Golf's biggest party is upon us. It's fitting that each year, the Waste Management Phoenix Open aligns with the Super Bowl. This weekend feels like one big reason to celebrate. And you know what would provide even more reason to celebrate? Making some money from your golf bets to apply to Super Bowl bets. Now we're talking.
Our panel of experts—which includes a PGA Tour caddie providing insight from the front lines every week thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network—plus expert golf handicappers, correctly predicted three of the winners early on in the PGA Tour season. We have a feeling one of the winners this week will come from the players below.
2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Hideki Matsuyama (12-1) — The 26-year-old has five career PGA Tour wins. Two of those came in back-to-back years at TPC Scottsdale (2016, 2017). He didn’t have a chance to defend last year after withdrawing before the start of the second round with a left wrist injury. Healthy now, I expect him to jump right back into it here. Doesn’t hurt that he was T-3 last week at Torrey.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Tony Finau (20-1) — I don’t know why I do this to myself. Everyone knows the top-10 bet on Finau is always where the smart money rests. But, eventually, Finau is going to close one of these, right? RIGHT??? Over the past 50 rounds, courtesy of FantasyNational.com, Finau has gained the most strokes of anyone in the field. He’s top 10 in strokes gained/tee-to-green, off-the-tee, approach and ball-striking over that span, and a juicy third in strokes gained on par 5s. I realize Finau has missed the cut here the past three years, but he’s perfectly suited for this course to finally breakthrough for his first victory on American soil.
Mayo: Bubba Watson (50-1) — Unlike most players, recent trends and current form is pretty irrelevant for Bubba Watson. There is actually just one thing you need to be concerned with: Is this a Bubba track or not? Riviera, Augusta, TPC River Highlands; all Bubba courses. So is TPC Scottsdale. Of that collection, this is the only spot where Bubba has never won. But he has come pretty close. He’s played the weekend nine of the past 10 years, and compiled three top-5 finishes, including two runners-up, in his past seven starts, and five top-15s in that stretch. If he was in the teens, it wouldn’t be worth it, but at 40-1, that’s an acceptable number for a guy with clear winner’s upside.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Justin Thomas (9-1) — Thomas’ odds are shorter than I normally like to back, but he sets up really well here, and we’ve seen him close out wins, something that stands to me out in such a loaded field, when selecting the champion is all that matters. Thomas leads the field in strokes gained/approach over his past 50 rounds, via FantasyNational.com, and ranks fifth in opportunities gained in that split. He’s also capable of scoring on the par 4s and par 5s and can net birdies and avoid bogeys.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Rickie Fowler (16-1) — This could be when Rickie Fowler finally gets his Waste Management victory. Rickie charts out first on my model and owns three top-five finishes here in his career. Given his final-round 73 after being the 54-hole leader last year, I would think Rickie would be motivated to start his season with a win here. And the stats back up that extra motivation factor.
Golf Digest editors: Jon Rahm (8-1) — Jon Rahm enters the Waste Management with top-10s in three straight events, plus the Hero World Challenge win. Aside from Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose, he's probably playing the best golf out of anyone in the world. That's why you're paying a premium for him. But Rahm warrants that number. Over the past 50 rounds, Rahm is second in strokes gained/off the tee according to FantasyNational.com and ninth in total strokes gained, both of which bode well for success at TPC Scottsdale, where his well-documented T-5 while still a junior at Arizona State came. It wouldn't be a shock to anybody for Rahm to win on Sunday, so we'll lay the odds and take the favorite.
(Results on the season: Pat Mayo correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners) and Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) earlier this season. Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. And Brandon Gdula had two runners-up out of his picks to win.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Cameron Champ (50-1) — TPC Scottsdale, since the redo, has some length bias to its scoring. At 50-1, there is good value there with Champ – an absolute bomber.
Mayo: Tyrrell Hatton (66-1) — This is just a blatant misprice on Hatton. I consider this mad disrespect for the 31st-ranked player in the world. Is he going to win? Probably not. But I have him rated as 30-1 in this field, and the book is giving us more than double that number. That's an auto-bet for me.
Gdula: Keith Mitchell (125-1) — Mitchell is back on Bermuda, which is his “best” putting surface, though he’s still a negative putter on it. We’ve seen weak putters win here in the past. He’s an elite ball-striker when he’s on, and that can put him in position for a run at the top of the leaderboard.
