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2023 WM Phoenix Open Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 06 Feb 2023

GET ready to stick your fingers in your ears. It can only be the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the tournament that attracts the largest crowds in world golf, with hundreds of thousands of rowdy spectators pouring into TPC Scottsdale.

This was the tournament that opened the floodgates for Scottie Scheffler 12 months ago. He arrived in Arizona still looking for his first PGA Tour success, left as champion and went on to win four times in the blink of an eye, culminating in him claiming the Green Jacket at Augusta in April and climbing to the top of the world rankings.

So you can bet your bottom dollar that he cannot wait to come back here to defend his title.

This is now one of the PGA Tour’s elevated events, with a £3.6m prize for the winner and a total purse of $20m. This will be the 88th edition of the WM Phoenix Open, which is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour. It is also one of the most popular events on the calendar. 

The event is renowned for the par-three 16th hole, with 20,000 fans either cheering or barracking players, depending on whether or not they find the putting surface.

As usual, the tournament is being played on the same weekend as the 2023 Super Bowl, which is also hosted in the Phoenix area.

It is worth spending some time reflecting on what Scheffler achieved in 2022.

He had already made his Ryder Cup debut in 2021 on the back of a host of near-misses but he needed to win to prove he really belonged at this level. He earned his first four PGA Tour titles in just six starts, starting with the WM Phoenix Open, followed by victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Masters.  

That winning stretch proved to be historic as Scheffler was the first player to achieve such a feat since Jason Day accomplished it back in 2015. 

He was the PGA Tour’s leading money winner in 2022, earning himself a Presidents Cup appearance, a runner-up finish in the 2022 FedExCup standings and Player of the Year honours, as well as moving to the top of the world rankings for the first time in his career following his victory at Bay Hill in March. He maintained his position as World No. 1 until being caught by Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Another man who enjoyed a renaissance in 2022 was Xander Schauffele. He claimed seven top-10 finishes as well as victories at the Travelers Championship, Genesis Scottish Open and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 

He also recorded top-15 finishes at three of the four majors (The Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship), as well as a top five at the Tour Championship to finish fourth in the final 2022 FedExCup standings. 

This will be Schauffele’s sixth appearance at the Phoenix Open. And he has a terrific track record here, finishing second in 2021 and third last year behind Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay.

Sam Burns was selected to his first Presidents Cup team and had a breakout season in 2022 with three wins (Sanderson Farms Championship, Valspar Championship, and the Charles Schwab Challenge). He was one of five players to win three or more times in 2022. Burns finished the year with eight top-10s in 24 events played. This will be Burns’ fifth appearance in Phoenix.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood will be playing in Phoenix for the first time. He is now back in the top 30 in the world, having rediscovered the form that saw him win the Race to Dubai. The 32-year-old won the Nedbank Challenge in November, his sixth DP World Tour victory. He has maintained that form and will be looking forward to the unique atmosphere we see at TPC Scottsdale. 

World number one Rory McIlroy is also in the field. Fresh from winning the Dubai Desert Classic, TPC Scottsdale is a course that should be made for him but I do wonder how he will react to the rowdy galleries. I have a feeling in my water that he might struggle this week.

Tournament Winners

It was won in 2016 and 2017 by Hideki Matsuyama, in 2018 by Gary Woodland, in 2019 by Rickie Fowler, in 2020 by Webb Simpson, in 2021 by Brooks Koepka and last year by Scottie Scheffler.

Form Guide

Xander Schauffele is now back to his brilliant best. He won three times in 2022 and finished in a tie for third at the recent American Express. He also has a great record in this tournament. Defending champion Scottie Scheffler hasn’t won since claiming the Green Jacket but there have been plenty of top-10 finishes and he will be relishing his return.

The Course

TPC Scottsdale is a par 71 measuring 7,261 yards. Designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, it opened in 1986, was redesigned in 2014 and is a classic PGA Tour stadium-style course. The fairways are pretty generous but there is a lot of sand.

To Win:

Xander Schauffele. Back to his very best

Each Way:

Scottie Scheffler. How does he top 2022?

Each Way:

Tommy Fleetwood. Still looking for first PGA Tour victory

Five to Follow:

Xander Schauffele. Wonderful short game

Scottie Scheffler. Has few weaknesses

Tommy Fleetwood. Great wedge player

Tony Finau. Consistently good

Max Homa. World-class

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Gary Woodland. Has been in the wilderness

Adam Svensson. One to keep an eye on

Callum Tarren. Englishman has shown some flashes of form

Aaron Rai. Needs to keep it going for 72 holes

Matt Wallace. Still searching for something

Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup daily picks

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