Keep it to a minimal roar!
Sure it’s only late January, but it feels like Spring Break week on TOUR as “The People’s Open” is ready for action at TPC Scottsdale. The field of 132 will be met by over 700,000 of their closest friends over the seven days in Phoenix, including 20,000 adorers at the world-famous par-3 16th hole.
Handling the crowds plus 7,261 (Par-71) yards of Tom Weiskopf’s 2014 re-design will be the task this week. As usual, the field will be cut to the top 65 and ties after 36 holes. The 85th edition in the desert outside of Phoenix will pay the winner $1.314 million of the $7.3 million prize pool plus 500 FedExCup points.
2019: Rickie Fowler (-17, 267)
First winner in four years that didn’t require a playoff. … Led by four after 54 holes but trailed on the back nine after a double AND triple. … First TOUR winner to have a double AND triple in the final round since 1983. … Birdied the final four holes to win by two over Branden Grace (first appearance). … Opened with 64 (co-led) and led Justin Thomas (3rd) by one after 36. … Joined three of the last four winners to finish top six in ball-striking. … Last five winners all T10 or better in Par-4 scoring.
Notables in the field this week: 2018 playoff runner-up Chez Reavie (T4) closed 64-68 for back-to-back top-five finishes. … Matt Kuchar (T4) played in the final group but shot 75 on a cool, rainy, Sunday. … Defending champ Gary Woodland matched rookie Sungjae Im with T7. … Grace led the field in Par-3 and Par-5 scoring.
2018: Gary Woodland (-10, 278)
Closed with 64, low round of the day, to force and win playoff against Reavie. … Led the field in Par-Breakers, Birdie-or-Better conversion percentage and Par-5 scoring. … Led the field with 26 birdies.
Notables in the field this week: Reavie holed a 21-footer to get into the playoff. … Bryson DeChambeau’s (T5) first visit saw him share the 36-hole lead and play in the final group, both with Fowler. … Fowler (T11) limped home in 73. … Brendan Steele (T3) loves this event and so does Kuchar (T5). … Local Martin Laird (T9) needs a look for a dark horse play this week.
2017: Hideki Matsuyama (-17, 267)
Began the final round four back of Byeong-Hun An before closing with 66. … Defeated Webb Simpson in a four-hole playoff to defend his title. … Became first player to defend since Johnny Miller (1974-75). … Won his first title in a four-hole playoff over Fowler. … Clinical tee-to-green and his putter cooperated just enough.
Notables in the field this week: Simpson played the weekend 65-64. … Oh look, Fowler (T4) again. … Laird (T7) played in the final group with An (6th) and matched his 73. … Daniel Berger (T7) played his final three rounds 13-under. … Kuchar (T9) picked up another top-10 payday as did Jordan Spieth (T9). … An co-led after 36 and was one clear after 54.
Key stat leaders
Top golfers in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.
* – previous top 10 finish here since 2015
1 *Justin Thomas
3 *Gary Woodland
4 *Jon Rahm
7 Aaron Wise
9 *Hideki Matsuyama
10 Troy Merritt
11 *Jordan Spieth
12 Sepp Straka
13 Denny McCarthy
14 Wyndham Clark
15 *Ryan Palmer
16 *Bryson DeChambeau
17 *Xander Schauffele
22 *Sungjae Im
24 *Rickie Fowler
24 Andrew Putnam
3 *Brendan Steele
3 Corey Conners
7 Sepp Straka
7 *Gary Woodland
9 Scott Piercy
10 *Martin Laird
11 Jason Kokrak
12 Kevin Streelman
12 *Jon Rahm
14 Emiliano Grillo
17 Keegan Bradley
18 *Hideki Matsuyama
19 Jason Dufner
20 Aaron Wise
22 *Justin Thomas
25 Brice Garnett
25 Troy Merritt
Hideki Matsuyama: 67.67 scoring average with ONE round in the 70s. … T4 on debut, T2 year two before WIN-WIN. … Owns the lowest score, 63, after the 2014 renovation.
Rickie Fowler: Buried the demons last year, finally. … 58-under the last four years with a win, second, T4 and T11.
Gary Woodland: 29-under the last two years and that includes a round OVER-par.
Bubba Watson: Cashed T15 or better in six of his last eight including four top-10 paychecks. … Played this event every year since 2007.
Matt Kuchar: Looking to hit the top 10 for the fourth season running. … Of his last 12 rounds he’s posted 67 or better, including a pair of 64s and 65s, in half of them.
Jon Rahm: The ASU grad hasn’t missed in four tries and his worst finish is T16. … Best finish (T5) was when he was still at ASU! … Of 16 rounds, 15 posted 70 or better.
Webb Simpson: Rattled off T14 or better in five visits before MC in 2018. … Rebounded for T20 last year.
Brandt Snedeker: Only MC once in 12 tries and that was last decade (2009). … Last top-10 was 2015.
J.B. Holmes: Two-time champion won on his first try in 2006 and again in 2008. … Last top-10 was T6 in 2016 but T24-MC-T26 last three suggests a nibble.
Las Vegas Connections: They’re used to target golf and the desert setting. I’d take a peek at Kevin Na, Ryan Moore, Scott Piercy, Charley Hoffman and Scottsdale residents Martin Laird and Adam Hadwin.