Riccio: Russell Henley (150-1) — On a course where you need birdies in bunches, Russell Henley pops on my model. Based on his stats, my model gives him the 15th best chance to win out of all competitors. With these high odds, it's worth a couple bucks to see if Henley pops.
Golf Digest editors: Chesson Hadley (200-1) — In one of the weaker fields we'll see this winter, there's no reason Chesson Hadley, one of the better ball-strikers on tour, should be priced this low. Hadley finished T-5 here last year, too, so we know his game fits TPC Scottsdale.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Jon Rahm (8-1) — I know it’s a shock, but under 10-1, it’s just not a good return. His best finish here was a T-5 in 2015 when he was still in college at Arizona State. Since then, his best finish in Phoenix was a T-11 last year.
Mayo: Adam Hadwin (35-1) — He’s playing incredibly well entering the tournament, but he’s overvalued, especially compared to the skill of the players behind him. The Canadian should be priced around 60-1 instead of 35-1.
Gdula: Bubba Watson (50-1) — Watson grades out 102nd in approach over his past 50 rounds and the past 24 rounds, via FantasyNational.com, and that’s enough to be wary about Watson, despite his solid track record at TPC Scottsdale.
Riccio: Brandt Snedeker (66-1) — You might be tempted by the big number on Snedeker. Not me. This isn't a course that really suits Sneds' skill sets, despite him finishing in the top-10 four times here in the past. With the course changes here, you really need above average length and accuracy, of which Snedeker doesn't really have. There are players whose tee-to-green game this course suits way more around the same number.
Golf Digest editors: Tyrrell Hatton (45-1) — Hatton excels on a slightly tighter, tougher course where scrambling is a premium. Hatton hits it plenty far, but he won't have the elite type distance that others like Justin Thomas or Jon Rahm have to separate themselves. This doesn't feel like a Tyrrell Hatton course—a sentence we feel comfortable typing before the tournament starts.
PGA Tour Caddie: Ryan Palmer (+110) over Luke List (DraftKings) — Palmer has a decent record around here and is a streaky player. He finished T11 last week and his driving stats were very good. I think it should result in a good week for him in Phoenix.
Mayo: Bubba Watson (+120) over Chez Reavie — Two Scottsdale residents here, but Bubba—for reasons I go into above—is way higher on my list this week than Chez, who finished T-2 here last year, but before that, had missed six of nine cuts with a best finish of T-41.
Gdula: Joaquin Niemann (-110) over J.T. Poston (Sportbet) — Niemann’s putting struggles are really all that are holding him back. He leads the entire field in strokes gained/ball striking over his past 50 rounds, whereas Poston sits 85th and relies on his putter to carry him.
Riccio: Zach Johnson (-105) over Abraham Ancer — My modeling rates out Zach Johnson as having the 13th highest likelihood to win the tournament, versus Abraham Ancer, who comes in 69th on that model. In his past six appearances in Scottsdale, ZJ has five top-25s, with four of them being top-15s. ZJ doesn't necessarily have the length to necessarily separate himself and win this event. But he hits a ton of greens and appears to really like this course. I'll go with ZJ's course experience plus the statistical modeling to back it up.
Golf Digest editors: Martin Laird (+115) over Lucas Glover — In his past nine appearances at TPC Scottsdale, Lucas Glover does not own a top-25, whereas Martin Laird—who lives in Scottsdale—has two top-10s the past two seasons (and four top-10s here total). Lucas Glover is having a nice year stats-wise in 2019, but course history leads us to favor Laird here.
(Matchup results last week: Gdula: 1 for 1 (Kevin Tway over Hudson Swafford); Mayo: 1 for 2 (won Tony Finau over Rickie Fowler); GD Editors: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1; Riccio: 0 for 1)
(Matchup results for the year: Riccio: 3 for 4; PGA Tour Caddie: 2 for 4; Mayo: 2 for 4; GD Editors: 2 for 4; Gdula: 1-1-1)
Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Martin Laird (+700) — Laird has three top 10s in his previous five starts at TPC Scottsdale. It’s a great value pick here.
Mayo: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (+1500) — Like Hatton, Kiradech Aphibarnrat is simply mispriced. He’s the No. 42 player in the world, yet is priced behind recent Web.com Tour grads. Come on now. If you can’t stomach Kiradech and want to go strictly numbers based, advanced modeling LOVESSSSSS Andres Albertson at 19-1.
