid a longer-than-ideal return putt.

THE WEATHER

There is rain forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the start of the tournament, which should take some fire out of the course.

This does look set to disappear during the event, replaced by cool and dry conditions, and though the wind could gust at up to 20mph over the course of the week, it doesn’t look overly concerning.

THE STATS

Key Stats:

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity 150-175/175-200 yards
  • SG: Putting (Poa trivialis overseed)

High-class approach play has often proven to be the most important factor to succeed at TPC Scottsdale and with rain set to soften up these large putting surfaces, I expect this to be even more prevalent this week. We should pay particular attention to those with a strong mid-long iron game, who excel in proximity from 150-200 yards.

This necessity for quality approach numbers was strikingly evident last year, as Scottie Scheffler led the field with his irons on his way to a second victory. Whilst this was in contrast to his putter-led win in 2022, we don’t have to go back too far to find more strong approach performances leading to victories, as Brooks Koepka ranked 2nd in this area when winning in 2021 and Webb Simpson ranked 1st in his 2020 victory.

Rickie Fowler was a solid top 20 in approach when winning in 2019; Gary Woodland ranked 4th on his way to victory in 2018; and Hideki Matsuyama ranked 5th and 1st in his two victories in 2016/2017.

A hot putter can occasionally work wonders here on tricky greens, as shown by Scottie Scheffler in 2022, who ranked 2nd on the greens in a year where six of the top 9 were in the top 10 in putting. Rickie Fowler ranked first in this area in 2019 and whilst most other recent winners excelled more elsewhere, few have been able to win without an at least adequate week on the greens.

Secondary Stats:

  • SG: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance

Though other areas carry a touch more importance, it is also necessary to drive the ball solidly if you want to win at TPC Scottsdale, with big hitters holding the sway in the most recent renewals. Each of the last nine winners of the Phoenix Open ranked top 25 off-the-tee for the week; Rickie Fowler in 2017 and Scottie Scheffler in 2022 relying on this area most, ranking inside the top 4.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

PLAYERS Championship (TPC Sawgrass)

The playability of the TPC courses often sees them correlate well with one another and with the usually elite-level winners that both THE PLAYERS Championship and Phoenix Open produce, it’s no surprise that many possess crossover form between the two events.

These two courses usually showcase speedy greens overseeded with poa trivialis; risk/reward holes and lots of water in-play down the closing stretch; and are closely matched statistically, in driving accuracy and GIR percentages.

Notable correlating form:

Scottie Scheffler:

Phoenix (1st, 1st) / PLAYERS (1st)

Rickie Fowler:

Phoenix (1st, 2nd) / PLAYERS (1st, 2nd)

Webb Simpson:

Phoenix (1st, 2nd) / PLAYERS (1st)

Hideki Matsuyama:

Phoenix (1st, 1st) / PLAYERS (5th, 7th, 8th)

Kyle Stanley:

Phoenix (1st) / PLAYERS (4th)

JB Holmes:

Phoenix (1st, 1st) / PLAYERS (6th, 10th)

Aaron Baddeley:

Phoenix (1st) / PLAYERS (6th, 9th)

Matt Kuchar:

Phoenix (4th, 5th, 6th) / PLAYERS (1st, 3rd)

Ben Crane:

Phoenix (2nd, 4th) / PLAYERS (4th, 5th, 6th)

Martin Laird:

Phoenix (3rd, 5th, 7th) / PLAYERS (2nd, 5th)

Texas Open (TPC San Antonio)

As another desert TPC course; with large pro trivialis greens; risk/reward par 4s and 5s down the stretch; and posing similar questions off-the-tee, TPC San Antonio looks like an appealing comp this week.

