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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open

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It’s off to the desert this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and along with it the loudest hole in golf. Thousands will once again surround the par-3 16th hole, and as always it will be interesting to see how some of the world’s best players handle the intimidating atmosphere. Expect TPC Scottsdale to offer up a few more birdie opportunities than Torrey Pines did last week, with 14-under par being the highest winning score since the course was re-designed in 2014.

Hideki Matsuyama has won the last two editions here, defeating Webb Simpson last year in a playoff after posting 17-under in regulation. The par-71 course measures just under 7,300 yards and has bermuda greens. As always at TPC Scottsdale, strong tee-to-green play will be vitally important. There are five par-4’s in the range of 400-450 yards, and another five from 450-500 yards. Three long (but reachable) par-5’s are in play that fall in the 550-600 yard range.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Hideki Matsuyama 9/1
  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 10/1
  • Rickie Fowler 14/1
  • Justin Thomas 16/1
  • Marc Leishman 30/1
  • Webb Simpson 33/1

It’s one of those weeks were you could absolutely make a strong case for any player at the top of the board. It won’t be a surprise to see Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler both being very popular choices as usual here — with the latter tempting me most. There’s a sense that this course owes Fowler something, and his exceptional putting on bermuda greens (second in this field for his last 24 rounds ) could set him up for a big week.

But it’s Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,400) who I like the most from the market leaders. Jordan opened up 2018 with a ninth-place finish at the Tournament of Champions before finishing T18 at the Sony Open, a relatively quiet start for the Texan. Yet all the signs show he is ready to win for the first time since last summer. Surprisingly, it’s been his usual rock solid short game that has prevented him from challenging for a win so far in 2018. After the Sony Open, Spieth commented on his putting woes: “I’ve got a lot of work to do with the putter, it’s as simple as that. Everything else is plenty ready to win.”

Spieth has lost strokes to the field on the greens in his last three official PGA Tour events. The last time he did so for four consecutive events? Back in 2013. The smart money is on one of the best putters of the last few years regaining his touch on the greens quickly.

If Spieth can manage that, then it’s very hard to argue against the fact that every other part of his game is good enough to win. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks No. 1 in this field for Ball Striking and Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. He also sits second in Total Strokes Gained. Spieth’s long game has been exceptional for some time now, and it’s been no different in the eight rounds he’s played so far in 2018 where he’s ranked second in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. Also in Jordan’s favor: he seems very comfortable at TPC Scottsdale. He’s recorded two top-10 finishes in his only two starts here, and if he’s managed to address some short game issues in the past fortnight then he will be a hard man to beat this week.

Another player who I feel could be close to putting it all together is Daniel Berger (40/1, DK Price $9,500). Berger has had a solid start to 2018, finishing 11th at the Tournament of Champions before finishing 14th at the Sony Open. He has yet to really contend for a victory, but I feel TPC Scottsdale offers up the best chance of 2018 so far for him to do so.

Berger has a very consistent tee-to-green game, which is crucial to succeed at TPC Scottsdale. He ranks ninth in this field over his last 12 rounds in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 27th in Strokes Gained Total. It’s a course where Berger feels very comfortable, too. He has recorded top-10 finishes in two out of his three visits. Daniel also seems to putt best on bermuda greens. In his last 50 rounds on all greens, he ranks 65th in this field for Strokes Gained Putting. Narrow that down to his performance solely on Bermuda Greens, and he sits 11th over the same period.

Looking further down the board, there are two names that I was surprised to not see a little shorter in price. Keegan Bradley (66/1, DK Price $7,400) has been in the wilderness for too long. Plagued by putting problems since the anchoring ban came into play, he hasn’t had the high finishes that his excellent ball striking deserves. But this season could be a lot different for Bradley. He already has a runner up finish at the CIMB Classic to his name, and last week he finished solo 5th thanks to some exceptional Tee to Green play (he gained 7.6 strokes over the field).

TPC Scottsdale is a good fit for Bradley, too, where long and straight driving is demanded. He has recorded three top-25 finishes here in his last five starts, and with the condition of his current long game he will be confident of posting his best finish here yet. In his past 12 rounds, he is second in this field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, 10th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and eighth in Ball Striking. He also sits T10 for the season in Proximity to the Hole. From a DraftKings perspective, a price of $7,400 looks to have a lot of value.

In the same range, I couldn’t pass up Scott Piercy (66/1, DK Price $7,500) this week. The Las Vegas native has had a very good start to 2018. He finished T25 at the Sony Open before settling for a T6 at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where he briefly held the lead on Sunday. Over his last 12 rounds, he ranks fifth in this field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, ninth in Ball Striking and sixth in Strokes Gained Total. He is also 19th for the season in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. TPC Scottsdale is a course where Piercy has had some success, too. He finished third in 2013 and T15 a year later. He is another who looks to be a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,400
  • Daniel Berger 40/1 DK Price $9,500
  • Keegan Bradley 66/1, DK Price $7,400
  • Scott Piercy 66/1, DK Price $7,500
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wyndham Championship

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After one of the most exciting Sunday’s of the golfing year, attention now turns towards the race for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the quest to attain a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. For the former, this week’s Wyndham Championship is the final opportunity for players to work their way into the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the opening event of the playoffs. Despite many of the world’s elite understandably taking this week off, there are some big names in action here in Greensboro, with Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all setting their sights on winning at Sedgefield Country Club this week.