Gdula: Jason Kokrak (+550) — Kokrak is a strong ball-striker, and he has compiled a very solid recent stats profile, and is a solid baseline putter on Bermuda greens. He can convert enough birdies to move into the top 10 this week if it clicks, making him an enticing value pick.
Riccio: Matt Kuchar (+300) — This top-10 machine is playing some of the best golf of his career. And he finished in the top-10 in each of his past two appearances at TPC Scottsdale. Finding 3-to-1 on your money is too good of a value to pass up.
Golf Digest editors: Tony Finau (+200) — The guy's the new Matt Kuchar with serious distance. It doesn't make sense that he has three straight missed cuts in Phoenix, the only reason we're not higher on Finau. A top-10 bet seems like a safe bet. This time last year, he had just switched to a full set of new clubs—he should be ready to attack TPC Scottsdale this year.
(Top-10 results last week: Riccio: 1 for 1 (Gary Woodland +340); Mayo: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1; GD Editors: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Mayo: 1 for 3; PGA Tour Caddie: 2 for 4; GD Editors: 2 for 4; Gdula: 1 for 5; Riccio: 1 for 3)
Mayo: My DraftKings lineups will revolve around this core this week:
Justin Thomas ($11,100); Bubba Watson ($8,900); Billy Horschel($8,800); Keegan Bradley ($7,800); Sungjae Im ($7,300)
As mentioned in my complete DraftKings breakdown, with so many capable players in the mid-to-low $7K range, it’s quite easy to jam in two high priced studs and not hate your lineup. When you dip below the $8K threshold, you’re looking at supreme ball strikers, which makes Keegan and Sungjae pretty easy choices to round out a roster.
Riccio: I'm building my lineups around Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler, two players at the top end of this field who seem to consistently contend at TPC Scottsdale. Their stats also rate out high here for par-4 scoring and birdie percentages.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,700)
Rickie Fowler ($9,400)
Cameron Champ ($8,300)
Joaquin Niemann ($7,200)
Chesson Hadley ($7,100)
Russell Henley ($6,900)
Golf Digest editors: We're feeling good about this lineup. You have Jon Rahm, who's playing as good as anyone in the world, back in Scottsdale, close to Tempe where he went to school. And where he jumped onto the scene of golfers with his T-5 here while he was still in school. Gary Woodland won here last year, and his distance plus recent form makes him attractive here. Same with Daniel Berger, who is playing for a third straight week, so we're assuming he's close to 100 percent healthy. Sungjae Im led the Web.com Tour in birdies last year, and Joel Dahmen and Anders Albertson pop on all statistical models. What's not to like?
Jon Rahm ($11,500)
Gary Woodland ($9,900)
Daniel Berger ($8,200)
Sungjae Im ($7,300)
Joel Dahmen ($6,800)
Anders Albertson ($6,300)
Gdula: This week can be one to go stars and scrubs on FanDuel, as the mid-range is a little barren, and a lot of studs are available at the top. I am aiming to lock in two studs and to look for cheaper plays to round out my lineups.
Byeong-Hun An ($9,200), Joel Dahmen ($9,000), Joaquin Niemann ($8,900), Harold Varner III ($8,900), Jason Kokrak ($8,600).
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,800)
Rickie Fowler ($11,000)
Webb Simpson ($10,800)
Cameron Champ ($9,400)
Joaquin Niemann ($8,900)
Rory Sabbatini ($7,900)
Golf Digest Editors: We're usually aren't lured by recency bias, but Gooch’s production as of late (fourth in Palm Springs, T-3 in La Jolla) begs to be picked at $8,700 ... Xander had a T-17 at Phoenix last year, yet was just two back of the lead heading into Sunday. Coupled with his performance over the last three months, he more than justifies his high price tag ... Champ has cooled off in his past two outings (T-73 at Sony, MC at Farmers Insurance). Take advantage of his lowered salary while you can. Not only do bombers dominate TPC Scottsdale, but wet weekend conditions will mitigate Champ’s sometimes-iffy approach game.
Xander Schauffele $11,200; Webb Simpson $10,800; Matt Kuchar $10,700; Cameron Champ $9,400; Bud Cauley $9,000; Talor Gooch $8,700
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 14-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, and he's on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the Desert Classic.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, was recently nominated as one of three finalists for the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association of Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.