WM Phoenix Open 2023 Betting Tips: Four picks for TPC Scottsdale

WM Phoenix Open 2023 Betting Tips: Four picks for TPC Scottsdale

Our new star golf tipster Jamie Worsley had a decent start on the PGA Tour last week, when Brendan Todd finished runner-up and picked up a full place at 70/1. Now we head for the rowdiest event on tour at TPC Scottsdale for the WM Phoenix Open.

Some poor weather in Pebble Beach last week meant there was a Monday finish on the PGA Tour. We started the final day in with a shout, with 70/1 shot Brendon Todd second to Justin Rose overnight and he moved to within one of him right away with a birdie on his first hole after the restart. 

Unfortunately, Rose wasn’t for shifting, holing a couple of lengthy birdie putts in his first three holes and never looked like letting it slip thereafter. Enabling the former world #1 and US Open champion to pick up his first title since the Farmers Insurance Open in 2019. 

This week the West Coast swing takes a slight detour out of California to Arizona, for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. An event that brings together an outstanding field – our best of the year so far. 

Tournament History

This tournament dates back to 1932, though has only taken place here at TPC Scottsdale since 1987. 

Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler both won this event three times pre-TPC Scottsdale – Palmer’s all coming in consecutive years between 1961 and 1963 – with Mark Calcavecchia and Phil Mickelson joining the list of triple champions since that switch to Scottsdale in ’87.  

Calcavecchia and Mickelson both share the honour of recording the lowest winning score in the Phoenix Open of 28-under-par (Calcavecchia in 2001 and Mickelson in 2013). Scores which haven’t come close to being replicated since Mickelson’s win in 2013 (due to renovations toughening up the setup); the tournament having no winning scores lower than -19 in the last nine years and an average winning score of -16.5. 

Scottie Scheffler returns to defend at the place of his first PGA Tour victory last year after he defeated Patrick Cantlay in a playoff, having both tied on -16 after 72 holes. A victory that started off an incredible couple of months for Scheffler, as he went on to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC Matchplay in March; following that with an incredible, dominant Masters victory and reached number one in the world. 

Scheffler is one of six former champions in this week’s field, joined by two-time winners JB Holmes and Hideki Matsuyama; along with Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.  

Not only the golf course players have to contend with, but this venue plays host to one of the most lively crowd atmospheres the players will perform in front of all season – a test in itself – and one which demands a strong mind to overcome, not just a strong game. No surprise that eight of the last ten winners are also major champions. 

The Course

Finished in 1986, TPC Scottsdale’s stadium course is the work of the design team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. A par 71 measuring 7261 yards, this desert course starts off rather ordinary on the front nine, though really comes into its own on the back, particularly over the exciting and dramatic closing holes. 

There we have the 15th, a par 5 that is dominated by water stretching right up the entire left hand side of the hole and lurking in front of the green; the amphitheatre of the par 3 16th, the most famous hole on the course; the drivable par 4 17th, hit the long green to give yourself a chance for eagle but stray too far left to find water; finishing with the par 4 18th, which requires you to hit a drive over water to the left and penal bunkers to the right, leaving a tough approach and putt into and on the heavily sloped final green. 

It’s a tricky driving course, with the undulating, largely doglegged fairways relatively tight and though the rough isn’t penal, danger awaits from clever bunkering, water (particularly over the closing holes) and sandy waste areas.   

Despite being large and easy to hit, the greens –  which appear to now be dominated by poa trivialis, rather than the previous bermudagrass – rank top 5 on the PGA Tour over the last four years in putting difficulty and are also challenging to scramble around. 

A place where strong ball-strikers typically thrive but where a good week with the putter appears to be an equally important prerequisite to success. 

The Stats

One look at the winners list and we get a pretty quick impression of what type of player we should be looking at this week; Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland and Hideki Matsuyama is a winners list full of quality ball-striking. 

2022’s leaderboard was dominated by strong, long driving and top quality putting. Scottie Scheffler ranked 4th off-the-tee, 4th in driving distance and 2nd in putting; whilst runner-up, Patrick Cantlay ranked 6th on the greens, 13th OTT and 9th in driving distance.  

Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele in 3rd both ranked 7th OTT; Koepka combining it with a good week on the greens and Schauffele with the putter. With other 3rd place finisher, Sahith Theegala, relying on a decent all-round game but relying predominantly on the putter, ranking 7th. 

2021 saw Brooks Koepka win thanks to quality in all areas, though he excelled in approach, ranking 2nd. Xander Schauffele once again drove it well when finishing 2nd, ranking 2nd OTT and in driving distance, marrying it with a good week on the greens, ranking 4th. Jordan Spieth and Steve Stricker in 4th too about the irons, ranking 1st and 8th respectively. Five of six ranked top 18 on the greens and top 26 in driving distance. 

2020 saw straight and steady Webb Simpson win amongst a leaderboard packed with power, his irons doing most of his best work, ranking 1st in approach. Tony Finau ranked 6th in approach, with Bubba Watson in 3rd reliant on the driver, ranking 7th. All players in the top 5 ranking top 20 in putting and approach. 

Jump back to 2019 to see the driver of huge importance again. Rickie Fowler ranked 3rd OTT and putted excellently too, ranking 1st. Branden Grace in 2nd played well across the board but ranked best in approach, ranking 7th; the same with Justin Thomas in 3rd, who ranked 2nd in approach. Meanwhile Bubba Watson once again drove his place to a good finish, ranking 1st OTT but produced improved quality in approach, ranking 7th. 

So many of the players mentioned above are amongst the bigger hitters on tour and this course ranks amongst the highest on tour in terms of players feeling need to hit driver. Though not merely enough to drive it long, you have to drive it well.  

The irons are also key, particularly from 150-175 yards and with eleven par 4s on the course, they will obviously play a huge part in determining the winner; five of the last eight ranking 1st in par 4 scoring. 

Key Stats: SG: Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance, SG: Approach, Proximity 150-175 yards, SG: Putting, Par 4 Scoring 

Correlating Events

Shriners Open (TPC Summerlin) 

Another desert course with big greens, where players can let go with driver and where scrambling is of a similar level of difficulty. The Shriners can offer significant clues as to potential champions this week. 

Webb Simpson is a winner of both events, whilst Martin Laird and Sungjae Im back up strong records here with wins in the Shriners. Patrick Cantlay finished 2nd on his debut in Phoenix last year and has a win – along with multiple 2nds – at the Shriners, Brooks Koepka is a past winner here and has finished 2nd there; James Hahn and Harris English amongst those with strong form at both. 

Sony Open (Waialae CC) 

The Sony Open at Waialae in Hawaii wouldn’t be the most obvious comp but I found as much correlating form here as anywhere and it ranks close to TPC Scottsdale in terms of driving accuracy, GIR and scrambling. Whilst also having a similar breakdown in average approach distance around the course. 

Hideki Matsuyama, Mark Wilson and Vijay Singh have all won at both, with other past champions, Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland possessing several top 10s in the Sony. Brendan Steele has multiple top 10s here and has finished 2nd there; players such as Chez Reavie, Graham DeLaet and Ollie Schniederjans possessing form across both. 

Houston Open (Memorial Park) 

Memorial Park has only hosted the Houston Open since 2020 but with the strong ball-striking test it serves up, along with it’s tough, firm greens, it has developed some strong form-ties with TPC Scottsdale. 

Hideki Matsuyama and Scottie Scheffler have both finished 2nd in Houston, whilst Brooks Koepka finished 5th there in 2020. Carlos Ortiz – the winner in 2020 – has a 4th place finish to his name in Phoenix; last year’s winner, Tony Finau has finished 2nd in here; Alex Noren, Adam Hadwin and Patton Kizzire with some decent crossover form. 

Mexico Championship (Club de Golf Chapultepec) 

The WGC Mexico Championship was held at Chapultepec from 2017-2020. It ranks very close to TPC Scottsdale statistically; from percentage of fairways hit; to scrambling difficulty; to putting average on the difficult poa greens.  