Notable correlating form:

Aaron Baddeley:

Phoenix (1st) / Texas (3rd, 5th)

Gary Woodland:

Phoenix (1st, 5th) / Texas (6th, 8th)

Charley Hoffman:

Phoenix (2nd) / Texas (1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd)

Brendan Steele:

Phoenix (3rd, 5th, 6th, 6th) / Texas (1st, 4th)

Martin Laird:

Phoenix (3rd, 5th, 7th) / Texas (1st)

JJ Spaun:

Phoenix (4th) / Texas (1st)

Ryan Palmer:

Phoenix (2nd, 2nd) / Texas (4th, 6th, 6th)

Matt Kuchar:

Phoenix (4th, 5th, 6th) / Texas (2nd, 3rd, 4th)

Matt Every:

Phoenix (8th, 9th) / Texas (2nd)

Billy Horschel:

Phoenix (6th, 9th) / Texas (3rd, 3rd, 4th)

Chesson Hadley:

Phoenix (5th) / Texas (4th)

Byeong Hun An:

Phoenix (6th, 9th) / Texas (6th, 7th)

 

Sony Open (Waialae Country Club)

Waialae Country Club may not seem like the most obvious comp but there was a tonne of correlating form here and there are some similarities in how the courses play. They both have similar driving accuracy percentages and like in Phoenix, the large greens at the Sony are among the easiest to hit.

Additionally, despite being a short course, Waialae sees the majority of approach shots coming in that 150-200 yard region.

Notable correlating form:

Mark Wilson:

Phoenix (1st) / Sony (1st)

Hideki Matsuyama:

Phoenix (1st, 1st) / Sony (1st)

Webb Simpson:

Phoenix (1st, 2nd) / Sony (3rd, 4th, 4th)

Gary Woodland:

Phoenix (1st, 5th) / Sony (3rd, 6th, 7th)

Ryan Palmer:

Phoenix (2nd, 2nd) / Sony (1st, 4th)

Matt Kuchar:

Phoenix (4th, 5th, 6th) / Sony (1st, 3rd)

Brendan Steele:

Phoenix (3rd, 5th, 6th, 6th) / Sony (2nd, 4th)

Scott Piercy:

Phoenix (3rd, 6th, 6th) / Sony (2nd)

Chez Reavie:

Phoenix (2nd, 4th) / Sony (3rd, 8th)

Byeong Hun An:

Phoenix (6th, 9th) / Sony (2nd)

Nick Taylor:

Phoenix (2nd) / Sony (7th, 7th)

Nate Lashley:

Phoenix (3rd) / Sony (7th)

Ollie Schniederjans:

Phoenix (3rd) / Sony (7th)

 

Cognizant Classic (PGA National)

With large and speedy greens, intelligently-bunkered fairways and an emphasis on approach play between 150-200 yards, the Cognizant (formerly Honda) Classic at PGA National can provide further clues this week.

Notable correlating form:

Mark Wilson:

Phoenix (1st) / Cognizant (1st)

Rickie Fowler:

Phoenix (1st, 2nd) / Cognizant (1st, 2nd)

Gary Woodland:

Phoenix (1st, 5th) / Cognizant (2nd, 5th, 6th)

Sungjae Im:

Phoenix (6th, 7th) / Cognizant (1st)

Ryan Palmer:

Phoenix (2nd, 2nd) / Cognizant (2nd, 4th)

Brendan Steele:

Phoenix (3rd, 5th, 6th, 6th) / Cognizant (3rd, 4th)

Byeong Hun An:

Phoenix (6th, 9th) / Cognizant (4th, 5th)

Daniel Berger:

Phoenix (7th, 9th, 10th) / Cognizant (2nd, 4th, 4th)

Billy Horschel:

Phoenix (6th, 9th) / Cognizant (4th, 8th)

RBC Heritage (Harbour Town Golf Links)

Harbour Town and the RBC Heritage threw up a surprising amount of comp form for Phoenix, despite the obvious differences in the layouts. Having said that, it uses the same poa trivialis overseed on bermudagrass greens as used at TPC Scottsdale and with a quality mid-long iron game also important, you can see why players may be able to transfer form over between the two venues.

Notable correlating form:

Webb Simpson:

Phoenix (1st, 2nd) / Heritage (1st, 2nd)

Aaron Baddeley:

Phoenix (1st) / Heritage (1st, 2nd)

Kevin Stadler:

Phoenix (1st) / Heritage (4th)

Branden Grace:

Phoenix (2nd, 9th) / Heritage (1st)

Brandt Snedeker:

Phoenix (2nd) / Heritage (1st)

Matt Kuchar:

Phoenix (4th, 5th, 6th) / Heritage (1st, 2nd)

Ollie Schniederjans:

Phoenix (3rd) / Heritage (3rd)

Scott Piercy:

Phoenix (3rd, 6th, 6th) / Heritage (3rd)

Sahith Theegala:

Phoenix (3rd) / Heritage (5th)

JJ Spaun:

Phoenix (4th) / Heritage (6th)

 

THE FIELD

The field strength has been dealt a blow with the withdrawals of Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, though there is still a strong group of players teeing it up in Phoenix this week.

