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Heating Up: Schauffele, Scheffler and Other Top Picks at the Phoenix Open

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

This week in golf features two fantastic tournaments with high strength of fields.

The PGA Tour is in Phoenix where the Waste Management Phoenix Open is going to have a different feel this year with just 5,000 fans in attendance. The European Tour is in Saudi Arabia where a strong PGA contingency will be in attendance.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is hosted by TPC Scottsdale, a par 71 playing 7,261 yards. The front nine is a ho-hum desert course setup where the only real excitement comes from the par-5 third and the par-4 fifth, which both feature desert island greens. The real fun starts on hole 11, the first of five holes where water comes into play. The driveable par-4 17th offers players a chance to make up strokes in a hurry, but water lurking long and to the left makes it a risk-reward hole worth watching.

With so many par 4s, players who do well on par 4s traditionally have success here. Length is useful, but the course layout offers opportunity to just about any type of player. Webb Simpson won in 2020 and he’s in the bottom half of the tour in driving distance.

Here is a look at the players in the field with the greatest increase in projected shots gained at TPC Scottsdale compared to an average PGA course:

And players projected to lose the most:

An interesting note on our course fit this week is that Woodland is a former winner here and Kuchar has finished top 10 in three of the last four years. However, neither player is at their best right now and the differences we’re seeing for course fit are small compared to what we saw last week at Torrey Pines, where our strokes gained/lost metric identified some players who would lose more than half a stroke.

This is another good indication of what we said earlier about TPC Scottsdale being a course where all types of players can compete.


Xander Schauffele has finished outside the top 25 just twice and inside the top five six times in 22 tournaments since the start of 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Xander Schauffele

On a course that doesn’t cater to any particular skill set, our pick is a guy who competes everywhere. Schauffele has competed in 22 tournaments since the start of 2020. He’s finished outside of the top 25 just twice and inside the top five six times. He’s the top performer in our database on par 5s, 4th on short par 4s, and 5th on long par 4s. Schauffele has the ability to look at almost every hole as a place to make up strokes against the field, something few can boast. Our model puts his chances to win this weekend at 8.4%.


Daniel Berger has the second-best chance to win according to our model at this week’s Phoenix Open. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Daniel Berger

Berger joins the company of Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Rory McIlroy as the only players in the field projected to gain more than 0.10 strokes per hole on each of short par 4s, long par 4s, and par 5s. That’s some elite company, and while we wouldn’t place him in that mix, he’s on the front porch looking in. He hasn’t teed it up since Sony, but he’s no stranger to taking some time off and working on his game. We give Berger a 5.4% chance to win this weekend.

Scottie Scheffler

There’s some stink on Scheffler after missing back-to-back cuts, but if we look beneath the surface we think it’s not quite as stinky as it appears. Last week he was sitting in second after round one, and then played the South Course in round two and shot a 79. While he did land in some trouble off the tee, he lost a whopping four strokes on the greens while gaining strokes on approach and around the green. While not known for his putting, losing four strokes in a round is an aberration, and we’ll happily back Scheffler now that his stock has dropped. It’s a course that suits his play, and he’s projected to gain 0.092 strokes compared to an average course.

Russell Henley

Henley is a spectacular iron player who won’t make a mistake off the tee. At a high variability course that tailors to ball-striking, he should have success here. On the six short par 4s, Henley is expected to gain a little more than three-quarters of a stroke per round, most in the field. Overall we have Henley with the 11th highest chance to win this weekend at 2.7%.


Kevin Streelman is one of the longshots that our model likes to compete at this week’s Phoenix Open. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kevin Streelman

We won’t quit on Streelman. Coming off a T-32 at Torrey Pines, Streelman managed to avoid carding any big numbers during the tournament. While he didn’t find enough birdies to compete, he gained strokes with his ball-striking and only lost strokes on the field around the greens. His excellent ball-striking should come into play at TPC Scottsdale, and his ability to score on par 5s gives him the opportunity to rack up some birdies. If he brings a working putter, which is not at all likely, he could find his way in the top 10 come Sunday.

Joel Dahmen

Dahmen was a hot pick last week, which made little sense to us considering the length of Torrey Pines and the four par 5s. Dahmen’s worst holes are par 5s and long par 4s, and while TPC Scottsdale has some of each, Dahmen’s ability to score on short par 4s could put him in the mix this week. He’s projected to gain the 8th most strokes this week on the short par 4s, and second most strokes on the short par 3s. We like him to bounce back after a rough start to 2021.



Xander Schauffele ($11,000)

Justin Thomas ($10,800)

Webb Simpson ($10,100)

Daniel Berger ($9,600)

Scottie Scheffler ($9,100)


Bubba Watson ($8,500)

Russell Henley ($8,200)


Corey Conners ($7,900)

Jason Day ($7,800)

Talor Gooch ($7,600)

Brendon Todd ($7,400)

Zach Johnson ($7,400)

Erik Van Rooyen ($7,000)


Dylan Frittelli ($6,900)

Kevin Streelman ($6,800)

Joel Dahmen ($6,800)

Charl Schwartzel ($6,800)


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