Similarly to when I mentioned this course last week, form-ties aren’t abundant due to the nature of the type of field that gets into these events but players such as Alex Noren, Billy Horschel, Patton Kizzire and Adam Hadwin have form at both courses. 

The Weather

Nothing of note in the weather at this point. It’s set to be warm and dry, with just a mild breeze throughout the week. Ideal golfing conditions.  

The Field

We have a mouth-wateringly exciting field heading to the desert in Arizona this week. World #1 Rory McIlroy leads the way, joined by #2 Scottie Scheffler and #3 Jon Rahm.  

A further five of the world’s top 10 tee it up, as well as every other player in the world’s top 25 who plays on the PGA Tour. All in all, our first truly elite field of the year. 


Rahm and McIlroy head the betting at single figures and don’t look all that low at around 8/1 considering the form both are in. They’re followed by last year’s winner, Scottie Scheffler, at 12/1 and Xander Schauffele at 14/1. 

Approach for this kind of event is the polar opposite to some we’ve seen in recent weeks. At Pebble Beach and The AmEx, the strength of the fields, combined with the hard-to-predict formats meant that it made sense to me to go value hunting. Here, with a field boasting 22 of the world’s top 25 and where eight of the last ten winners are major champions, it makes sense to keep our focus at the top of the betting, with the winner much more likely to come from that top 15-20 in betting. 

With that I’m going to pass those mentioned by and kick off with a couple stars at around the 20/1 mark, who I’m hoping are flying in here a little under the radar this week compared to others. We start with last year’s runner-up, Patrick Cantlay. 

2.5pts Patrick Cantlay – each way (1/5 6 places)


2022 was a year in which many expected Cantlay to show himself as a real major contender, following a strong 2021 that saw him win the FedEx Cup for the first time. 

Despite making a strong start last year, the major challenges failed to materialise, with a best of 8th in The Open once again leaving you feeling a little underwhelmed for a player of his talent. 

He did, however, finish the year strong, winning the BMW Championship on his third-to-last start of 2022 and signing off with a customary strong effort in the Vegas desert in the Shriners Open, adding another 2nd place finish to his bevy of good efforts there.  

We have only seen him twice this year, finishing 16th in the Tournament of Champions on his first start in three months and then he was 26th in The AmEx two weeks later, where he looked very good T2G but struggled – unusually – with the putter. 

There’s little not to like about Cantlay’s game, he’s ranked no worse than 17th in the All-round ranking on the PGA Tour over the last five years. Complimenting an excellent ball-striking game with a fine touch around the greens and quality, sometimes mind-boggling brilliance on the greens; he has a game ready made for just about anywhere, as we saw with his debut 2nd place finish here last year. 

Cantlay gained strokes in all areas of his game at TPC Scottsdale last year, particularly excelling that week with the driver and putter. At home on the greens on most surfaces but as a California guy, should appreciate the poa surfaces this week. 

His excellent record in the desert is not exclusive to Phoenix; as mentioned, he’s a winner of the Shriners Open in Vegas, as well as a three-time runner up and he’s also finished 2nd in The AmEx – another desert event. Whilst a 6th place finish at Club de golf Chapultepec in 2019 gives further indication as to why he was able to perform here on his first try last year. 

The irons had been a little off the boil in his two subsequent starts but he looked much better last time we saw him in The AmEx in that regard. If able to keep that going this week, the rest of his game looks well placed for him to launch another big challenge in Phoenix.

2.5pts Justin Thomas – each way (1/5 6 places)


Justin Thomas hasn’t quite rediscovered his best form after winning the PGA Championship last year. However, there were positive signs at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago and he should arrive here – a place where he’s got an excellent record – confident and ready to kick on this year. 

His dramatic playoff win at Southern Hills in the PGA Championship was the final piece of a strong first half of the year for Thomas in 2022, where he’d hit the top 10 in The Masters and put up other strong performances, including an 8th here. 