World #1, Scottie Scheffler is the main man as he goes off in search of what would be a brilliant threepeat in the event. There are a further three players from inside the world’s top 10: last week’s winner and new #6, Wyndham Clark, #8 Max Homa, #9 Matt Fitzpatrick and #10 Brian Harman.

The field has plenty of depth with a further twenty-one of the top 50 in attendance. This includes 2019 winner, Rickie Fowler, who along with Scheffler is one of seven former winners entered to play; joined by Gary Woodland (2018), Hideki Matsuyama (2017, 2016), Kevin Stadler (2014), JB Holmes (2008, 2006) and Aaron Baddeley (2007).

Exciting Aussie, Min Woo Lee will be making his debut in the event, with fellow DP World Tour stars, Ryan Fox, Sami Valimaki, Alexander Bjork and Victor Perez also teeing it up at Scottsdale for the first time; hoping to emulate the success of Matthieu Pavon over the last couple of weeks.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Scottie Scheffler 5/1, Justin Thomas 11/1, Max Homa 16/1, Jordan Spieth 20/1, Sam Burns 20/1

The big-priced winners keep coming after Clark’s 80/1 win last week, but – and at the risk of repeating myself – I feel that run will come to an end this week. Scottie Scheffler has sat no worse than 6th at the completion of his last six rounds here and as a two-time defending champion, the world #1 is going to take a lot of beating.

This is of course represented in his 5/1 price, which seems fair enough but doesn’t tempt me to get involved. Justin Thomas’ return to form has seen his price disappear and I’m now happy to watch on as he looks to complete his comeback with a victory.

I looked at several players near the top but kept coming back to last week’s winner – and Scottsdale resident - Wyndham Clark, and I’m taking him to back up his win at Pebble Beach this week.

1.75 pts Wyndham Clark each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 28/1 

Wyndham Clark was an 80/1 shot last week but I never felt like he should’ve been that high and after getting the win, I’m not sure the drop in price goes far enough at a place where his record is strong. He’s deemed to have a slightly worse chance of winning than Byeong Hun An and Min Woo Lee, and a similar chance as JT Poston; whilst all players with qualities, their results over the last twelve months don’t compare to the US Open champion.

We can talk about Clark’s win at Pebble as though it came completely out of the blue but he’d been perfectly solid in the opening two events of the year, hitting the ball well at The Sentry when finishing 29th and looked equally good with the long game when finishing 39th in The AmEx.

All that was missing was him finding something on the greens, which he did quite emphatically last week, especially in that astonishing third round.

Clark now comes to a place where he finished a career-best 10th last year and as a player who showed an ability to keep his excellent form rolling – winning the US Open last year just three starts after a first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow – I see no reason why he can’t be among the main challengers again this week.

clark 28-1 phoenix

1.75 pts Sahith Theegala each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 30/1 

Last week, Sahith Theegala showed somewhat of a return to the form he produced in the opening event of the year, when finishing 2nd at The Sentry. I’m hoping he can build on that here at TPC Scottsdale, where his personality seemed an excellent fit for this energetic event when finishing 3rd on debut in 2022.

Following that excellent start to the year in Hawaii, Sahith underwhelmed in his next two events, missing the cut in the Sony Open and finishing 64th in the Farmers Insurance Open. However, he bounced back with a solid 20th at Pebble Beach, returning to form in approach and continuing to look strong on the greens.

This quality in putting is no surprise as he ranked 17th in the area on tour last season and whilst overall numbers with his irons are less impressive, he tends to keep it going to a good level when finding something. Which I’m hoping he can indeed do this week, at a place where his length could prove to be an advantage.

Theegala’s 3rd-place finish here in 2022 could well have been even better, as he was tied for the lead on the drivable par 4 17th hole on Sunday before finding the water off-the-tee, resulting in a bogey and finishing a shot behind Scottie Scheffler. He returned to finish 39th last year and I’m encouraged by the fact he’s putted these greens very well in each visit. With a 5th-place finish at Harbour Town also boding well, I expect him to be one of the main players this week.

theegala 30-1

1 pt Hideki Matsuyama each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 40/1

Whilst the attention may be on Scottie Scheffler’s quest for a third straight win in Phoenix, I think Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama could well be the man to win a third Phoenix Open title.

