I am pumped to get this week started at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. We are getting a better field than usual for the greatest party in golf, and it is finally on just one course with no quirky Pro-Am set up.
As I mentioned, the field is strong, with the OWGR rating it out at a field strength score of 536, which rivals upper-tier tournaments like Memorial. It starts right at the top as three of the top four players in the world are set to tee it up, including Arizona State alum and World No. 1 Jon Rahm. Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay will also make rare appearances at the event, alongside usual WMPO stalwarts Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Hideki Matsuyama.
This desert course is most well known for the stadium atmosphere created around the par 3 16th, where players will look to pump up the crowd before hitting their tee shot. The way the players embrace that atmosphere is what makes this tournament special every Super Bowl weekend, and it is really the kickoff to a great run of golf this spring.
DraftKings has continued to roll out a big main tournament, and it looks like they have settled at the $20 buy-in level with the Pitch + Putt tournament, with $200,000 of the $800,000 prize pool going to first place. In order to capture that top prize, you’ll have to beat 47,057 other entries, and we will focus on doing just that in this article.
As usual, you can start your week with all of the coverage we provide through both FantasyLabs and Action Network. I start with Matt Vincenzi’s DFS Stats Preview article that digs in on the type of player we need to fit this course, as well as some key plays for DFS. Landon Silinsky also gives us his core plays for Cash Games each week, and that can be a great basis for players that are fit to have steady weeks, as well as give us insight into ownership.
And for large-field tournaments, you can utilize our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups, or use our Lineup Builder if you like to hand-build your li
Now, I’ll get straight into my plays as we look to take down the top prize this week.
Top Tier ($9,000-$11,600 DraftKings)
Patrick Cantlay ($10,700)
This is nothing against Jon Rahm, as I plan to play him quite a bit this week as well, but he’s got a pretty steep price jump above the rest of the field, and as we mentioned, there are plenty of elite players. Cantlay is the one that sticks out to me in large part because it is clear he is the five-figure player that is going overlooked. He is only projected for 11% ownership as things stand currently, which to me is because of a couple of factors.
Cantlay has never played in this event before, which gives people very little to reference for his fit to the course. He also is coming off of a week where it is pretty well known that he struggled on approach despite his T4. I am going to use this unknown and perceived poor play to my advantage in lineups for leverage. I also have the flexibility to get Rahm and Cantlay in lineups together with some of my plays in the Sleeper section if I want to build that way.
We know that Cantlay is an elite talent with a lot of success at other desert tracks, so I don’t want to overthink this one. He can be just as good of a play this week as others at the top, especially with his history of bouncing back strong from poor iron weeks. I’ll take some leverage right here near the top on the 2021 Player of the Year.
Sam Burns ($9,200)
Sam Burns started to make real noise on TOUR about this time last year as he posted a top-25 finish at this event, made the cut at Pebble Beach, then went on to be the 54-hole leader at Riviera. He would later capture his first of two wins in 2021 at the Valspar.
Burns has become one of the elite names each week, but I think we will find it difficult for some to click his name when there are more established long-term players around him. Even if we don’t get much ownership discount, I love Burns this week to bounce back from his struggles on approach to start the year and to continue the play we saw from him last year.
We have dubbed him “Bermuda Burns” for a reason, and he is a great course fit for TPC Scottsdale. He had his single best putting week of his career at this event last year, gaining 10.9 strokes on the greens. He has three tournaments in his career, gaining nine or more strokes putting, and the other two came at the site of his first TOUR win, the Valspar. Early returns show that Burns loves this course, and it is a place I have pegged for him to eventually add to his win total, making him an easy play this week in DFS.
Mid-Tier ($8,000-$8,900 DraftKings)
Webb Simpson ($8,600)
I’ve mentioned in this article time and again that every pick in a lineup doesn’t have to avoid chalk. You certainly don’t want to put too many of the big chalk plays together, but the way we have started with a couple of contrarian options allows me to eat the chalk on Webb Simpson this week.