Sedgefield CC is a relatively short par-70 golf course. It measures just over 7,100 yards, and it’s a golf course that doesn’t particularly favour the longer hitters. The rough is playable in Greensboro this week, and like most years at the Wyndham Championship, expect players who have their wedge game dialled in to thrive here at this event.

Last year, Henrik Stenson put on a ball striking clinic, posting 22-under par to win the title by one stroke over Ollie Schniederjans.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Webb Simpson 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
  • Henrik Stenson 18/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
  • Brandt Snedeker 22/1
  • Shane Lowry 25/1
  • Billy Horschel 28/1

It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Daniel Berger (35/1, DK Price $9,300), but the Floridian showed some very promising signs at last week’s PGA Championship. After opening his PGA Championship with a very poor round of 73, Berger then shined over the next three days. The American posted three consecutive rounds under par, two of which were 66 or better. It was enough to give Berger a T12 finish and plenty of momentum heading to Greensboro this week.

In St. Louis last week, Berger lead the field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, gaining an impressive 8.5 strokes over the field. It was the second best performance with his irons in his career, and at Sedgefield, Berger is going to have hole after hole where he can attack pins with his precise iron game. The two-time winner on the PGA Tour has had a quiet year, but in a weakened field, with plenty of question marks surrounding those at the top of the market, he has a superb opportunity for win number three here in Greensboro.

A T31 finish at the PGA Championship last week means that Chris Kirk (80/1, DK Price $7,500) has now made the cut in his last ten events. From these ten events, four have resulted in top-25 finishes, and Kirk has been hitting the ball particularly well as of late. Over his previous 12 rounds, Kirk ranks fifth in the field this week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in ball striking and eight in Strokes Gained-Total.

Kirk will cost you just $7,500 on DraftKings, and looking at some of the players that are more expensive this week, he appears to be a bargain. Kirk is three for three in cuts made at the Wyndham Championship in his last three visits, and the four-time PGA Tour champion looks in excellent shape to mount his best challenge yet in Greensboro. Over his last 12 rounds, Kirk leads this week’s field for proximity to the hole, and on a golf course where flushing short irons to close range is going to be key, the American looks to offer some of the best value around this week.

With 17 out of 19 made cuts this year, and arriving off the back of a T12 finish in his last outing, Rory Sabbatini (75/1, DK Price $7,100) looks undervalued once again on DraftKings this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Sabbatini ranks 24th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. What’s more, is that Sabbatini is coming to a golf course that he has played very well in the past. In his last two visits to Sedgefield CC, the American has finished in the top-10 twice, with his best result coming last year when he finished T4. Coming off a strong showing in Canada, and with his proficiency in making cuts and excellent course history, Sabbatini looks a great DraftKings option here this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Daniel Berger 35/1, DK Price $9,300
  • Chris Kirk 80/1, DK Price $7,500
  • Rory Sabbatini 75/1, DK Price $7,100
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The 19th Hole: Katie Kearney’s Insights from Inside the Ropes with Tiger Woods on Sunday

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“Tiger made the other players disappear!” Golf correspondent, Instagram star and St. Louis native Katie Kearney describes what it was like to be inside the ropes at Bellerive on this week’s edition of the 19th Hole with Michael Williams. Also featured are Golf Channel Contributor Ron Sirak, and Chris McGinley of V1 Golf.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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The Gear Dive: A roundtable with Mike Taylor and the Artisan Golf team

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Artisan Golf’s Mike Taylor, Dave Richey and John Hatfield speak on what it’s like being at the forefront of the “craftsman” movement, Tommy Fleetwood’s Irons, Tiger’s Nike wedges, and working with Patrick Reed. Get all the latest Gear Dive info @thegeardive_golfwrx on Instagram.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

  • 3:30 — How it all started
  • 12:15 — Checks and Balances
  • 15:20 — The Importance of a proper wedge shaft
  • 20:15 — Taylor on the high-toe trend in wedges
  • 24:00 — Patrick Reed
  • 27:00 — Artisan Putters and what makes the different
  • 34:30 — Dave Richey advice to young club makers
  • 38:00 — Tommy Fleetwood’s last set
  • 39:30 — Tigers TaylorMade Gear, “no comment”
  • 44:15 — Getting used to IG and Social Media
  • 52:00 — Mike Taylor on the power of knowledge
  • 53:30 — Mike Taylor on bounce
  • 57:40 — Tiger’s new wedge grind to cure his yips
  • 63:55 — Roundtable Favorite track
  • 64:20 — Roundtable Dream foursome
  • 66:10 — Roundtable If you had to buy a wedge/putter/irons
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19th Hole

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