Matsuyama’s form going back to the end of last season hasn’t been to the high level we’ve come to expect of him but neither has it been worryingly poor, and there have been signs in the early part of the year that he’s not all that far away.

He produced a bit of a nothing performance when 58th of 59 players at The Sentry on his first start of the year but improved considerably on his next two starts. A rock-solid top-25 tee-to-green performance when 30th in the Sony Open next time out provided encouragement and he followed that with an even-better 13th at the Farmers Insurance Open; again playing well tee-to-green, ranking 5th.

Though a 71st-place finish at Pebble Beach was disappointing, that was his first start in the event and he did drive the ball better than he had in any event during the previous ten months. If able to transfer that to TPC Scottsdale, as well as maintaining the quality in approach we’d seen in the previous two starts, he’ll be a big danger.

His suitability to this week’s course was evident right from the off, as he finished 4th on debut in 2014; going on to finish 2nd in 2015 and then recording those back-to-back wins in 2016/2017. Following a withdrawal in 2018, he has played in each of the last five editions; making the cut in all of them and recording another top 10 when 8th in 2022.

Hideki simply loves the place and with the quality he’s shown tee-to-green over these first four starts of the year, combined with his excellent mid-long iron game, ranking 25th in proximity between 150-175 and 10th between 175-200 on tour last season, he was an easy player to get behind.

matsuyama

1 pt Si Woo Kim each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 50/1 

Si Woo Kim finally seems to have gotten the hang of TPC Scottsdale over the previous two years and after a good start to this season, where he’s been one of the standout ball-strikers on tour, I’m taking him to improve his record in Arizona again this week.

Si Woo has made each of his four cuts at the start of 2024 and recorded three top 25 finishes. The best of these efforts came last week at Pebble Beach, where he finished 14th and was the second-best player in the field T2G at the close of the third round.

His approach play was particularly impressive there, ranking 8th and indeed he’s gained strokes both in approach and OTT in every start this year. This results in him ranking 31st in approach and 34th OTT at this early point of the season, which is just a extension of the quality he was displaying in 2023, where he also ranked inside the top 10 in proximity from 150-200 yards.

Whilst initially struggling to get going in this event, missing three of his first six cuts and finishing no better than 50th, he has been much improved the last two years, finishing 26th in 2022 and 23rd last year.

As a previous winner of the Sony Open and PLAYERS Championship, as well as finishing 2nd at Harbour Town and 4th in Texas, these better performances in Phoenix should come as no surprise for Kim and I expect the improvements to keep on coming this week.

si woo kim

1 pt Daniel Berger each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1

It may only be his third event back from a lengthy injury layoff but I’ve been tempted into giving Daniel Berger a shot at three figures. Though looking off it at the Farmers Insurance Open last time out, that is a place where he has a sketchy record and I’d rather look to his super-encouraging 39th in the AmEx instead.

After a back injury kept him out of action for just over eighteen months, Berger made his return to action in California at the AmEx and performed well above my expectations. He shot four rounds in the 60s there, to shoot a score of -17 overall and finish in 39th spot. Even more impressive was that his ball-striking was excellent, ranking 7th in the field.

He drove the ball solidly at the Farmers Insurance Open but did little else well. However I’m happy to look past that based on a record in that event that has seen him miss three cuts in five starts and finish no better than 20th.

This is not the case in Phoenix, as Berger has recorded several strong efforts since finishing 10th on debut in 2015; going on to finish 7th in 2017, 11th in 2018 and 9th in 2020. Where he has almost always looked at home on these greens, even in his rare missed cuts.

A runner-up finish in the Cognizant, as well as two further top 5s there give more reason for encouragement; as does a 3rd at the RBC Heritage and top 10s in the Sony Open and PLAYERS Championship.

Whilst it’s a big ask for him to win on just his third start since returning, we have a classy player with a good record in the event, and with that promising effort to call on in the AmEx, he looks more than worth the risk at a big price.

daniel berger

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub. 

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