Each area of his game was firing over that period, particularly encouraging was the putter, which had been a bit of a struggle throughout 2020 and 2021. Though following that major success his overall quality reduced, going through a particularly rough time with the putter and he found strong performances too few and far between through to the end of the year. 

He kicked off 2023 with a sub-par 25th in the Tournament of Champions, struggling particularly with the driver but never really got anything going on the greens either. We did see a much improved performance at the Farmers two weeks ago, where he also finished 25th. 

Every area of his game took a jump up in quality there, he gained strokes on the greens – albeit only marginally – and despite slightly losing with the driver, he did put up two positive strokes-gained rounds at the tough South Course.  

Whilst his approach play and short game – the two areas in which he excels the most – also took a step forward, as he ranked 9th in the field around-the-greens and 17th in approach. 

The length he possesses off the tee and quality of his approach game – where he’s also one of the best in that 150-175 range – has seen Thomas accumulate many top finishes at TPC Scottsdale. He finished 17th on debut in 2015 and following two missed cuts on his next two visits, he hasn’t missed one since, racking up form figures of: 17-3-3-13-8 in the last five renewals; putting the greens here well and regularly ranking in the top few in approach. 

A win in the Sony and multiple top 10s in Mexico consolidate his suitability to this test and if able to find further improvements from his effort at Torrey Pines, he should have a big say this week.  

1.25pts Sam Burns – each way (1/5 8 places)


I’ve backed Sam Burns on his first two starts this year. He underperformed at the Tournament of Champions but looked much better at The AmEx and looks a good price to improve on his surprisingly uninspiring record here. 

Burns finished 32nd of the 38 players who finished the Tournament of Champions and if it wasn’t for his putter, he would have finished even closer to last. He improved markedly on that in The AmEx, finishing 11th and gaining strokes across all areas of his game. 

I was pleased to see his improved approach play there, especially in the opening round where he was the 5th best iron player to play the Stadium Course. It’s an area he’d had issues with in prior starts, despite overwhelmingly good form in that area the last couple of years.  

Burns is one of the best putters on tour and with his strong ball-striking, as well as how well he typically plays the par 4s, his record here – which has seen him miss 3/4 cuts and record a best of 22nd – really is a surprise.  

I am convinced he can improve it significantly though. He’s got a good record in Houston, having twice finished 7th and desert form reads well, with good efforts in The AmEx and Shriners Open. If able to pick up where he left off three weeks ago, he can find that significant improvement this week. 

1pt Jason Day – each way (1/5 7 places)


I’m going to finish with Jason Day here. Signs at the end of last year were hugely encouraging that the former world #1 and 2015 PGA Champion was starting to get back to form. With that continuing into this year – in which we’ve seen all areas of his game fire – he’s starting to look a danger. 

The last few years has been a time to forget for Day. Back issues had plagued his career and having been a constant atop leaderboards in the years prior, we saw a player last season record just the one top 10. However, having changed his swing to alleviate the pressure on his back, he’s found a new lease of life. 

This all started back at the Shriners at the end of last year, where Day finished 8th and followed with consecutive finished of 11th, 21st and 16th, before missing the cut on his final start of the year in the RSM Classic. 

That apparently only a minor blip for the Australian, as he’s started this year in strong fashion; finishing 18th in The AmEx on his first start of the year and following with a 7th place finish in the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago. 

All areas of his game have fired during this spell, always a good putter – particularly on surfaces like this week – he’s been one of the best putters on tour recently. His iron play has been strong this season, ranking 18th and he’s also been driving it well, still packing plenty of power and combining it with accuracy. With this it’s not surprising to see he’s also playing the par 4s well so far this season, ranking 13th. 

Day has only played here four times, his best finish coming in 2008 on debut in the event, where he finished 20th. He has good form in the Shriners, including a 4th and an 8th (which came last year); whilst his record in Houston also reads well, making the cut each time and possessing a best of 7th. 

It’s too early to say whether Day is back to his very best but he is absolutely getting there. With little in his game causing issues right now, the classy Aussie looks a lively contender in Arizona. 

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Author: Roy James