There are certain courses each year where I want to dial in on Webb, and TPC Scottsdale certainly fits that mold. He won this event in 2020 in a playoff over Tony Finau, after having lost in a playoff three years earlier in 2017. I expect to see improvement in his game and swing this week after he was admittedly shaky at the Sony a few weeks back, and the price allows me to comfortably eat the projected 13-15% ownership.
Corey Conners ($8,300)
A lot of ownership is flocking to this range with Corey Conners and Russell Henley. I am going with the Canadian here as I was a bit surprised by the inconsistency of Henley at this event, where he has more missed cuts than top 20 finishes. Conners, on the other hand, has made the cut in both of his appearances and showed solid improvement with his T17 showing in 2021.
We have seen players that are elite ball-strikers but struggle putting have great history here, most notably with two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama. Conners certainly fits that mold, and if he can just have a positive putting week on the greens, he can contend through Sunday at a mid-level price tag.
Value Plays ($7,000-$7,900 DraftKings)
Luke List ($7,700)
Speaking of “team no putt,” I present to you the Famers Champion Luke List. He is a very similar type of player to Conners and is just coming off of his first TOUR win. He may still have that hangover, but I am trying to get myself away from avoiding the player that just won. Many in DFS have this theory that players off of a win, especially their first one, are likely to falter their next time out. I certainly get it, but List has had a week to enjoy himself, and he would be a great fit and high owned player if, oddly enough, he hadn’t won last week (just think about the logic there).
He has back-to-back top 30 finishes at this tournament, and possibly as importantly, gained strokes putting in both of those events. Oddly enough, it was his irons that held him back from better play those weeks, and I never go into a week with List worrying about his ball striking. He has been in great form for months now, and I expect him to pick up where he left off this week in Phoenix.
Mito Pereira ($7,000)
A couple of my favorite go-to players linger at the bottom of the $7,000 range, but with Mito outranking Aaron Wise in the Bailey Model this week, he will be my preference. Pereira came onto TOUR by virtue of the 3-win promotion from the Korn Ferry last year. He immediately became a bit of a DFS and golf betting darling but has frankly produced some mostly middling performances.
HIs missed cut last week at Pebble Beach will have some off of him despite the low price tag, and what I like is how he has shown an ability to bounce back from those missed weekends already on TOUR. He has top 35 finishes in the events following three of his first four missed cuts, with the other being his after his Tour debut. I believe he has the upside and skillset to compete at this tournament and will be fitting him into lineups with just a need for him to find the weekend to pay it off.
Sleepers ($6,000-$6,900 DraftKings)
Adam Hadwin ($6,900)
There was a lot to like from the game of Adam Hadwin last week at Pebble Beach as he finished 16th and gained 6.9 shots on the field tee to green during his two measured rounds. He gained 5.5 of those ball striking with his approach play standing out the most, and that is what will be the most important factor to carry into the week in Phoenix.
Hadwin surprisingly struggled with his typically sharp putter at Pebble, and I expect he will see that bounce back this week at the Waste Management. This is a course where he has shown off that putter at times, gaining more than a stroke on the greens in three of his appearances. If he can keep the ball striking going and find the flat stick again this week, he will certainly continue his run of six straight made cuts at this tournament and should be in a position to contend for his third Top 20 finish.
James Hahn ($6,200)
Another player that seems to show up this time of year is James Hahn. Unfortunately, a positive COVID test forced him to withdraw from the AT&T, but he is in the field this week, leaving me to believe it didn’t affect him too much. If Hahn is healthy, he is nearly a free square, which doesn’t come often in golf.
Hahn has made four straight cuts at this tournament, with three top 25s, and he was actually leading this event at the start of the back nine on Sunday in 2021. He is one of those proverbial “horses for courses” and an easy way to get two top-tier studs in your lineup this week.