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Here are nine tidbits from the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open that gamers can use tomorrow, this weekend or down the road. TPC Scottsdale hosts annually and plays to a Par-71 and 7,261 yards.
Just Win, Baby
Highest winning score in event history? Check. Only winner in the last forty years or so on TOUR to take home the BIG CHECK with a double AND triple in the final round? Check. That’s all Rickie Fowler had to overcome, plus never holding a 36-hole lead, to win for the fifth time on the PGATOUR.
Entering the week his course form here was shielded by Matsuyama’s magnificence and his own inability to slam the door shut when given the chance last year. The brand-new ball he put into play last week didn’t help at Torrey Pines, a place where he now regularly struggles. The nasty Sunday weather didn’t allow his four-shot lead after Saturday to provide much comfort.
Now 30, Fowler has turned a new page by winning when he should even though he did so coming-from-behind at one point. He only circled three birdies on the day but his 23 for the week were the most. Don’t forget he was 20-under after 64-65-64 to open so it’s not like he fell backwards into this! He’s the first winner in five that did NOT begin the final round in the lead and joins Brooks Koepka as the only other recent winner with 71 or worse on the card.
For the week he led the field in birdies, par-breakers, Par-4 scoring average and Strokes-Gained: Putting.
Gamers remember the train tracks at Chambers Bay on Sunday of the 2015 U.S. Open. Branden Grace had the lead late and sprayed one into the rail line ending his chances for his first major. Tied with Fowler, he sprayed his tee shot on No. 17 into the drink and eventually made bogey. It was a rough finish for the last entrant into the field but solo second and a boatload of FedExCup Points should ease the pain.
Justin Thomas’ fifth try at TPC Scottsdale was his best of the bunch by a mile, solo third. Playing with Kuchar and Fowler, this group was stuck in the mud all day long so my theory of Fowler winning because of the company was blown up. Or was it? Thomas can fall out of bed and post 65 so to see him not take advantage of Fowler’s follies was interesting. Is that the one missing piece of his game, the killer instinct, or am I reading too much into this? I think the days of trying to time the market with Thomas are over. He’s in the field, he plays, period.
Bubba Watson went new driver, new shaft and new yellow ball this week but it was his old nemesisisisisis, Mother Nature and the putter that slowed him down. The lefty knocked the cover off the ball as he led the field off-the-tee and tee-to-green plus was sixth in proximity. He didn’t gain any strokes on the field on the greens the entire week and cashed T4. Bogeying four of his first five in less-than-ideal conditions on Sunday wasn’t surprising; playing his final 12 holes in four-under-par was though. … Matt Kuchar already has two wins on the season and had a front-row seat in the final group to make it three. Sitting 14-under and just one back after No. 14, he hit his second in the water on No. 15 plus roped hooked his drive on No. 17 to kill his chances. His notoriously sharp short game abandoned him in the final round as he scrambled just 2 of 7 times and needed 34 putts.
Former champs Gary Woodland (defending) and Hideki Matsuyama tried to force themselves in the backdoor on Sunday. Woodland’s dream became wet on No. 15 but he helped gamers with a birdie on No. 17 to remain in the top 10 (T7). … Matsuyama cashed his worst finish EVAR (T15) after a pair of 69’s (nice) on the weekend. He was second in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green, third in Approach and fourth in proximity. One guess only on the club that didn’t show this week!
Byeong-Hun An needed 76 of them to get it in the barn and dropped from T4 to T20. He’s been close here three times now. … Martin Laird began Round 4 T8 and cashed T26 after 74. He was in the hunt at Torrey last week before a closing 75. #Play72 but I see you. … Tom Hoge dropped from T12 to T44 after 76. His best finish this season is T17. … Andrew Landry began the weekend T12 and cashed T60 after 74-75.
Round 4 was the most difficult of the week (71.575) as it played almost a shot more difficult than Round 2. TPC Scottsdale checked in at 70.511 (-0.489) for the week and the top 14 players were 10-under or better. … Ho hum, another top 10 for Xander Schauffele after closing with bogey-free 68. Jon Rahm didn’t have his best stuff and was also T10. … Chez Reavie backed up his P2 here last year with T4. He was runner-up at AT&T Pebble Beach last year as well. … Sungjae Im is 21 and has five top-25 paydays in eight weekends after his T7. … Billy Horschel had the round of Sunday with 67. … Too many rounds of 64 to count this week but nobody went lower. … Dustin Johnson beat Haotong Li by two to win in Saudi Arabia. He’s in the field at Pebble Beach this week. … So is Doug Ghim after cashing T3 in Bogota on the Web.com Tour.